Friday, July 31, 2009

Enjoying the Global Warming??

According to the Kalamazoo Gazette's online version, July 2009 will be the coldest July on record...and those records go back to 1887. The record for average temperature could be shattered by about 1.4 degrees!

And, this temperature chill is expected to continue for at least the first several days of August.

Several large local facilities reported substantially lower expenses on electricity, compared to last year, due to the lower temperatures. Air conditioner technicians, however, are lamenting the cool trend, so we have yet another example of changes in the "business environment" benefiting some and not benefiting others.

It's bad enough when politicians try to pick winners and losers in the economy in the areas they can control (taxes, contracts, etc.), but think about this: By trying to lower the global temperature (Note: This is their claim, not a fact), they essentially favor some over others!

Let the free market freely control!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #2: Holy, Holy, Holy

My mother told me once that, when she attended the Highspire Church of God as a child, they sang this hymn every Sunday. I think that is a great tradition.

Outside of Scripture, there are very few words in the English language that so powerfully and beautifully remind us that God is a Holy God. The "Holy, holy, holy" comes from Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8, where in both cases angelic beings are speaking directly and specifically about God Himself.

The holiness of God is a topic which we American Christians woefully under-emphasize. There are two key principles about God's holiness, found in Lev. 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:15-16:

  1. God is holy.
  2. We, therefore, must be holy.
It is impossible for us, as finite and sinful humans, to comprehend fully the holiness of God...but it is worthwhile to try. This hymn helps us do that. It encapsulates, in a beautiful and concise way, several of the key teachings about God's holiness: Angels fall down before Him; no one and nothing is as holy as God; every created thing must praise God and His holiness.

The fact that we are to be holy as God is holy gives us a great responsibility—one possible only after salvation and through God's gracious help. Have you accepted His salvation and asked for His help in walking a holy walk through this world?

The words and music are by Reginald Heber and John B. Dykes, respectively.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #3: The Old Rugged Cross
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #4: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #5: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #6: To God Be The Glory
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King


Sportsmanship—Being a Good Winner

I read an interesting piece today on about certain very successful athletes and coaches who, immediately after winning (another) championship, did something unnecessary to focus the attention upon themselves and their accomplishments. This used to be called "unsportsmanlike" or, more simply, "gloating."

My parents and many others did not approve of this. I will freely admit that I like to win and it is clearly within my nature to brag about it when it happens. I want people to view me as successful, so I have an inclination to help them see me that way.

The near kinsman to this problem is the annoying "Championship T-shirts and hats" that quickly appear within 2-3 seconds of the final ending of a World Series, Super Bowl, etc. The players quickly don them and prance around with smiles on their faces. This, however, is a team—not individual—phenomenon and typically, each individual player appears like every one of his teammates.

What the article was bemoaning was the individual who does something intentional to showcase him/herself and his/her own accomplishments. In simpler times, it was called gloating and was looked down upon. (As it should be.)

So let me post a quick reminder of how the winner should behave: Pleasantly and civilly congratulate the opponent(s) and other participants. Smile and celebrate, of course...while acting humble. Since the attention is probably already focused on you, avoid actions which clearly intend to draw more attention to yourself. If you are a Christian and you asked for God's help, give praise to Him for providing it.

Remember that sports, in the grand scheme of God's universe, isn't really that important. There is no reason to sully your reputation through your participation in it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sarah Palin: Come to Michigan!

Sarah Palin resigned from being governor of Alaska Sunday. You can view the video of her speech here. It has some similarities to the typical political sending-off speech, but still contains the uplifting strains that Sarah Palin is now well-known for.

If you feel like reminiscing, here are some clips from last year's election campaign:

Speech to the RNC (9/7/08): Text Video

Speech upon becoming McCain's running mate (8/29/08): Text Video

Now we have a mystery confronting us: What is Sarah Palin going to do next?

I have a suggestion. I'd beg, if necessary.

I think she needs to immediately move to Michigan. I'd imagine that she and her husband would likely find a nice spot up in the Upper Peninsula...probably feel "at home" up there. Once she establishes residency, she should run for governor. Or lieutenant governor. Or state legislature. Or county commissioner. Something.

Because we need people with the political philosophy of Sarah Palin to make Michigan a better place to live, work, prosper, and enjoy our freedoms. Remember that political philosophy in the next round of elections!

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #3: The Old Rugged Cross

"So I'll cherish the old rugged cross...."

If that line does not move you as a Christian, something isn't right. George Bennard, an evangelist, wrote the words and music to this hymn in 1913. Its message is both simple and profound: I cherish that cross because of what Christ did on that cross. He did something for me that I never deserved, and "I will ever be true" to that cross and that Savior.

There is no salvation without the cross. Our sins demanded a perfect blood sacrifice. Old Testament prophecies spoke of that sacrifice. And only Jesus Christ could fulfill all this, dying as He did on a cross of wood nearly two millennia ago.

Have you accepted Christ's gift of salvation? You can read more about doing so here.

Interesting Note: This hymn has a Michigan connection. George Bennard lived part of his life here in Michigan, and it is believed by many that he wrote the hymn here in Michigan. There is even an Old Rugged Cross Historical Museum in Reed City, Michigan.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.


So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.


In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #4: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #5: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #6: To God Be The Glory
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Henry Gates: Perhaps There's Another Core Issue Here?

We all know the story by now: Dr. Gates attempts to "break into" his own home; a neighbor calls 911; police officers arrive; Gates is mouthy and gets cuffed. Media get the story; Obama inflames it; a meeting has been proposed at which everyone has a beer and leaves friendly.

I found myself focusing on one main element of this story, though: Why did the neighbor call 911?

The answer is fairly obvious: She didn't realize that Dr. Gates actually lived in that house. Which led to another question: Why did the neighbor not recognize Gates?

This answer is also fairly obvious: She didn't recognize him because they are apparently not acquainted, despite being neighbors.

