Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hymn of the Week: O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus

"Vast, Unmeasured, Boundless, Free"...How deep is the love of Jesus for me? I found it encouraging just the other day to listen to this song, and realize that although I don't know just how great His love is, that these adjectives put a proper perspective on it. Meditate on that and be blessed!

The words date back to 1875, written by S. Trevor Francis. The music (in my opinion) commonly associated with the hymn is a bit moribund; the recording on the CD I was listening to (available here, by SMS) is far more uplifting. The CD is Lift Up Your Voice.

O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wisdom From Isaac Watts

"Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?"
—Isaac Watts, from the 3rd stanza of Am I a Soldier of the Cross?
I was listening to a recording of this song this afternoon when I began thinking on this line of the hymn.

Much of contemporary Christianity lives under the delusion that the "friendship of the world" is not "enmity with God" (James 4:4)—that they can live carnally to whatever extent they wish, while still retaining a satisfactory relationship with their Creator. Nothing could be further from the truth. One cannot love and serve both the world and the Saviour (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16: 13).

On the contrary, the world's obvious goal is to separate you from the Saviour every day of your life (you cannot lose your salvation, of course—this refers to separation from God in your day-to-day walk). The world wants your love. The world will try to deceive you, to get you to think that you can indulge in its many carnal pleasures while loving your Saviour. It will tell you that worldly music, worldly entertainments, worldly speech, worldly thoughts, and worldly churches (and "churches" so called) are all compatible with the Christian walk. It will tell you that a rock song is long as the words aren't offensive, and perhaps even say something "Christian." It will tell you that unchaste thoughts are reasonable...if you don't go "too far." It will tell you that the vulgar joke really "isn't that bad."

In short, the world will tell you that you can do what you want, and stay in good standing with God. This is deception. The world doesn't want you to be in good standing with God. The world wants your love. And the world won't give it back.

Serve the One Who will love you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Book Review: "James Garfield" by Ira Rutkow

Here we have yet another installation of the American Presidents Series. This one was both readable and interesting—a look at one of our more "trivial" presidents. Garfield was shot just four months after he took office, and after seventy-nine days of dreadful suffering, passed into eternity, making Chester A. Arthur president.

Garfield's early years are concisely described, as are his years in the U.S. Congress as a representative from northeast Ohio. Garfield is one of the few men ever to become a college president, general, and congressman before the age of 32. And that, without much formal education before the age of 16 or so.

He became the Republican "dark horse" candidate for president in 1880 when the party couldn't settle on a nominee. In a very close election, hinging primarily on New York, he became president. His brief presidency was burdened by the onslaught of office-seekers who expected him to bestow some job upon them as a reward for their party participation.

One of them was a deranged man named Charles Guiteau. He eventually deluded himself into thinking that assassinating the president would win him the admiration of his countrymen (and Garfield's political opponents, including Arthur). He shot the president at the train station as Garfield was on his way to a vacation with his wife in New Jersey.

The author of this book is a medical doctor, and his most obvious thesis (and it is most obvious) is that Garfield's death could have been prevented, but for the pride and ineptitude of doctors who ignored recent discoveries in the field of antiseptic medicine. If you are interested in the medical history of Garfield's slow and painful demise, this is a most readable book, even if you are not steeped in medical knowledge.

And in an interesting epilogue, he compares the treatment of President Reagan, shot in 1981 (one hundred years after Garfield's 1881 shooting), with what Garfield received. Reagan was 20 years older and had a far more dangerous wound than Garfield had, yet was back to work within a couple weeks. He suggests that had Garfield been shot a century later, he could have been out of the hospital in 24 hours, recuperating at the White House, with excellent prospects of complete recovery. Of course, a century later, things like x-rays, CT scans, and latex gloves would have been universally available....

A very interesting book. I can recommend it highly.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Take the World, but Give Me Jesus

Two thoughts I am reminded of concerning this hymn:

The world is never more important, more desirable, more to be cherished than Jesus Christ. It can offer nothing comparable in value, in goodness, or in joy. Our flesh wants the world, but our soul and spirit should want Him more. Something is wrong if we do not.

The author of this hymn, Fanny Crosby, was blind; and despite the inevitable temptation to be bitter at God or despondent about her fate, she rightly wanted Him more than anything. As it should be.

