Previous month:
September 2011
Next month:
November 2011

42 posts from October 2011

Are Michigan Republicans really trying to turn the state's schools from public to private?

Is this just more rhetorical flatulence from the school lobby in Michigan or are state Republicans trying to turn our public schools into private schools?

This is what State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, charged at a public forum in Kalamazoo.  He says that Republicans want to privatize every public service and turn them over to a system driven by profits.

For schools, he points to a Republican bill to dramatically increase the number of charter schools in the state.  Many are run by private management companies that function in a profit-making environment.

What's bad about this?  Are students worse off in charter schools?  Is there any evidence of that?

What's the worry?

Michigan Legislature needs to ask why welfare recipients carry huge balances on their Bridge Cards

Bridge card How can a welfare recipient in Michigan collect benefits in our state and let them acculumulate month to month with the balance reaching more than $5,000?  Read this column by Lansing State Journalist John Schneider who writes how one recipient uses the state's Bridge Card, an electronic system where a card is used to make purchases, to accumulates a balance of $5,176.34.  

The Meijers cashier who mailed Schnieder a copy of the receipt with the Bridge Card balance says such accumulations are common.  

This comes during a time when the state of Michigan is starting to limit the number of years state residents can receive welfare payments.  

The Michigan Legislature needs to use its committee oversight to answer questions about how these programs are being used and whether the truly needy are getting the help.

Looking at my Tuesday in mid-michigan before the sun comes out

In fact, living to know Jesus is the key to understanding and making peace with ourselves.


I want to start my Tuesday with the right focus for the day here in the heart of Michigan where the weather may be nice for one more day before we enter long periods of gray and cold.

For the past few years, I've been clicking on the Radio Bible Class website which includes links to websites for devotions from various sources.

This morning my attention goes to Pastor Joe Stowell, the president of Cornerstone University and past president of the Moody Bible Institute. He able to grasp the issues of life and look at them through a Biblical lens that you can wrap your hands around.

This morning, he points to Philippians 3:10-11 and living where you're focused not on yourself, but on Jesus Christ.

Look at the practical life questions he asks and then look at his answers from God's Word.

What do September's auto sales mean for Michigan's economy?

General Motors Co. surged 20 percent in September over the same time last year. Chrysler Group LLC, the Fiat SpA-controlled automaker reputed to have a bare product cupboard, delivered a 27 percent gain. Ford Motor Co. improved 9 percent for the month, with F-Series pickups notching their best month of the year.


Auto sales continued to shoot up last month with GM leading the pack with a 20 percent sales increase over the same time last year.

What does this mean for Michigan? Unemployment in our state continues to be high and good luck in finding a job, any job. At least, that's the perception.

Read the column this morning by Daniel Howes of the Detroit News and you see a pretty rosy picture of the auto industry. All the pieces seem to be working well. The companies are well managed for once, he says. Union contracts have been trimmed back to a realistic size. And the car companies are building cars that people want to buy.

Things are good or at least getting better with the auto industry. Right?

MY BOOK: Lesson learned is that my identity centers around "Remember Who I Am" and not my father

3236762636_40e39d1227 I've struggled with the question of my personal identity all my life.  It's something I've kept to myself for the most part until now.  

My identity as an individual, as a boy, as a man, as a husband and as a dad was shaped by my own father who abandoned my mom and me when I was 18 months old.  I'm not looking for sympathy.  And I certainly don't have the toughest dad story out there.  Many have experienced extreme trauma at the hands of or because of their father.

My experience with my missing father who walked out and never came back, never called, never wrote and just dropped off the radar was extreme, but its effect were more subtle.  The scars are very real and they show themselves from time to time and have effected the way I view myself.

This has touched the way I relate to other people, the insecurities I have felt and the way I saw the future. I admit it.

That started to change last year when I heard a sermon from our pastor where he kept repeating, "Remember Who You Are.  Remember Who You Are.  Remember Who You Are."

I did find my father when I was in my late twenties.  He was wealthy and had another family and was living in a posh house in southern Florida.  He disowned me during our thirty-second conversation.  I felt a combination of anger and sadness and felt a deeper wound to my personal identity.

It was a feeling that stuck to me like a brand burned into my back that said I was worth less than others.  That feeling was like a big monkey on my back that would kick its legs into my side anytime it wanted.

It's a feeling that I never volunteered for and never wanted.  I wanted to feel normal like other people.  I would for a while and then the monkey would kick me in the sides.

I think I found the answer.  It's not who abandoned me and threw me on the trash heap that matters. It's the one who picked me up and who adopted me into his family.

Has the cycle of bad fathering been broken?  I think so.  I pray that I've learned from my father experience.

I'm thinking of all the kids from single-parent families who are struggling with the identity issue. What can I share that might be helpful to them?