And this, I thought, was a bit odd. Growing up, I recognized everyone who lived within three doors of our house in any direction. There were a few my parents wanted me to steer clear of, but I recognized them nevertheless. Now I live in a subdivision where most people drive straight into their garages...and I still recognize my neighbors. If I saw them trying to open the front door without success, I would probably consider helping them in some way.

But this neighbor lady didn't recognize Gates. Perhaps she is new to the neighborhood. Perhaps she secretly hates the man for some unknown reason and thought this would be an amusing way to torment him (in which case, it's not the policeman who deserves the focus...but I doubt this theory myself). Perhaps she has a mental problem (I doubt that, too, but the media isn't beyond casting such aspersions at people, either).

Or, perhaps Gates is an unfriendly neighbor who hasn't made any effort to get to know those who live on his street. Perhaps he doesn't wave at passersby when he takes a morning or evening walk.

I don't know. But I don't think the MSM has pursued this line of thinking, either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Michigan is 41st in "Top States for Business"...Why?

In a survey reported by NBC on its Nightly News broadcast this evening, and found here at the website, Virginia and Texas finished as the top two states in the nation for business, based on an analysis of the following ten factors (Michigan's 50-state rank in parentheses):

Cost of Doing Business (31)
Workforce (39)
Quality of Life (40)
Economy (45)
Transportation (20)
Technology & Innovation (7)
Education (34)
Business Friendliness (39)
Access to Capital (10)
Cost of Living (23)

I decided to order these categories in this manner: From those which the government is most obligated to have a role in, to those which the government should least be involved in. Here's what I got* (Michigan rankings still in parentheses):

Economy (45)
Business Friendliness (39)
Cost of Doing Business (31)
Transportation (20)
Education (34)
Workforce (39)
Cost of Living (23)
Quality of Life (40)
Access to Capital (10)
Technology & Innovation (7)

*The ranking is my own subjective interpretation, and I won't be at all offended if you would choose to engage in a little reordering of your own. The data sources are not explicitly noted and consequently, I'm not certain precisely how these rankings were obtained or what precisely they measure...although they seem reasonable.

Do you notice a trend here? If the categories were simply numbered from 1 to 10 (using my order) and a linear correlation were completed, it would be -0.67, implying that the more government involvement, in general, the lower the rating. [Disclaimer: Rigorous statistical analysis would demand more work on my part. This is only an estimate from an estimate.]

Observations, beginning at the top of my list:

The government is inescapably tied to the economy by its policies related to taxation, spending, and legal regulation of economic activity. This is clearly tied to business friendliness and the cost of doing business. Michigan is doing poorly in these categories.

Government—especially at the state level—has responsibilities for transportation (roads, airports, other infrastructure) and for public education. In this survey, however, I suspect that "education" measures the attainments of the populace, which is a collective measure of choices people make. That is why transportation comes ahead of education in my list.

The workforce metric is probably tied to the education metric to some degree, as the overall measure of a workforce is in a large degree tied to its level of education. A large manufacturing sector generally doesn't rate well in this kind of metric.

Cost of living is tied to a variety of factors beyond government, including such things as geography, natural resources, and whether an area is rural or urban.

Quality of life, in my book, is founded primarily on things spiritual and familial—areas which are properly outside the scope of government. Yet, economic issues impact quality of life, so the government has a tangential effect on this. (And if we get Obamacare, it will be a lot more than tangential!)

Access to capital and Technology & Innovation are free-market qualities which, aside from policing illegalities, are usually outside the proper realm of government. Michigan was a top-ten state in both of these areas...and only in these areas.

Notice, by the way, which two categories Michigan finished best in. There is still hope...if we get active and vote!

How did Ohio do? Some interesting observations here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Know Why People Move to California

One year ago today, I took my first and only trip to California, with my wife. It was a combination business/pleasure trip. While there, we saw an Angels baseball game, enjoyed the beaches, and visited the Reagan Library (Note: All good Republicans should make at least one pilgrimage there before they die). We also managed on a $5/day upgrade to snag a Mustang convertible with an odometer reading of precisely 000010 miles. Seriously cool.

While there, it suddenly dawned on me why people move to California.

  • It's not the politics. California is virtually a socialist state.
  • It's not the traffic. Definitely not.
  • It's not the affordable housing. Even now, with home prices down, it's still frightfully expensive to those of us from the Midwest.
  • It's not the Christian values that permeate the society. Because they don't.
  • It's not because they enjoy the company of illegal aliens. We were told that the L.A. area contains perhaps 2 million of them.
It's simple. It is the weather. The weather was gorgeous. Southwest Michigan is lucky to get three days that gorgeous in a year; we got them on the three consecutive days we were there. (The fact that we got to enjoy them while driving a convertible without the kids was a definite plus.)

Yes, it's the weather. Definitely the weather.

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #4: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

This hymn is probably my personal all-time favorite. Written by Thomas Chisholm, and later put to music by William Runyan, it has become widely known since 1923.

The words get their inspiration from Lamentations 3:22-23:

22It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Those words from Scripture have always been a great comfort to those who have read them, and so, too, have the lyrics to Chisholm's song. God is faithful; He always has been and always will be. His blessings to us are beyond tabulation and comprehension. What a great thought upon which to meditate!

The words to the hymn are still under copyright by Hope Publishing Company in Carol Stream, IL.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.


Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #5: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #6: To God Be The Glory
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arab Christian Group Claims First Amendment Rights Denied On Public Property - in Michigan!

Arab Christian Group Claims First Amendment Rights Denied On Public Property -

The article gives you the full story. Here's the abridged version:

Dearborn's big Arab International Festival. Attracted 300K+ people last month. City police tell Arab Christian Perspective group they cannot distribute literature on the sidewalks during the festival, but only at their rather limited booth. Temporary injunction denied.