Take the World, But Give Me Jesus

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.


Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me,
I can sing though billows roll.


Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey
Light will cheer me all the while.


Take the world, but give me Jesus.
In His cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Book Review: "Thomas Jefferson" by Joyce Appleby

This book is yet another in the American Presidents Series which I have read in the past few years. On the whole, the series is great. But this book will not go down as one of my favorites.

As with other books in the series, this one does a good job of looking at the significant moments in the man's life and presidency. Where it goes a tad overboard is the disproportionate share of the book which discusses the moral conundrum of the man: One of the foremost promoters of freedom and democracy for white men, who held slaves and had (at best) a politically incorrect view of women.

This is a legitimate topic, of course. Thomas Jefferson's contributions to our nation are obvious and of great merit. He also had his shortcomings, in politics (a thorn in the side of both Washington and Adams at times), morality (fathering children by one of his slave girls), and personal judgment (racked up substantial debt in his adult life). He certainly owned slaves and made it clear that he thought both slaves and Indians were incapable of matching white men's accomplishments within the foreseeable future.

Of more interest (to me, at least) is Jefferson's views on the Constitution, politics, and the role of democracy in our country. Perhaps the single most interesting thing in the book was a comparison of John Adams, the Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson, the democrat. As described by Appleby, Adams belonged to the school of thought that discouraged all those "common men" from voting—or at least believed that they should defer to their "betters." Jefferson, in contrast, believed in the right, and in the encouragement of that right, of all [white] men to vote.

Today we experience Jefferson's vision...and look who our political leaders are! Maybe Adams was on to something....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Questions For Mr. Obama

Last week, I got this e-mail from a Republican activist, with the following questions which he (and I) would like to ask Mr. Obama on his next trip here. But, as you will see, we think we already know the answers...

Senator Obama, the heart of the Michigan economy is its homebred automotive industry. It accounts for one in seven jobs in Michigan, provides health care, retirement, and income to millions of Michigan residents. Yet, you take every opportunity to denigrate this Arsenal of Democracy; why should rank-and-file workers believe that you truly care about auto jobs in Michigan when your campaign rhetoric suggests you don’t?

  • INDIANAPOLIS -- Sen. Barack Obama defended his opposition to a temporary break from the federal gas tax Sunday and put part of the blame for the nation's dependence on imported oil on the domestic auto industry. Repeating criticisms of the Detroit carmakers he has made throughout the campaign, Obama faulted them for failing to build more fuel-efficient cars during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press.”

Obama hits Big 3 on SUVs,” Gordon Trowbridge, Detroit News, 5/5/08

Senator Obama, until recently you boasted a luxury, 340 horsepower Chrysler 300C in your garage, and you travel the campaign in a Chevy Suburban, yet you consistently espouse the need for Detroit auto manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles; why should Michigan voters trust what you say as a candidate when your own personal actions belay your rhetoric?

  • Obama knows firsthand Detroit's motivation for making big, powerful vehicles. It's because customers want them. Customers like Obama, who had a 340 horsepower Chrysler 300C Hemi V-8 in his garage when he first dressed down Detroit last May for making gas guzzlers like the Chrysler 300C. Alert Detroit reporters caught him in this hypocrisy, and he quickly bought a politically correct Ford Escape hybrid to save face. As a candidate, though, Obama's daily drive is a thirsty, Secret Service-provided Chevy Suburban.

Obama's auto truth-telling runs on empty, Detroit News, 5/9/08

Senator Obama, Michigan families are paying more than $4 a gallon for gasoline. There are proposals at the state and national levels that would give Michigan families a break when they fill up their tanks during the busy summer months – nearly identical to a proposal you supported as an Illinois State Senator. Yet, now you refuse to support this plan; why was this plan a good idea when you were a state senator but a bad idea now that you are running for president?

  • Think McCain’s plan to suspend the gas tax temporarily is a bad idea? A similar measure in Illinois -- which Obama backed -- seems to have helped consumers. (‘Obama is wrong about the gas tax,’, 5/6/08)

Senator Obama, you talk about being the candidate for everyone. Yet, when you were at an elite liberal fundraising event in San Francisco you insulted nearly every blue-collar family in Michigan with your intemperate comments about churchgoers, gun owners, and factory workers; how can you convince working class Michigan families that you are not just another elitist politician?