That's why I'm trying to write and share this.  We can learn from each other's experience.



I'm still processing yesterday's sermon about the church at Smyrna-- #7churches

Yesterday at Ada Bible Church, super-wife and I heard a great sermon from Rev. 2:8-11 about the ancient church at Smyrna located in what is modern-day Turkey.  It was one of the seven churches in that part of the world to receive a letter evaluating their ministry and their fealty to Jesus Christ.

What we heard was a down-to-earth, very relevant to contemporary life sermon that contains ammunition for dealing with the sometimes crushing circumstances of everyday life.  

Pastor Jeff Manion carefully explained the historical background of that particular church and how its members faced crushing persecution that made their life seem impossible.

Two points from the sermon:  1)  Don't be afraid and 2) Be faithful.  That was the encouragement that Jesus gave to church member at Smyrna.  And as Manion pointed out the power to do this comes from good news of the Gospel.  

I'm processing all this and trying to make it part of my life.

I invite you to view this.  Listen to what he has to say from the Bible.  Does it resonate with you?  Is there an answer here that makes sense?  


Question: Is Chris Christie too liberal for the average conservative Republican?

Christie has broken with traditional conservative views on some issues. He has voiced support for some gun control, has said being in the country without proper documentation is not a crime, and has called climate change real and partially manmade.


How well do we know New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who's being pushed to run for the Republican nomination for president?

Herman Cain, a second-tier candidate for the nomination, says Christie is too liberal for many conservatives.

The issues: gun control and global warming. What about abortion?

If Christie decides this week to run, will he be flash in the pan? Will he be hot this week and then flame out?

You've got to check out my daughter-in-law's new business to offer top handcrafted items through Umba Box

Do you or a significant other like the really nice handcrafted stuff that makes life a little brighter, that produces smiles of appreciation to everybody who sees it?  Take a look at my daughter-in-law's new business Umba Box where she offers specially handpicked handcrafted items through a monthly subscription service.

Her name is Lauren Thorp and she's married to our son Justin and they live in Washington, D.C.  I knew she was special when our son first introduced us to her and her layers of specialness kept getting unwrapped as we got to know her.

You've got to love a girl who can take an ordinary c-clamp or a hanger and make it into a useful, but stylish part of a living room.  Their wedding was a feast of specially crafted items by her that added to the celebration in a major and unique way.

Enrollment opens today as she travels to New York City for the Martha Stewart Show where she will be part of some live-tweeting action.  Click her for more details to be part of the first hundred subscribers.  She also has a Facebook page for Umba Box.

Umba box

POLICY ISSUE: Should public sex offender registry laws be changed to reflect new evidence?

Our state--Michigan--has a public sex offender registry where it lists on the web where it lists everybody who commits a sex offense.  It gives their name, where they live and the law they violated to get them on the list.

The idea is to make neighborhoods safer by making people more aware of who lives around them.  Is it working?

Check this column by Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press who reports on a study which shows that instead of reducing them, it has actually resulted in sex offenders committing additional crimes.  When publicly-outed, these offenders take the attitude, the study reports, that they have nothing to lose by re-offending.  

Should Michigan's legislators re-examine the public registry and how it's used?  Is this study sufficient evidence that it's making the problem worse and not better?

Would Michigan vote for a fat president in 2012 like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey?

My interest in any of the Republican candidates for president this time around is very flaccid.  I can't get excited about any of them.  But what about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie?

Would my state go for him?  He's a real blunt-talking East Coast type and appears willing to get in somebody's face if they cross him.  Christie appears to have taken a rough and tumble political state like his and turned it back to fiscal solvency.  In the process, he seem to have gained the respect of his opponents.

It's time that I educate myself about him.  But what about his size?  This dude's big.  He looks like he made one too many return trips to the food line at Old Country Buffet.  Would that be an obstacle?

Check out this column by Frank Bruni of the New York Times who addresses this question.  He faces that question head-on in a thoughtful way.  He describes Christie as being truculent.

But some trucluence might be what this country needs if it brings people together.

What will keep the city of Lansing, Michigan's Capital city from unravelling?

Check this story from the Lansing State Journal about the financial morass that the city of Lansing finds itself in and the decision voters face next month to raise the millage on property taxes to pay for police and fire protection.

The city's struggling as more and more people leave Lansing either through foreclosures or for a variety of other reasons including the perception that its schools are at best mediocre and, at worst, sub par.  

Now Mayor Virg Bernero is telling residents to either pass the millage or face further cuts in the police department.  That's as the city faces more and more perceived crime involving violence

There seems to be a huge disconnect between residents and city hall, the mayor and city council.  

What's the answer?  I wish I knew.  Maybe a crisis of some sort.  