ACP Group now suing city of Dearborn.

The usual complaints were reported: They littered the streets; they interfered with traffic; they were a nuisance. The group's views were maligned. The MSM feels obliged to do that, I suppose. But the legal ramifications were, surprisingly, quite clearly presented:

"...two First Amendment experts said sidewalks are usually considered "traditional public fora" in which distributing materials is considered protected speech, and the city's defense of its action does not appear constitutionally strong.

"It is a bedrock First Amendment principle that public sidewalks must generally be open for the exchange of information and ideas," said Tim Zick, a law professor at the College of William and Mary and author of "Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places."

"Distributing literature is, without question, a form of protected speech," Zick said. "Indeed, some of the earliest free-speech cases upheld the right to distribute literature on the public streets and sidewalks, to audiences that were not always pleased with the messages."

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said allowing religious groups to rent stalls did not preclude them from distributing literature on the sidewalks.

"The existence of an option to rent a stall doesn’t let the city take away a group’s right to leaflet," he said. "Leafleting can reach a broader audience than the stall can, since leafleters can walk around.

"Leafleting is also free. City of Ladue v. Gilleo, a 1994 Supreme Court precedent, makes clear that such cheap means of speech generally can’t be restricted on the grounds that the speaker can still use other, materially more expensive (and less effective) forms of speech," Volokh said.

Yes, indeed: It is quite clear that the decision of the city of Dearborn is one that violates the First Amendment rights of a Christian group. I wonder if Dearborn's leaders would have made the same decision if it were that group of al-Qaeda lovers who had requested permission to distribute leaflets?

Which of our current state leaders will stand up for Arab Christian Perspective?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #5: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott is probably the best-known hymn in the German language, written by one of Germany's greatest and most famous men nearly five hundred years ago. Martin Luther's words were translated from German to English by Frederic Hedge in 1853, and it has become extremely well-known in the English language as well. Luther also is credited with the music to this hymn.

The words, when meditated upon, have a much stronger meaning when one remembers that Martin Luther was the greatest figure of the Reformation. He was targeted by the established Catholic church and by certain rulers for destruction, and was fought fiercely in both religious and royal circles. His followers suffered persecution for Christ's sake. His life encountered tribulations. Through the midst of all this, however, he stood strongly for the cause of Christ and fanned the flames of Protestantism—thereby changing the world forever.

The words speak of a faith that is stronger than most men have....God has no equal; He will win the battle; His kingdom is forever. I hope that all of us will beg God for this kind of faith.

This hymn, like #7 on the list (see below), was also sung at President Eisenhower's funeral.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #6: To God Be The Glory
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wienermobile Crashes Into Wisconsin Home!

Wienermobile Crashes Into Wisconsin Home -

The picture says a thousand words:

The article does indicate a woman was driving the famous vehicle, and evidently mistook forward and reverse at the wrong moment.

On the good side, no one was injured and an Oscar Meyer spokeswoman reports that insurance will cover the damages to both vehicle and home.

Late Night Theology & Politics

I was (and apparently still am) having difficulty falling asleep tonight, so I began reading my Bible. I encountered this passage from II Kings 15:

18 And he [Menahem] did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
19 And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.
20 And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.
So to summarize, we have a wicked king who taxes the wealthy in order to accomplish a political payoff. I wonder how much you had to make a year to be considered "wealthy" back then?

There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)!

Friday, July 17, 2009

NRA Statement on Judge Sotomayor

They e-mailed it to me today, and I don't think they will mind if I pass it on.

Joint Statement

Wayne Lapierre, Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association
Chris W. Cox, Executive Director, National Rifle Association - Institute For Legislative Action
Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Nomination To The United States Supreme Court

Other than declaring war, neither house of Congress has a more solemn responsibility than the Senate's role in confirming justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Senate considers the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Americans have been watching to see whether this nominee - if confirmed - would respect the Second Amendment or side with those who have declared war on the rights of America's 80 million gun owners.

From the outset, the National Rifle Association has respected the confirmation process and hoped for mainstream answers to bedrock questions. Unfortunately, Judge Sotomayor's judicial record and testimony clearly demonstrate a hostile view of the Second Amendment and the fundamental right of self-defense guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

It is only by ignoring history that any judge can say that the Second Amendment is not a fundamental right and does not apply to the states. The one part of the Bill of Rights that Congress clearly intended to apply to all Americans in passing the Fourteenth Amendment was the Second Amendment. History and congressional debate are clear on this point.

Yet Judge Sotomayor seems to believe that the Second Amendment is limited only to the residents of federal enclaves such as Washington, D.C. and does not protect all Americans living in every corner of this nation. In her Maloney opinion and during the confirmation hearings, she deliberately misread Supreme Court precedent to support her incorrect view.

In last year's historic Heller decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual's right to own firearms and recognizes the inherent right of self-defense. In addition, the Court required lower courts to apply the Twentieth Century cases it has used to incorporate a majority of the Bill of Rights to the States. Yet in her Maloney opinion, Judge Sotomayor dismissed that requirement, mistakenly relying instead on Nineteenth Century jurisprudence to hold that the Second Amendment does not apply to the States.

This nation was founded on a set of fundamental freedoms. Our Constitution does not give us those freedoms - it guarantees and protects them. The right to defend ourselves and our loved ones is one of those. The individual right to keep and bear arms is another. These truths are what define us as Americans. Yet, Judge Sotomayor takes an opposite view, contrary to the views of our Founding Fathers, the Supreme Court, and the vast majority of the American people.

We believe any individual who does not agree that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right and who does not respect our God-given right of self-defense should not serve on any court, much less the highest court in the land. Therefore, the National Rifle Association of America opposes the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the position of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

- NRA -

Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America's oldest civil rights and sportsmen's group. Four million members strong, NRA continues its mission to uphold Second Amendment rights and to advocate enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime. The Association remains the nation's leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the military.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #6: To God Be The Glory

It would be nearly impossible to choose ten great hymns without including at least one by Fanny Crosby, perhaps the greatest hymn lyricist of all time. She wrote about 8000 hymns, at least 500 of which were put to music and are still used in the universe of hymns.