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” (ABC News, “Obama Allies Avoid Trying to Explain Most Controversial Part of his Remarks”, 4/13/08).

Senator Obama, for nearly a year you spurned Michigan voters, refusing to campaign in the state and used a legal loophole to remove your name from the ballot; why should Michigan voters bother to give you any of their time now that you seem to need it?

  • “This will be Obama's first visit to the state since he made a pledge not to campaign in Michigan due to a controversy over the state holding a primary in violation of national party rules and a subsequent fight over the delegates committed in that election.”

(Macomb Daily, 5/13/08)

  • “Where's Obama? Gaps on ballots surprise some Genesee County absentee voters

GENESEE COUNTY -- Something seemed to be missing when Susan Keeler of Grand Blanc Township opened her absentee ballot. The candidates.”

(Flint Journal, 12/17/07)

Senator Obama, nearly every parent in Michigan, including supporters of abortion –agree that, as parents, they have a right to be notified if their underage child seeks an abortion; how can you clam to share the values of nearly every parent in Michigan when you oppose legislation that would preserve a right and responsibility to care for and protect children?

  • Obama voted against a law that prohibits children from crossing state lines to circumvent parental notification laws. (Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act; Bill S.403 ; vote number 2006-216 on Jul 25, 2006)

Senator Obama, you voted against an Iraq supplemental spending bill two months after pledging you would not deny funding for American troops; why should Michigan families, who have loved ones serving in harm’s way, support you when you won’t even support the basic needs of our troops on the ground?

  • Mike Glover, "Obama Says Congress Will Fund Iraq War After Expected Bush Veto," The Associated Press, 4/1/07; H.R. 2206, CQ Vote #181: Passed 80-14: R 42-3; D 37-10; I 1-1, 5/24/07, Obama Nay).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

This week I wanted to choose a hymn that emphasized praise to God. We have much to praise God for, of course; and this hymn gives many of those reasons.

Like a lot of other hymns, this one has more stanzas than are commonly seen in hymnals. It was written by Joachim Neander in German over 300 years ago, and translated to English around 1860 by Catherine Wentworth. The original melody also dates back to the 17th century.

Note especially this couplet from the fourth stanza:
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Here is a blessed thought to ponder!

Praise to the Lord, The Almighty

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama (Finally) Comes to Michigan

Yesterday, May 14, Barack Obama came to Michigan and campaigned at the Van Andel arena in Grand Rapids. At that time he also picked up the coveted endorsement (and delegates) of John Edwards.

Yet it should be noted that this man dropped his own name from the primary ballot in Michigan, picked up the endorsement of a senator approximately as liberal as himself, and has said that he does not think the state's delegates should be seated at his party's national convention.

Don't be fooled, Michigan—he only wants you to think he cares.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why I Like the KJV

I'll admit it frankly: I prefer the King James Version translation of the Bible. I have used it since childhood at home and church.

I certainly am not of the group which believes that the KJV is somehow inspired in a way which other English translations are not, nor do I believe that it is free of translational error. [The original text, of course, is inerrant.] I have no argument with those who use other legitimate English translations in their own study of the Word.

Here are some reasons why I prefer the KJV:

