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19 posts from August 2007

George Foreman waffles with my family on my 61st birthday

BdaayActually, it wasn't my whole family at the breakfast table.  I know my daughter was there in spirit to eat waffles from our new George Foreman grill made on my 61st birthday.

They tasted great.  We had turkey bacon, in addition, applesauce and some kind of juice. 

The dogfood at the left of the picture was not on our menu.  Our aging and blind beagle Snoopy will only eat her food at the table and on a plate.

Our son flew in from Washington D.C. to help celebrate and be home for the Labor Day weekend.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the day.  We will probably eat lunch out and then have a big meatloaf supper tonight.  There might be a Scrabble game in their somewhere too.

Observations about having serial killer loose in our city, Lansing, MI

For more than a month, we had a serial killer loose in Michigan's capital city, Lansing.  As a resident I could feel my gut tightening and I found myself being more wary of my surroundings.  Yesterday, they arrested the person suspected of killing five women.

Some observations:

  • It's too easy to put the responsibility for protecting citizens just on the police and city officials.  I caught myself raising my eyebrows at statements from both the police chief and mayor about their crime fighting efforts.
  • The reality is that we couldn't hire enough cops to stop somebody bent on hurting people.  The answer?  At least, part of it, is that we've got to take responsibility for each other.  Neighbors need to be real neighbors who care.
  • Local churches can be a major crime-fighting tool.  If they practice what they should be preaching, they can see the needs and help fill them.  How many churches in the city of Lansing have that kind of commitment?  I don't know.
  • We certainly have to remember the victims of this killer and others.  But what about the perpetrator?  Shouldn't we try to understand what made this person, if he is the guilty one, do what he did?  When were those seeds planted in him?  What could have turned this person in the right direction before all this happened?
Just because they've made an arrest, I don't think we should breathe a whole lot easier. 

There needs to be an ongoing community discussion about life in this city and how it can be improved.
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Baby-boomer birthday: Thinking about life on the morning of my 61st birthday

Right now I'm sitting in our big Lazy Boy chair drinking Starbucks out of my favorite mug.  It's the morning of my 61st birthday. 

It will be a special day with my family, my wife, my son and my daughter who will be here in abstentia because she's traveling out of state.  In our families birthdays have always been a deal, a celebration of life and growth.

And, in my case, it's a recognition that I'm getting closer to moving out of my being "a senior citizen in training."  I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946 which means I'm 61.  I'm one year short of being able to collect Social Security.  To celebrate my 60th, last year, my wife and kids threw me a surprise party.

Before we eat waffles made from our new George Foreman grill, here are some thoughts about past and present:

  • I was born in Mercy Hospital in Bay City, the same place where Madonna was born.  That and almost two bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks.
  • I was named after my uncle, Wes Moll, because I was born on his birthday, a couple minutes after midnight.  Otherwise, I would have been named Durward Dale Thorp, initials being DDT.
  • Growing up in Bay City, as far back as I can remember, our church Immanuel Lutheran would send a mimeographed birthday card with an offering envelope.  I always found something to give.
That makes the point that life--all life--is a gift from God.  I am really thankful to him for the life I've been given.  I've certainly been blessed.  This is a day to think about those blessings and where they come from.

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Fred Thompson to announce for president on Sep. 6 on his website,

Finally, Fred Thompson's going to let the world know that he's more than a character on Law & Order reruns.

According to an e-mail from his campaign, he will announce his candidacy on his website--  Then he hits the campaign trail.

Voters and the media will have a chance to kick his tires and see if he has what is needed to lead our country.  The people of this country are looking for a leader who is transparent.

I'm sure he can take the bows when warranted, but can he admit when he's wrong.

I will stay tuned.

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Word in Michigan: The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans

At the Lansing Mall here in mid-Michigan, I  recently saw a bumper sticker on a car with those words of warning about Republicans.  

As Michigan moves farther and farther down the slippery slope of decline, the partisan rancor increases.  Each party seems to hate the other and the party in the minority will do little to work cooperatively with the party in the majority.  Same could be said for the party in the majority working with the minority.