Along with Blessed Assurance, this is perhaps Crosby's best-known and loved hymn. Its first stanza is a simple, yet profound, glorification of the God who provided mankind with salvation. The refrain and second stanza echo this, while the third stanza speaks of the glory we will behold when we who have accepted Christ as Savior meet Him in heaven.

I hope that all who read this post can sing these words from a sincere and believing heart.

To God Be the Glory

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.


Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.


Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.


Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King


Michigan Unemployment Rises Again! Ugh!

15.2% is the new ugly number. Almost makes you wish for the "good old days" when it was only 8.1%...which it was, twelve months ago. Was this the "hope and change" we bargained for?

As I mentioned in my last post regarding Michigan unemployment statistics, we are moving toward the highest unemployment rate Michigan has had since 1976 (when the current statistics, in their current form, were first tracked), when it was 16.9% in November 1982. The only other state to have unemployment over 15% since 1976 was West Virginia, whose unemployment peaked at 18.2% in March 1983.

Many believe we will surpass that rate before the end of 2009. Ugh.

Detailed data regarding Michigan employment and unemployment:

Here are a couple of very telling graphs from that site...first, the number of unemployed in Michigan:

And the unemployment rate, expressed in terms of percents:

Perhaps Governor Granholm was wrong...maybe it will only be three years until we're blown away!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Living Together First Can Spoil Marriage, Study Finds

Living Together First Can Spoil Marriage, Study Finds -

Let us first consider some of the statistics contained in this article:

The study questioned about 1000 couples between the ages of 18 and 34 who had been married for no more than ten years. Of these:

  • 40% [Yes, only 40%!] did not live together (cohabit) prior to their marriage.
  • 16% only lived together after they were engaged.
  • 43% were cohabiting before engagement.
No word on the other 1%.

Percentages of these groups which had ever "suggested divorce":
  • 10% among those who did not cohabit prior to marriage.
  • 12% among those who only lived together after they were engaged.
  • 19% among those who cohabited before engagement.
Back to more of those statistics in a moment. There are a few key Bible principles worth noting here.
  • ALL sexual activity outside of the marriage relationship is sin. Period. The Bible speaks strongly about adultery, fornication, homosexuality/sodomy, incest, etc., referring to them in strong terms and promising inescapable judgment (see, for examples, Ex. 20:14; Heb. 13:4; Prov. 6:26-29, 32-33; Rom. 1:24-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Matt. 15:19-20; and many others)
  • ALL lust outside the marriage relationship is sin. Period. I believe this is a sub-part of the 10th Commandment (Ex. 20:17, Thou shalt not covet...thy neighbor's wife...; see also Rom. 7:7), but there are plenty of other affirmations that lust is sin in such passages as Matt. 5:27-28; Rom. 1:27 (a reference to homosexual lust); James 1:15; 1 John 2:16-17; and many others.
  • Marriage is good! In addition to the blessings of companionship and family that it brings, it is what God designed for procreation and the satisfaction of physical desires. God provided Adam with Eve at the very beginning (Gen. 2:18-24), and it has been part of His plan ever since.
It should not surprise us that when two people violate God's commands and embark upon their own path of desire, that they are less likely to have a successful marriage.

I also wanted to make note of the three most common reasons given by cohabiting couples for choosing to cohabit, beginning with the one most given:
  • Spending more time together
  • Made sense financially
  • Wanted to "test out the relationship" before marriage
The first reason is, in a word, weak. My wife and I spent lots of time together before marriage without moving in with each other; it is simply a matter of time priorities. Furthermore, with e-mail, cell phones, and other technologies (that I wish we had about seventeen years ago), that special someone is rarely more than a moment away.

The second reason promotes pragmatism over principle. Not good.

The third reason is particularly weak, and sad. Marriage is a commitment, a vow—the most sacred vow a man and a woman can ever make. It is not to be entered into lightly. To commence immorality on the pretense of "testing it out" is a grand mistake. And really, I think that is what is really meant by "testing it out." If you want to know your beloved's feelings on what to do with the towels once they have been used, or whether the toilet paper should go over the top, or how often the dishes should be done, or what time they go to bed, just ask them. Or observe them, as the case might be.

Marriage is sacred, and must be treated as such.

Kudos to Tommy B. for bringing this article to my attention.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Perspective in God's Universe

Theblogprof today had a great posting about Creation. He's got some great graphics over there, but I want to focus on a few thoughts it sparked in my own mind:

  • God's Creation, the universe, is incredible. From the smallest subatomic particles (about which we can still only theorize) to the grandest groupings of galaxies (some of which we can hardly see), and from the tiniest structures of the cell to the astonishing complexities of living creatures, there is much for us to be awestruck. Any idea that all of this could have evolved is simply futile—it speaks to a Creator. (See Genesis 1)
  • There is only one thing God created in His Own image: Mankind. Consider these verses from Genesis 1: 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. We should feel both humbled and honored.
  • It was to mankind that God gave dominion over His creation. Continuing in Genesis 1: 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. [Side political note: No hint of Cap-and-trade here]
  • It was to mankind that God sent a Savior, as we see in one of the most-loved passages of Scripture, John 3:14-18:
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Be encouraged at what God has done for us!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #7: Onward Christian Soldiers

One of the marks of a great hymn is that it is consistent with the Bible. In many passages we are reminded that we are in a battle with the devil and his forces, one which will never end until the final victory recorded in Revelation. On the flip side, sometimes the biggest battles Christians engage in are with...other Christians! The unity of the Church in its mission for God and against Satan is often sacrificed for more trivial matters.