  • It is accurate. Not perfect, nor completely "up-to-date" in our 21st century, but on the whole, it is an accurate translation. The translators strove for a word-for-word translation to the greatest extent possible, and that is what they got. Could other translations be more accurate or more up-to-date? Possibly. But I think the KJV—especially if it comes with good study aids—is plenty accurate for our use today. [As for the use (or non-use) of the Textus Receptus in English translations....I'll leave those arguments to the scholars.]
  • It contains beautiful language. No modern translation even comes close to the "beauty" of the way the KJV language comes across. It is difficult to read Psalm 23, or the Christmas story of Luke 2, or even John 3:16 in any other translation—it just doesn't "sound as good," even if it may have technical advantages. Even phrases like "and Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived" (Gen. 4:1) are discreet yet adequate enough to get the idea across.
  • It is the "standard." No other literal word-for-word translation has been more popular than the KJV over the last, oh, 250 years or so. Even the unsaved world often recognizes it as "the Bible," and would be hard-pressed to recognize other translations. Nearly everyone in the English-speaking world who wants a KJV Bible has one, or can get one easily.
  • It is not copyrighted. I understand why modern translations of the Bible are copyrighted, but there is a certain repugnance to slapping a copyright on what is claimed as the "Word of God," so that you can make a profit on it. Legitimate? I guess so. Honorable? Not so much.
I also do not buy into that "it's hard to read" argument. The reading level of the KJV may be higher than the newspaper or your favorite magazine, but I have two children who could read it fairly well by the age of 8 (with the exception of some of its vocabulary—but every 8-year-old has gaps in vocabulary). The Puritans of Massachusetts put a heavy emphasis on teaching reading for the express public purpose of teaching children to read the Bible at a young age. They succeeded.

And, yes, even I have used other translations from time to time as reference or for study. I also have my Greek New Testament—which is a great study help, once you learn some Greek.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Faith Of Our Mothers

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, including my very own. I was looking through the hymnal today for a good hymn for this holiday, and I encountered this rather obvious choice. It is sung to the same tune as Faith Of Our Fathers, its better known relative.

It will be difficult for me to improve on the many wonderful things said and written about mothers on this important day. This song, however, points out the "spiritual significance" and influence mother can—and should—have in the lives of children and others.

Praise the Lord for godly mothers everywhere!

Faith Of Our Mothers

Faith of our mothers, living still
In cradle song and bedtime prayer;
In nursery lore and fireside love,
Thy presence still pervades the air:
Faith of our mothers, living faith!
We will be true to thee to death.

Faith of our mothers, loving faith,
Fount of our childhood’s trust and grace,
Oh, may thy consecration prove
Source of a finer, nobler race:
Faith of our mothers, loving faith,
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
For youthful longing, youthful doubt,
How blurred our vision, blind our way,
Thy providential care without:
Faith of our mothers, guiding faith,
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our mothers, Christian faith,
Is truth beyond our stumbling creeds,
Still serve the home and save the Church,
And breathe thy spirit through our deeds:
Faith of our mothers, Christian faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Barack Obama: Why He Won't Win in November

So once Barack Obama finally clinches the nomination sometime this summer, the focus will be on him vs. John McCain. And frankly, I don't think he stands a chance.

[Note: I didn't think he stood a chance in the primaries. However, I am more sure this time around; and he has better competition.]

Here are the first several obvious reasons I can think of:

  • His record is unmistakably liberal. Despite his rhetoric, he does not "reach across the aisle," and he has not changed much of anything. McCain, on the other hand [and to the consternation of myself and others] has done so.
  • His religion is unmistakably off-target. Most Americans don't attend or trust churches whose pastor says the opposite of "God Bless America" from his pulpit. For that matter, they don't much trust Mormons either—just ask Mitt Romney.
  • His skin is unmistakably not white. Americans are not going to elect a minority president until one comes along with far more to offer than Obama does.
  • Remind me again—what has this man done while in the Senate?

Hillary Clinton: Now We Know Why She Can't Win

As Barack Obama gained ground and traction on Hillary Clinton's presidential drive in recent months, I began to wonder, "Why would democrats vote for him? What's he ever done [that was worthwhile] in Congress?" Eventually, this thesis formed in my mind:

Democrats are voting against Hillary Clinton—they are not voting against her agenda, policy outlines, or "experience"—they are voting against her. To them, she must represent the politics-as-usual (with a generous serving of corruption) crowd that will not change Washington.

They then mistakenly conclude (because he and his signs keep saying so) that Barack Obama will be the agent of change in Washington. This is, of course, ridiculous; his liberal record and beholden-ness to left-wing interest will never be catalysts for positive change.

And now that Obama has crept closer and closer to the magic number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, superdelegates are beginning to bail on Hillary, wanting to be a part of the "winning side." This has already gone from a trickle to a stream; within days [unless Hillary miraculously thumps Obama on Tuesday] it will be a river, and then a flood.

And then we will probably see the concession speech so many of us did not dare take for granted....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Are You Doing With Your Stimulus Payment?