The state of Michigan deserves better.  The state won't progress until leaders of both parties learn to work together.  Republicans have a vested interest in seeing that Gov. Jennifer Granholm is successful.  If she isn't then our state goes down even farther.  

Last night at a church picnic, a friend said maybe it's time to pack up and leave the state for some place for people-friendly and that has less vitriol in partisan relationships.

Maybe that time's getting closer for a lot more folks.

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Getting ready for new week: Two faith questions from South Church, Lansing, MI

As I plan my week, I'm trying to ask myself two questions I found written on one of the blank pages of my Bible:

  1. What has God not done in my life because of a lack of faith?
  2. Is Jesus amazed by my great faith or lack of faith?
The notation around the questions says I wrote them down in April 2003 after a sermon that my wife and I heard at South Church in Lansing, MI.  We had gone there to hear a Sunday morning concert by singer Marty Goetz who I had heard a coupleof years before at a Promise Keepers rally at Soldier Field in Chicago.

I turn 61-years-old on Friday.  I see some challenges lying ahead where faith will be needed to get me off the fence and keep me there. I'm intimidated that I've got more life behind me than I have a head of me.

I know who I have faith in. I really need to grab onto that.

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Spending a day with MI ELCA pastors and lay people learning about corrections crisis

I left the corrections crisis forum yesterday wondering if Michigan had found its new economic niche to replace its failing auto manufacturing business.  What I already knew was reinforced that our state has developed its own system of gulags resembling the prison system in the old Soviet Union.

The state's prison system has become an economic force to be reckoned with and a major employer in the state.  However, resources for the corrections system is sucking away needed state resources for other necessary functions of state government.

The Church in Society Committees of the Southeast Michigan and North/West Lower Michigan Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) explored this topic yesterday at its Crisis in Corrections forum aimed at an ecumenical audience.

Former MI corrections director Bob Brown makes point Pastor Stephen Marsh helps develop MI ELCA corrections crisis response MI CAPPS director Barbara Levine explains corrections crisis P8220096.JPG

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Comparing Mitt Romney to his father, George Romney

Just spotted this story in today's Detroit Free Press comparing Mitt Romney to his father, former Michigan governor George Romney.  I will read it when I get home from church.

Has anybody looked back at George Romney's record here in Michigan.

Sure, he was a dynamo and had a real presence when he came into a room.

But, wasn't he the one who brought the state income tax to our state?  Didn't state government grow pretty substantially under his leadership?  I will come back to this.

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Getting my heart ready to go to church

I have another half hour before I start getting ready for church. 

To make church more than just a Sunday morning event, I know that I need to get my heart in the right place.  I saw this quote from chapter 3 of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, which really impressed me as a starting point:

Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose life has no meaning.  Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.

Continue reading "Getting my heart ready to go to church" »

Redefining my relationship with my daughter now that she's an adult

I don't know where to start, other than to say that our daughter Krista spent the past week of her vacation at home with us.  She's lives and works in another state and came home just to hang out with "ma" and "pa."

She left this morning to go back home where she works as a registered nurse and where she has a large network of friends centered around her church.  As her dad, I've always felt a special relationship with her.  When she was a baby and wake up in the middle of the night, quite often, I would get up with her and read Time magazine to her.

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Are teachers to blame for Michigan high school juniors falling short on new state exam

The Detroit News reports this morning about how more than half of Michigan's high school juniors failed the state's new exam in math and writing and less than 60 percent passed reading and science.

Who's to blame?  Teachers?  Parents?  Both?  How about the students?  How much blame rests with them?

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Drug problems at schools are getting worse, according to Columbia study

Got kids or grandkids in school?  Then check these statistics from a new study done by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

  • The percentage of teens who say they attend high schools with drug problems has increased from 44 percent to 61 percent since 2002.
  • In middle schools, the percentage has increased from 19 percent to 31 percent.
  • Four in five teens in high school told researchers they have witnessed the use, sale orpossession of illegal drugs on high school grounds or seen someone who was drunk or high on campus.
What's the answer?  More laws?  More prisons for users and sellers?  I wonder what the stats are for our city and metropolitan area.