This hymn, composed by Englishman Sabine Baring-Gould for a Whit-Monday school festival in 1865, emphasizes key elements of our ongoing spiritual battle:

  • Christ is our leader
  • The church is to be unified behind Christ
  • The church of Christ will ultimately be victorious
  • We are to reach out to others to join Christ's army
Sometimes I think the children understand this better than the adults do!

There are a number of amusing facts associated with this hymn.

The tune Baring-Gould used originally for his lyrics was a portion from Joseph Haydn's Symphony #15. However, the music we recognize for Onward, Christian Soldiers was written by one Arthur Sullivan. Most people don't recognize this "Sullivan" paired with "Arthur;" they recognize "Sullivan" paired with "Gilbert." As in, Gilbert and Sullivan. It is amusing to me that the composer of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance also wrote the music for which these lyrics have become famous.

In 1986, it was proposed that Onward, Christian Soldiers be removed from the United Methodist Hymnal due to its being perceived as militaristic. Methodist churchgoers expressed their outrage and the hymn was retained.

This hymn was sung in 1941 at the conference between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill; it was chosen specifically by Churchill, who justified his choice on the radio later. It was also sung at the funeral of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Onward, Christian Soldiers

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!


Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.


Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.


What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.


Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.


Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.


Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Michigan Blueberries

This morning I took my four children to our annual July extravaganza: Blueberry picking! The five of us picked nearly 31 pounds of blueberries, with most of those now resting comfortably in my freezer. My children think blueberry picking is fun; I enjoy it also.

Someone who lives in Florida questioned why I would go out into the heat to pick my own blueberries. That's a good question, and I have several good answers.

1. The weather is beautiful. It is July in Michigan—a far cry from the oppressive humidity of a July day in Florida—and this morning was a particularly beautiful day even by normal standards. Fresh air in the open fields is good for us, no?

2. It's a great activity for the kids. They enjoy it, and it gives them a pleasant taste of the work world. It is good for children to learn how to accomplish tasks and to enjoy the reward of their labor; if they can learn this in an enjoyable environment, so much the better.

3. It's a great activity with the kids. Parents, especially fathers, should spend time with their children. This is a super way to do it.

4. Fresh blueberries are, quite simply, awesome.

5. I'm supporting the local economy, and in Michigan, how can that not be a good thing?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pontiac School District Adopts Dress Code

I am a big fan of school dress codes. Every school (and I would even suggest this for those who homeschool) should implement some sort of dress code so that the students are dressed modestly, neatly, and non-disruptively.

The Detroit News carried a story today that the Pontiac School District will have a new uniform dress code, effective with the start of the 2009-10 school year. From the article:

From preschool through 12th grade, students must wear solid black, khaki or navy dress pants or slacks, knee-length dresses, jumpers, shorts or skirts. Students must wear white, navy, or light blue collared shirts and blouses with long or short sleeves. Turtlenecks of the same colors as shirts and blouses are also permitted.

Beginning the second semester of the 2009-10 school year, blazers may be required for students in grades 7-12.

There are also a number of things not permitted, such as

    Clothing that will no longer be permitted includes:

  • Jeans or denim fabrics (unless permitted for a school spirit day or a dress-down day)
  • Tight fitting or baggy, oversized clothing
  • Team jerseys (can be worn only when permitted), T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, spaghetti straps, strapless or halter-tops or sheer, see-through blouses
  • Sweat suits, jogging attire, athletic shorts, fleeces, loungewear or sleepwear
  • Hooded tops
  • Headgear, including hats, headbands, scarves, do-rags, stocking caps, bandanas and baseball caps
  • Any clothing, jewelry, symbol or other object that can be perceived by a staff member as evidence of membership/affiliation with a gang
  • Designer brand sunglasses or dark glasses (if prescribed, medical documentation needed)
  • Designer brand stitched leather jackets
  • Outerwear such as gloves, jackets and overcoats in the buildings
I think that this is good. However, let's analyze a few aspects of this, beginning with...

Reasons the District Gives for Having a Dress Code:
  • Promote respect for self and others. I think I see what they mean by this, but I would have worded it differently. Dressing in a more professional or neater manner tends to make one think more highly of one's abilities and tends to have the effect of more, and more positive, achievement.
  • "To prevent distractions and health and safety hazards that disrupt the educational environment." No argument there. The last thing schools need is problems stemming from students' clothing.
  • It was noted in the article that the two Pontiac high schools are merging into a single high school this year, and that this will tend to help the students "blend in" better and become a more cohesive group. This is probably good, and will help to avoid the factions that might come from a "I went to ___ last year" mentality.
  • Waivers for religious or medical reasons will be considered. Penalties have been established.
Now let me add some more to this:

Additional Reasons the District Should Have a Dress Code:
  • Students need to learn how to look and dress like mature adults. Most public school students, quite frankly, dress like slobs in jeans and T-shirts. It is good for them to become accustomed to the dress and manners of adults. For this particular reason, I am not a fan of uniforms, although they are still preferable to the "jeans and T-shirts" look.
  • Dress for success: There is plenty of evidence showing that students' dress has an impact on their accomplishments in school.
  • Most students are going to have a job someday where they will have to conform to a dress code. Might as well get the idea now. (On a related note, I think it's OK to kindly and politely communicate to students that adults know better than they do on these sorts of things. Some students think they are the fountainhead of all knowledge and wisdom. This is nothing more than pride and arrogance.)
What will be interesting to see is if the dress code actually gets enforced. Whenever there are no penalties, the dress code is ignored; and when there are penalties, people get mad. About ten years ago, when I lived in Jacksonville, that school district adopted a uniform dress code...then let parents opt out their kids...then by the end of the school year, it was nothing more than a bad joke, engendering disrespect for the authorities who came up with the dress code in the first place.

Dress codes without consistent enforcement become a cure worse than the original illness.