I'm one of the luckiest ones: My "last two digits of your S.S. number" happen to be rather low, so I already got my payment from the IRS. The question now is: What will I do with it?

Nothing yet. At this moment it is sitting in my savings account, to be used when needed. But I have already made a couple of decisions about how I will and won't use it:

  • I do not intend to use it to buy stuff from China, or any other foreign country. If I'm going to stimulate the American economy, it would seem reasonable to spend the money on American goods and services.
  • I do not intend to just "blow it on something," regardless of where it was produced. It may end up being invested, used for an unanticipated need, or put toward something I deem important; but I don't intend to just spend it, because I have it.
  • I will probably do something nice (and relatively inexpensive) for my family soon, like go out to eat when we normally would not plan to do so.
But truth be told, it may just get spent on car insurance and gasoline. [Note: Just jumped to $3.89 a dollar for unleaded—outrageous!]

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hymn of the Week: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

It was at my insistence that an arrangement of this song be sung at our wedding nearly fifteen years ago (my wife was quite content to comply with this desire). Although nothing can match the words of Scripture, few pieces of man's thoughts will come so close as this to beautifully conveying the thoughts of Psalm 23. Notice that the six stanzas correspond to the six verses of that psalm.

The words are perhaps the most famous hymn lyrics of Henry W. Baker, who lived in mid-19th-century England. One of the two melodies commonly associated with it is the same as last week's hymn (How Sweet and Awesome Is This Place)—a fact I learned just today; the other was written by John B. Dykes.

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

News That Should Concern You, Part 2

In this story, it is reported that at least two dozen universities are now offering coed dorm rooms. Not coed dorms, mind you—they've been around for years—coed rooms. The basic reason given is that it will "allow some or all students to share a room with anyone they choose — including someone of the opposite sex."

Certainly, some parents are concerned...and they should be. [And in the case of public universities, your tax dollars may be paying to support these choices.] One girl's father said,

"When you have a male and female sharing such close quarters, I think it's somewhat delusional to think there won't be sexual tension," the 52-year-old Feldman said. "Maybe this generation feels more comfortable walking around in their underwear. I'm not sure that's a good thing."
However, he is letting his daughter make the decision. I would call that a severe parenting error.

What sort of philosophy is your child getting when he/she goes to a secular school or university? If it's a philosophy that says this is "no big deal," please look into another school!

News That Should Concern You

This story comes from Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press (link here). While I admit the ignorance of the dad to the product in question is hard to believe, it is believable. Not everyone keeps up with everything. But the outrageous response to his ignorance should scare any of us who happen to make a mistake in the parenting of our children.

If you watch much television, you've probably heard of a product called Mike's Hard Lemonade.

And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.

Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic.

Ratte is a tenured professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, which means that, on a given day, he's more likely to be excavating ancient burial sites in Turkey than watching "Dancing with the Stars" -- or even the History Channel, for that matter.

The 47-year-old academic says he wasn't even aware alcoholic lemonade existed when he and Leo stopped at a concession stand on the way to their seats in Section 114.

"I'd never drunk it, never purchased it, never heard of it," Ratte of Ann Arbor told me sheepishly last week. "And it's certainly not what I expected when I ordered a lemonade for my 7-year-old."

But it wasn't until the top of the ninth inning that a Comerica Park security guard noticed the bottle in young Leo's hand.

"You know this is an alcoholic beverage?" the guard asked the professor.

"You've got to be kidding," Ratte replied. He asked for the bottle, but the security guard snatched it before Ratte could examine the label.

Mistake or child neglect?

An hour later, Ratte was being interviewed by a Detroit police officer at Children's Hospital, where a physician at the Comerica Park clinic had dispatched Leo -- by ambulance! -- after a cursory exam.

Leo betrayed no symptoms of inebriation. But the physician and a police officer from the Comerica substation suggested the ER visit after the boy admitted he was feeling a little nauseated.

The Comerica cop estimated that Leo had drunk about 12 ounces of the hard lemonade, which is 5% alcohol. But an ER resident who drew Leo's blood less than 90 minutes after he and his father were escorted from their seats detected no trace of alcohol.