Two words if you are thinking about letting your home go to foreclosure: deficiency judgement

Our city here in mid-Michigan--Lansing--has been hit hard by home foreclosures.  Lots of people have given up on paying their mortgage, either because they didn't have the money or because they owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth.

They give their home back to their lender or they have it taken from them.  They think that's it and they can start over.  Not so says this Wall Street Journal article.

In a growing number of states including Michigan, lenders are going after homeowners who are foreclosed on for the difference between what the house sold for to a new owner and what was owed. This debt is being sold to investors for pennies on the dollar and they go to court to collect the difference.

It's legal in Michigan and a small group of other states, according to the article.

Here's a good link to info about the ancient city of Smyrna from Biblical times

I did a Google search for Smyrna, the ancient Biblical city, from the Bible's book of Revelation and found this site giving information with pictures about the ruins left there today.  This is part of my effort to prepare for church today where we are learning about the Seven Churches from the last book in the Bible.  This site is helpful.

Trying to read ahead about the church at Smyrna and how it relates to me in mid-Michigan

Do you understand what John says in Revelation 2 about the Seven Churches?  That's what we are learning about in church.  Today we are on the second church, the one at Smyrna in what is now modern-day Turkey.  Here's the portion that we will be learning about today:

To the Church in Smyrna

    8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

   These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

We are a lot of years away from when that was written and we are a long way from Turkey.  What is God saying here?

Is his church going to face persecution?  It does in some parts of the world.  How about here?  Is that to come?  Have the candlesticks been removed from our local churches?  What does this say to me as an individual?

Getting ready for church: What can I learn from the Seven Churches of Revelation?

Have you ever read about, meditated on or understood the relevance of the Seven Churches of Revelation?  Today at Ada Bible Church, Pastor Jeff Manion will talk about the church at Symrna, an ancient city in present-day Turkey.  What does that mean to me living in Michigan almost two thousand years later?  I'll be listening carefully and taking notes.  We will be talking about it on the way home.

Click here to watch the first two sermons and click here on Monday for today's.


Columnist Thomas Sowell makes important point about Rick Perry and political communication

Where these three issues have been discussed at length, whether in a few media accounts or in Perry's own more extended discussions in an interview on Sean Hannity's program, his position was far more reasonable than it appeared to be in either his opponents' sound bites or even in his own abbreviated accounts during the limited time available in the TV "debate" format.


It seems like political debate these days has all the qualities of a verbal bar fight. Lots of people hollering at each other in loud voices and little effort to understand what each other is saying.

Columnist Thomas Sowell in the Detroit News makes that point about Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry and allegations about his stands on Social Security, immigration and his position on vaccinating young women for cervical cancer.

His political opponents jumped on Perry without trying to understand and they engaged in a gotcha moment. Political debate today isn't really debate anymore.

Are we paying a price for that?

Getting ready for church: How am I using the quiet this morning?

Some of us use noise as a way of shutting out the voice of God: constant chatter, even when we’re talking about God, keeps us from hearing what God has to say.


It's early in the morning and all I hear is the furnace trying to warm the house a little from the cold outside.

Our church service is in a few hours and I feel a need to position my heart to hear what God will say to me. It's easy to be distracted by the noise of the day, television, the web and cars going by.

This devotion from Our Daily Bread for today speaks to that point.

It quotes Psalm 131:2, "I have calmed and quieted my soul."

Can any lessons be learned from Jackson-area pastor's $92,000 in credit card debt?

From 1992 to 2005, the Baileys ran up bills on 17 credit cards. They paid for two weddings for their daughters, replaced the transmission in their car and made many repairs around their house.


Would you pay for your two daughters' weddings with one of your 17 credit cards? This Jackson-area pastor did and found himself in more than $90,000 in debt.

This story from the Jackson Citizen Patriot leaves a lot of questions unanswered about this couple's decision-making when it came to spending. It seems to be more of a promo for a government agency that helped them consolidate and pay off the debt.

But the important thing is that they took responsibility and met their financial obligations without going bankrupt.

But the question still remain about how they lulled themselves into believing that using expensive credit for everyday living would work.

As an economic development tool, is it time for the city of Lansing to legalize prostitution?

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said his administration strongly supports the idea of a casino in Lansing.

"A casino would create thousands of new jobs and spark even more new investment, adding to the significant momentum we have already created in these challenging economic times," he said in a statement.


Lansing's Mayor Virg Bernero says he's for bringing a casino to the State Capital city as a way to expand the local economy with "thousands of new jobs."

Lots of questions need to be asked and answered before this is allowed to happen.

Is there any evidence that casinos work to effectively expand economic development. What are the negatives?

Bernero made the same argument to giving almost free rein to medical marijuana businesses in the city. He described it as just another business that creates jobs.

What are the limits to the type of jobs created? What about prostitution? Some would point to it as being a victimless crime and would create jobs. But, at what price?