I commend the Pontiac school board for their decision and hope that they stand up for it during the upcoming school year.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art

This is probably one of the two or three most recognized hymns in the English language. It has been sung by humble Christians in small churches, and by people as famous as Elvis Presley (and for which he won not one, but two, Grammy awards). It has been identified as the favorite of presidents and even whole countries, and has been recorded no fewer than 1700 different times.

The lyrics originated with a man named Carl Gustav Boberg, a Swede, who wrote a poem (in Swedish) of nine stanzas in 1885. It was published the next year and married to a Swedish folk tune. It was eventually translated into several languages; the version most of know in English was translated by Stuart K. Hine, who also added two stanzas of his own (Stanzas 3 and 4, below), by 1949.

The song quickly became a popular hymn of glorifying God. It became enormously popular in the English-speaking world and was closely associated with the Billy Graham crusades and George Beverly Shea.

A lengthy Wikipedia posting on the hymn, its various translations (and re-translations), and its spread throughout the world, can be found here. It is also the source of the "commonly used English lyrics" copied below.

The first two verses, as well as most of the other original Swedish stanzas, speak eloquently of God's creation and how all of it points to, and glorifies, God. The third stanza reminds us that God sent His only Son to bleed and die for our salvation—a fact we cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. The fourth stanza helps us to look forward with anticipation to the day when those of us who have accepted His gift of salvation will be taken "home" to be with Him forever, where we will praise and glorify God forever.

If these words do not bring peace and comfort to the Christian's soul, I'm not sure what will.

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
(Repeat Refrain.)
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
(Repeat Refrain.)
When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
(Repeat Refrain.)
Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pro-Life Free Speech Denied in California!

According to this news article (pictures included), a seventh-grade girl in California was made to change her shirt when school administrators, at the very beginnning of the day, noticed that it contained a pro-life message. That day, April 29, had been designated as "National Pro-Life T-shirt Day" by the American Life League.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially in this case. You can view pictures of the T-shirt here.

The storyline is the usual plot: Student wears T-shirt disdained by left-wing school administrators, is rudely told to change it (and does). Parent threatens lawsuit (and in this case, lawsuit goes forward).

There are two main issues to note here. First, anyone walking around a typical middle or high school today will notice a variety of T-shirts with advertising slogans, sports teams, brand names, artwork, and other content on them. Most of them are not the least bit offensive (not liking some other kid's sports team does not count!), but quite frankly, occasionally they are. They might contain images of some perverse "artist" or "rock star," or encourage behaviors that are unwise, rebellious, or immoral. [Note: Schools generally ban—as they should—T-shirts which promote activities that are illegal for minors, such as smoking or drinking.]

A T-shirt containing two photos of living human beings and which implies that abortion kills them is neither offensive nor inaccurate. To ban such a T-shirt while allowing so many others is hypocritical, and constitutes allowing "free speech" for some students and not for others. [Note #2: I would have no problem if a school decided to ban all T-shirts or even all T-shirts with any kinds of words/messages; this is consistent, and part of an appropriate dress code.]

The second and greater problem is the realization—still present in America after all these years—that there are those who hate the pro-life message and want to kill it. Free speech does not interest these people except to the extent that it allows them to speak. They care not for what is right and good.

The article concludes with this insightful quote by the mother's lawyer:

First Amendment attorney William Becker, who represents Amador, disagreed that the shirt could be seen as containing inappropriate messages.

"The message of the T-shirt is that life is sacred," he said. "One would be very hard pressed to find anything wrong with that particular idea, except that some people do object to the political message."

Martyrdom Today: What is Your Choice?

I read over at theblogprof of one Piotr Stanczak of Poland, who was kidnapped in Pakistan last September 28. The Pakistani Taliban gave him a choice: Convert to Islam, or be executed. He chose death.

The article does not give any details about Stanczak's faith, but that is not the main point of my post. The question he faced should cause us all to think: What if that were me? Would I be willing to stand on my faith in God if the guns were at my chest? Would I have the faith to say, as the three young Hebrew men said (Daniel 3:17), "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us"?

May God help every Christian to have the faith needed when such a day comes.

Congress and Michael Jackson

Perhaps this is supposed to be some sort of comic relief from a Congress that has more important work to do fighting the Obama/socialist agenda....

On the one side, we have Rep. Peter King (R-NY) in a YouTube video pointing out that Michael Jackson was a pedophile and a pervert whom you would most likely not want around your children. [Despite some media coverage, this was not the ranting of a crazy man, but rather the frank opinion of someone making a clear point.]

On the other side, we have Rep. Shiela Jackson-Lee (D-TX), who has offered a resolution in Congress to recognize Michael Jackson for his humanitarian work and his contributions to the music world.

I have to agree with Rep. King on this one. Michael Jackson's death, while sad and tragic, is no more worthy of special recognition than any other artist who has committed perverse acts with children.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well with My Soul

The words to this hymn were written by Horatio G. Spafford, and to my knowledge, this is the only hymn he ever wrote. Spafford was a Christian, and by occupation, a Chicago lawyer in the 1870's. He and his family were credited with helping many after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Three years later, his wife and four children were en route to France when their steamer collided with another boat and sank quickly. Only Mrs. Spafford was pulled alive from the waters. Once she reached land, she cabled her husband with the message "Saved alone."

Two years later, Spafford wrote this hymn in commemoration of the death of his children (He and his wife would have two more children after the tragedy). Having four children myself, I can only hope that God would allow me the peace to say, if I were to lose them all at once,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

The Spaffords and their two young children moved to Jerusalem in 1881 and founded a group whose mission was to serve the poor. You can read more about Spafford here and here.

The words were put to music by Philip P. Bliss, who authored dozens of hymn lyrics himself, including such hymns as "Almost Persuaded," "Hold the Fort," and "Whosoever Will." Bliss died in a train wreck months later, when after surviving the initial crash following a bridge collapse, he reentered the train in an unsucessful attempt to save his wife.