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Lansing (MI) residents deserve more from their city council candidates

Let me be clear about two of the city council candidates in our third ward in the city of Lansing (MI):

  • The appointed incumbent, Bill Matt, and his challenger, neighborhood activist A'Lynne Robinson, seem like really good people.
  • Both are active in the community and they have a desire to maintain and improve our ward's level of livability.
  • Since being appointed to the council to fill a vacancy, Bill has worked tirelessly going to meetings, listening to constituents and being involved in both the ward and in the city.
  • A'Lynne seems like she has a finger on the pulse of what's happening with people in our ward and the city and she seems to have a working knowledge of city government.  She also seems to have values that most everybody would be comfortable with.
My beef is that there was no campaign where voters have a chance to hear candidates identify the top issues and their solutions to them.  I saw palm cards from both candidates filled with cliches that could apply to most cities.

Bill Matt does have a blog and it's a giant step forward as a tool to keep people informed.  But to be really useful, it has to be refined and expanded and an overt effort has to be made to let people know of its existence.

For Lansing to move out of its malaise, voters need to be engaged.  They need to be refired with candidates who will be more than the usual we've gotten from other leaders.

If I was Bill with a substantial win over my nearest competitor in the primary, I'd probably feel pretty good.  But his victory was limited because of the small turnout at the polls.

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It's hard to not think and ask questions about Lansing's (MI) third homicide in two weeks

Michigan's State Capital City--Lansing--has had its 11th homicide of the year.  Last year it had only six. 

I've watched what's happening.  A leader in the neighborhood just west of the State Capitol was murdered in her home.  She was an outspoken defender of her area and a servant around her to those in need.  Ruth Hall who was in her mid-70's had become an icon of servant leadership to her neighborhood association and to her neighbors.

Then a body was found in Hunter's Park on the city's near east side.  And today's Lansing State Journal reports how a woman was found murdered on the city's near northside.

While Mayor Virg Bernero and Police Chief Mark Alley talk about how safe Lansing is, the State Journal has written about how crime is at a tipping point in the city. 

You hear talk of how drug lords run certain parts of the city and how drugs are sold openly in the streets and how drug houses still exist in certain areas.

I want to believe our leaders and I want to feel secure, but I'm not sure who to believe.

It's far too easy to perceive what comes from City Hall and the Police Department as spin.  I feel my neighbors and others want to see transparency from city hall. 

Which is it?  Is crime in Lansing at a tipping point?  Are we facing a crime wave?  Where do the police stand in finding and arresting suspects in all these murders?

We all are players in finding a solution to these and other problems.  It's not just the mayor or the police department. 

How can we work together as a city to solve this and other challenges?

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Why I took Fred Thompson widget off my blog

Fred Thompson, you disappoint me.  You're letting Michigan and the other 49 states down.  You seem to be a tease.  I guess I've watched too many Law & Order television shows where you play the district attorney.

In that character, you seem to be the guy who leads the charge to make the world better.  Your character is anchored in wisdom and charisma.

I admit that I got sucked in by that.  I started to feel like Ronald Reagan had returned.  He was a leader who you wanted to get behind as we all moved forward slaying dragons standing in our way.

Since I signed up on your website, I've heard next to nothing from you.  Sure there have been requests for money.  But, so what? 

I've seen your folksy videos where you took after Michael Moore and where you wave the U.S. flag.  Entertaining?  For sure.  But, substance has been thin.

There was the fuss about whether you lobbied for pro-choice interests and the response came from your handlers and not you.  Same with your son getting what appeared to be some cheesy lobbying contracts.  Nary a word, I could find.

So much for transparency from you.  I like it when my leaders are forthright and open.  You haven't shown that yet.

That's why I took your widget off the left margin of my blog.  I replaced it with an Amazon affiliate add for the book Charlotte's Web.  It's good book.  A great story.  And more real than what I've seen from you, so far.