"Completely normal appearing," the resident wrote in his report, "... he is cleared to go home."

But it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte's wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.

And if you think nothing so ludicrous could happen to your family, maybe you should pay a little less attention to who's getting booted from "Dancing with the Stars" and a little more to how the state agency responsible for protecting Michigan's children is going about its work.

Doing their duty

Almost everyone Chris Ratte met the night they took Leo away conceded the state was probably overreacting.

The sympathetic cop who interviewed Ratte and his son at the hospital said she was convinced what happened had been an accident, but that her supervisor was insisting the matter be referred to Child Protective Services.

And Ratte thought the two child protection workers who came to take Leo away seemed more annoyed with the police than with him. "This is so unnecessary," one told Ratte before driving away with his son.

But there was really nothing any of them could do, they all said. They were just adhering to protocol, following orders.

And so what had begun as an outing to the ballpark ended with Leo crying himself to sleep in front of a television inside the Child Protective Services building, and Ratte and his wife standing on the sidewalk outside, wondering when they'd see their little boy again.

A vain rescue mission

Child Protective Services is the unit of the Michigan Department of Human Services responsible for intervening when someone suspects a child is being abused, neglected or endangered. Its powers include the authority to remove children from their homes and transfer them to foster parents who answer only to the state.

By law, CPS officials are forbidden to discuss the particulars of any investigation.

But Mike Patterson, Child and Family Services director for the Wayne County district that includes Comerica Park, said that in general his agency's discretion is limited once police obtain a court order to remove a child from the parental home -- usually authorized, as in Leo's case, by a juvenile court referee responding to a police officer's recommendation.

"Once the court has authorized a child's removal," Patterson told me, "we cannot return the child to the parental custody" until the court has OK'd it.

But that doesn't explain why CPS refused to release Leo to the custody of two aunts -- one a social worker and licensed foster parent -- who drove all night from New England to take custody of their nephew.

Chris Ratte's sisters, Catherine Miller and Felicity Ratte, left Massachusetts at 10:30 the night of the fateful lemonade purchase after the police officer who'd reluctantly requested a removal order told Ratte the state would likely jump at the chance to place Leo with responsible relatives. But when the two women arrived at the CPS office early Sunday, a caseworker explained they would not be allowed to see Leo until they had secured a hotel room.

The sisters quickly complied. But by the time they returned to CPS around 10:30 a.m., their nephew had been taken to an undisclosed foster home, where he would remain until a preliminary court hearing the following afternoon.

By that Monday, April 7, when Ratte and his wife returned for a meeting with Latricia Jones, the CPS caseworker assigned to their case, no one in the family had been able to talk to Leo for a day and a half.

More investigation needed

At a hearing later that day, Jones recommended that Leo remain in foster care until she had completed her investigation, a process she estimated would take several days. It was only after the assistant attorney general who represented CPS admitted that the state was not interested in pursuing the case aggressively that juvenile referee Leslie Graves agreed to release Leo to his mother -- on the condition that Ratte himself relocate to a hotel.

Finally, at a second hearing three days later, Graves dismissed the complaint and permitted Ratte to move home.

Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university's Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple's case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.

Duquette says the emergency removal powers of CPS, though "well-intentioned" are "out of control and partly responsible for the large numbers of kids in the foster care system," which is almost universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened.

Ratte and his wife have filed a formal complaint with the CPS ombudsman's office.

"I have apologized to Leo from the bottom of my heart for the silly mistake that got him into this mess," Ratte wrote in the complaint. "But I have also told him that what happened afterward was an even bigger error, and I would like to be able to say to him that institutions, like people, can learn from their mistakes."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Isaiah 53: Something to Meditate Upon

Isaiah 53

1 ¶ Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 ¶ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 ¶ Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today's Interesting Greek Note: Acts 19:24

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;
The word "craftsmen" at the end of this verse is a Greek word, pronounced in English something like tekh-nee-tace. As in, "technical" or "technician." I thought that was interesting.

The word also occurs three other times in the N.T., including verse 38 of this same chapter, referring to the same group of people. And then there is Hebrews 11:10, referring to Abraham:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
And in Revelation 18:22, referring to the future destruction of "Babylon the great:"
And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
Greek study really is interesting. Try it sometime!