These words are a great comfort to anyone who has suffered a loss and who wonders if God can give them peace thereafter. He can.

It Is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin—not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”—it is well with my soul.


Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day...and Hobby Lobby

This morning I began my day in Ohio, where I had the opportunity to read the Toledo Blade. I was pleasantly surprised to read in the opening section (Section A, Page 5) a full-page advertisement by Hobby Lobby with the words "In God We Trust" at the top of the page. The page was filled with about twenty quotes by presidents, founding fathers, Supreme Court jurists, and even foreigners about how Christianity is an indispensable part of the law and society of our United States.

Times may have changed, but the truth is still the same. Our country was founded on Christian principles, and it was and is best suited for those who believe and practice the morality found in the Bible. When we reject the morals, principles, and character qualities promoted in the Scriptures—as a large percentage of America already has—our country will suffer.

You can view the advertisement here, with a few facts about their advertising here. There's also a link in the ad to WallBuilders, which is a great source of information about our country. After what I have seen today, I will be more than willing to channel business to Hobby Lobby in the future!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And If That Last Post Doesn't Make You Mad Enough....!

The title of the article says it all:

Senate Bill Would Fine People More Than $1,000 for Refusing Health Care Coverage

Yes, that's right: The proposed legislation says that if you choose—for nearly any reason, it appears—not to purchase health care for yourself (and your family if you have one), you will be forced to pay a fine.

"Called "shared responsibility payments," the fines would be set at least half the cost of basic medical coverage, according to the legislation."
On top of that, the fines will be collected through the income tax system...people are going to really love April 15 if that enters their tax picture.

This is a new low for the Democrats in the Senate (and White House), and represents a huge step toward a socialist/communist economic system in our country. And, yes, it gets worse; here's the final paragraph from the article:

"At their heart, all the bills would require insurance companies to sell coverage to any applicant, without charging higher premiums for pre-existing medical conditions. The poor and some middle-class families would qualify for government subsidies to help with the cost of coverage. The government's costs would be covered by a combination of higher taxes and cuts in projected Medicare and Medicaid spending."
The poor's health care will be paid by everyone else. Those of us who live clean lives and are blessed with good health will be underwriting the smokers, the obese, the sexually promiscuous—and I suspect the abortion seekers, too.

And then I'll really be mad.

Oh My, the Hypocrisy!

Do you remember not that very long ago, when congressmen and congresswomen berated the car company executives for flying private jets to Washington D.C. (so that those same congresspeople could berate them for other things)?

Do you remember that even more recently, large banking companies' executives were blasted by the congresspeople for their lavish lifestyles on the company dime?

Then this article might make your blood boil when you read about the outrageous and expensive trips taken by many of our members of Congress. Some facts and statistics from the article:

The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That's a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago.
The article also states that expenses are up 70% since 2005, when it became illegal for lobbyists to fund such travel. Who's paying for all this travel?

The congressional trips are possible thanks in part to an unlimited fund created by a three-decade old law. Nearly two dozen government officials work full-time organizing the trips. Much of the costs are not made public, including the cost of flying on government jets. The Air Force maintains a fleet of 16 passenger planes for use by lawmakers.

Documents obtained by the Journal show that the cost of flying a small group of lawmakers to the Middle East is about $150,000. Larger trips on the Air Force's version of the Boeing 757 cost about $12,000 an hour. Two federal agencies pay for most of the travel -- the Defense Department and the State Department.

Yep, that would be us, the taxpayers. That's at least $13 million, plus the undisclosed flight costs. I didn't highlight those numbers above just because statistics amuse me, either.

Where are your Congresspeople going? I'm glad you asked. Here are some examples.

  • "In mid-June, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii) led a group of a half-dozen senators and their spouses on a four-day trip to France for the biennial Paris Air Show. An itinerary for the event shows that lawmakers flew on the Air Force's version of the Boeing 737, which costs $5,700 an hour to operate. They stayed at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, which advertises rooms from $460 a night." They also met with some presumably important people and declined to comment for the WSJ article.
  • "In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of Democratic lawmakers to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a day. Before landing in Kabul, the eight lawmakers and their entourage of spouses and aides spent eight days in Italy, spending $57,697 on hotels and meals." Her spokesperson added that she also visited the pope while in Italy.
A number of the trips have been to Iraq and Afghanistan, which seems a bit more in line with their official duties, and where the hotels don't cost much (VIP's rarely stay in those countries overnight). But this one has to be the worst example of pork-filled travel in the article:

Last summer, Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.) took a four-day trip to the Galápagos Islands with his wife, four other lawmakers and their family members. The lawmakers spent $22,000 on meals and hotels, records show. Mr. Baird, a member of the House Science Committee, said the trip was to learn about global warming.

On the first day, lawmakers toured a breeding center for giant tortoise and land iguanas before dining with scientists, according to an itinerary for the trip. The next morning, lawmakers headed to the Galápagos National Park while their family members had the option of hiking, swimming or shopping. That afternoon, the group boarded a boat to visit a sea-lion colony and search for white-tip sharks.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King

The words to this great hymn were written by Francis of Assisi around 1225, shortly before his death. The tune, titled Lasst Uns Erfreuen, first appeared in a German book around 1623.

Despite the impressive age of this hymn, it was not found in an English hymn book until 1919, after it was translated by William Draper. Ralph Williams added harmony to the German tune in 1906. Therefore, in the English language, it is not very old at all.

The words, however, are timeless. All creatures...lift up your voice and with us sing! Alleluia! The poetic descriptions of universal elements (wind, water, fire), astronomical bodies (sun, moon, earth), and even death itself lifting their praise to God remind us that indeed, as the final verse of the last Psalm says:

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. (Ps. 150:6)
Furthermore, the praise of God is not limited to the animate: Even the stones are capable of praising God (Luke 19:40). The heavens themselves declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).