Just wanted you to know.

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Our return to the Grand Ledge (MI) Art Fair without our kids

It was our return to the Grand Ledge (MI) Island Art Fair on a hot early August day.  This time it was without little kids in tow. It was just my wife and me.

Artists and craftsmen from our part of Michigan displayed their wares on a little spit of an island in the Grand River.

Our last visit was 24 years ago when we took our then infant daughter, Krista, now 25.  It was a major excursion. While touring the island then, she rode in a backpack.

It was different this time. We had another child--Justin. Our nest is empty, but going with each other was still fun.  I'm glad we did it.

At Ada Bible Church: Putting Psalm 56 in my living life everyday toolbox

  Ada Bible Church worship team gets ready 
  Originally uploaded by west846

Sitting at our kitchen table after church and thinking about the week ahead, I am wondering how I can stick Psalm 56 in my toolbox for living my everyday life.

This week we went back to Ada Bible Church just east of Grand Rapids where we heard Pastor Jeff Manion teach about Psalm 56 and how David's ancient prayer is relevant to us today wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

Today's worship service featured accapella singing.  During the month of August  each worship service will use a different style of music. One of the hymns--Great Is Thy Faithfulness--sung without music took on a fresh power without accompanying musical instruments.

The challenge for me came from the message.  Everything he said about Psalm 56 seemed to be relevant.  Young David who had already defeated Goliath and who had been wildly successful in the battles he had led was being chased by King Saul.  He was on the run and his life was in danger constantly. 

Pastor Manion connected it to people today who face serious challenges, whether from illnesses like cancer, family tragedy, job pressures, family situations or any other circumstance that can push you against the ropes and potentially knock you down and out.

Key verses in the Psalm seemed to be:  v. 3--When I am afraid I will trust in you and v. 13--For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Blogosphere: How can good, solid, traffic-attracting businesses be brought to Logan Square, Lansing (MI) ?

It's time for our local--Lansing (MI)--leaders to engage the economic development experts in the global neighborhoods about how our city's southside Logan Square can be transformed into a regional shopping and dining destination.

Logan_2 There has to be other cities around the country and the world who have an old outdoor shopping center that has morphed into a collection of dollar stores and other businesses that attract minimal traffic.  There are thousands of cars that pass by everyday at the Martin Luther King Boulevard and Holmes Rd. intersection.

Consumers just need a reason to stop at Logan Square and they don't have one now.  The area seems to have been written off by local economic development officials who seem to place most of their emphasis on the downtown.

For economic development experts and shopping center consultants, around the world, what needs to be done?  How can local citizens get involved in encouraging officials? 

The potential is there for Logan Square to be an economic hub.

What's the next step to make this happen?  Comments are open.

Is Ingham County (MI) Fair and other county fairs things of the past?

My wife and I decided to go to the Ingham County (MI) Fair last night in Mason, the county seat, just a few miles south of the State Capital City.  It had been a really hot day and we were both ready for a change of pace and scenery.

150_3 After eating our Egg Beater veggie omelets at the Big Boy in Mason, we paid our five bucks each and saw the county fair, the 2007 version.  It actually wasn't much different than any other county fair I had been to.  It was fun to see the sheep, the cows, the bulls, the pigs and other critters.

We went through the commercial buildings where businesses, non-profit organizations and politicians set up shop trying to attract consumers, potential volunteers and voters.  Then we did a pass around the midway and did our obligatory look back at the times when our kids would go on the rides. 

I saw a lot of young people caring for their animals.  They looked very engaged in what they were doing.  Looking at young kids try to lead a bull around or take a group of goats for a walk was fun to watch.Bull_4   Had to be farm kids, right?

I just wonder if county fairs have passed their time when it was the event to go to.  I didn't get any sense of verve and excitement that I remember from my youth.  In the 21st century, have people found replacements for the fair?

I wonder how much public money we spend on fairs and I wonder if it's time to pull the plug on an event that may have lost its reason for being?