The words coupled with the soul-stirring tune make this a majestic, praising, reverential hymn. It reminds us of Psalm 69:34:
Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.
Take time to meditate upon the words below.

All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!


O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!


Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.


Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.


And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!


And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.


Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!


Q&A with Sen. Tom George (R-20th District)

Sen. Tom George is currently serving his second term in the Michigan Senate and is a candidate for governor in next year's election. He is a medical doctor and a history buff. He recently and graciously agreed to answer some questions related to his campaign to become Michigan's next Republican governor.

1. Would you, during the campaign, be willing to sign a pledge indicating that you would not raise taxes? If not, are there specific taxes you would be willing to raise, under certain circumstances?

No, I will not sign a pledge to not raise taxes as I have always made it a policy and practice to not sign any kind of pledge. I believe it would be imprudent of a gubernatorial candidate to take such a pledge.

2. Being a doctor certainly gives you more insight into the healthcare industry than most of us have, and being a senator gives you more insight into the workings of government than most of us have. What other qualities do you think you have that prepare you to become Michigan's next governor?

Having maintained an active career outside of the legislature is an advantage that no other candidate can claim. I continue to work at the hospital, including some nights and weekends when the legislature is not in session. This puts me in touch with the many challenges that people are facing on a regular basis. It also gives me special insight into the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system.

Fixing health care is one of the keys to fixing Michigan’s economy and turning our state around. One of the lessons my medical practice has taught me is that the health of a population and subsequent health care costs largely reflect health behaviors. With health care costs now the single largest expense in the state budget, the state’s ability to lure jobs, fix its infrastructure, and provide tax cuts will in part depend on the next governor’s ability to improve the health behavior of our citizens.

Having legislative experience is also important as fixing Michigan will require using the legislative process. Governor Engler was a skilled legislator and this helped make him an effective governor. In contrast, Governor Granholm’s lack of legislative experience has at times been apparent.

Outside of the legislature, I have provided volunteer service to several organizations. These experiences enhance my credentials. For example, in 2008, I co-chaired MI-Cause, the statewide coalition which formed to oppose last fall’s embryo research ballot proposal. I have served as president of the Historical Society of Michigan, a statewide non-profit group founded in 1828 to promote and preserve the history of our state. In 1998 I chaired the Kalamazoo Coalition for Appropriate and Compassionate Care, a group which formed to oppose the assisted-suicide ballot proposal.

As a physician, I served as a medical volunteer in Tanzania, Africa, and on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia. For 24 years, I have been a member of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine’s volunteer faculty. I have also published articles in both medical journals and history magazines.

On a personal note, I have been married to my wife, Sandy for almost 30 years and we have three children.

Continuing to hold a part-time job while serving in the legislature, demonstrating leadership, serving as a volunteer, and maintaining one’s marriage vows are all important indicators of character which may be important to voters in the gubernatorial race.

3. You will no doubt be reminded during the campaign about your vote on the early morning of 10/1/07 to raise taxes. In retrospect, do you regret that vote, or do you feel that it was necessary? Why?

I do not regret my 2007 vote to raise the state income tax.

It should be noted that in 2007, I voted for a billion dollars in spending cuts as well as voting to raise the state income tax from 3.9 to 4.35%. Together this combination would have been sufficient to balance the budget. Unlike many of my colleagues, I actually voted for a package of bills that taken together would have produced a balanced budget without the need for the adoption of Governor Granholm’s service tax, which I opposed, and which was later converted, to the business tax surcharge.

My vote helped end a government shutdown, and create a balanced budget, which is one of my constitutional duties. Given the circumstances, it was the prudent action to take. (It also should be noted that during nine of the twelve years that Governor Engler was in office, the income tax was greater than its current rate of 4.35%.)

4. You are known to be a history buff. Can you think of any historical parallels in U.S. History to the current state of affairs in Michigan?

There have been several instances of economic crises in Michigan’s past. Boom and bust cycles have been caused by land speculation, canal building boondoggles, timber industry cycles, war, and the great depression. On more than one occasion economic turmoil has contributed to a call for a constitutional convention. The Constitutional Convention of 1961-2, in part, stemmed from state budget problems in the late 1950’s.

Applying the lessons of the past to today would suggest that though Republicans may not support the call for a constitutional convention which will appear on the 2010 ballot, we should be prepared in the event it is adopted.

5. Looking back over your time in the legislature, of what achievements are you the most pleased?

I represent a senate district that, like Michigan as a whole, is about 53% Democratic. My district has voted for Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Jennifer Granholm. Yet, I am a conservative, pro-life Republican and have managed to win elections repeatedly there. I am now serving in my ninth year in the legislature. I believe I have been able to represent my district ably because I am a good listener, and because I have found a way to apply Republican principles to the problems of the day in a constructive manner. In a similar fashion, for a Republican to win the governor’s race in 2010, we must have a candidate with the right temperament and skills -- a candidate who knows how to win; a candidate who knows how to use Republican solutions to fix our state.

Thank you, Senator George!

Canadians Want Private Health Care? Really?

According to this article (which most of us could have seen coming, in form if not exact date), "Private for-profit clinics are a booming business in Canada -- a country often touted as a successful example of a universal health system."

The reasons are simple and predictable: The health care system of Canada forces long waits and consists of substandard care, by American standards. Canadians want the same quality and promptness of health care that we Americans have come to enjoy! They'd rather pay out of pocket to get their health concerns promptly dealt with than wait and suffer. Go figure!

Canadian health care implementation is managed by the different provinces, and not all of them have allowed private for-profit health clinics. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in a 2005 Quebec case that patients whose wait times were exceptionally long could seek private treatment and pay for it out of their own pockets.

Do you like prompt, quality heath care? Then don't let the government control it!