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21 posts from December 2011

God answered my prayer by introducing me to a group of Christian guys in prison

I prayed that God would give me a group of Christian guys to hang out with.  I was looking for friends who would share a common belief in God and in Jesus Christ and wanted to live a life that reflected those values.  For much of my life that prayer went unanswered.

Growing up I found that church was not the place to find friends.  Most of the guys who were active in attending seemed more interested in the busyness of the church.  They ushered, maybe attended an adult Sunday School class and sat with their families during the services.  Before and after church, conversations centered around politics, sports and cars.

There were the guys who ushered every Sunday and who lit the candles on the altar.  They were interested mainly in that narrow sliver of their spiritual life.

But they were not interested in talking about their faith and how it applied to their everyday life. There was no sense of mission or purpose.

I found it hard to work in very secular environments and to maintain my faith in a God who loved me and who wanted me to reflect that love in my everyday life.  The distance between my God and me grew wider and wider.

Then through some incredible circumstances I ran into a guy named Ken.  I was in my forties.  We were in a Bible study together when I heard his story.  As a young newspaper reporter, I covered a crime he had committed.  For him, it was the beginning of a period that saw him going to prison as a teenager and getting out as a full-fledged man.  Inside a prison cell, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior.

When I heard his story and remembered who he was I was truly amazed by the change in him.  I was also somewhat skeptical.  He and I spent the next couple of years having breakfast together once a week.  I spent a lot of time trying to determine if he was real.  And he was.

He was asked to share his story with guys in the prison where he did his time and he invited me to go with him.  

It was hard to say no to a friend and it was an attractive offer to do something that would provide fodder for coffeeshop conversation the next day.  

We went to a chapel service at one of the most challenged prisons in the state of Michigan.  I was expecting to find a bunch of knuckle-dragging guys who had a chromosome or two twisted the wrong way.  I found guys not unlike me, but who had sinned in a way that got them into prison.

It was the beginning of a life-changing journey that saw me going into prisons all over our state and making friends with guys who had numbers behind their names, rather than designations for college degrees earned or for professional certifications.

There were no pretenses in my prison experiences as we sang "Victory In Jesus."  We talked about everything involved in daily and eternal living.  And we looked to the Bible and to Jesus for the answers.

This was a key piece in my growing closer to God.

I wonder what God has to say to single-moms in heaven

Does God talk to people when they are in heaven?

If they do, I hope my mom gets an atta-girl from the Almighty who put everything together and who keeps it going and who will come back to earth at some point in history.

The toughest job in the world is not being president of the United States, it's being a single-mom.  I know that some will shake their heads and raise their eyebrows.  Moms are only human and make mistakes.  Mine did.  

But she devoted her life to sacrificing her own well-being for mine.  She taught me unconditional love. It was constant.  There were moments when the pressures of being a single-parent could get to her and she could get angry about her circumstances and about what my father did to us.

I remember my mom making heroic efforts to find my father.  She called our local police department which sent out a detective.  He agreed to help if my mom slept with him.  Her reaction was swift and volcanic.  It served to sour her on the process.

It seemed like she had to recalibrate to get back to the place where she got her strength.  That usually happened on Sunday in the solace of a worship service.  She took comfort from the liturgy that included hmyns, Bible readings and a sermon.  It connected her to God.

When the service was over, it was back to real life and all its demands.  But her batteries were filled with power that you get from no other source.

Think about all the single moms in the past and in the present.  It has to be one of the loneliest jobs in the world and one of the most important.  

I hope that the Heavenly Father is giving my mom some much deserved recognition.  And I hope that single-moms everywhere are lifted up and helped.

I owe my life to one very special single-mom. 



My favorite teachers: Brewster Peasley, Louie Doll, Gerry Faverman and Bud Meyer

I think some of the most powerful people in the world are teachers.  The good ones know where to find the switch in a student's head to turn on the desire to learn and they make learning exciting.

It was that way for me as I went through grade school and high school, then our community college and then the university.  My grades didn't always reflect the quanity and quality of what I learned and my desire to learn more.  I had four teachers throughout my academic career who really knew how to push my learning buttons.

They left an indelible mark on who I am today, what interests me and my curiosity about a wide-variety of things.

There's one I owe my career to and that is my high school journalism teacher Brewster Peasley.  I took his class in place of regular English where you learn literature and grammar.  It was a pure gamble.  I never liked reading fiction and I was never very good at trying to figure out symbols in a story and what they meant.  I still don't.

But my journalism class was different.  I could see that from the first class where Mr. Peasley talked about how he had been involved in some pretty important stuff during the Eisenhower years.  That got my attention.  My memory of his story that day is a little hazy, but he told about how he played a role in the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Ike.  At first blush, I was really impressed.  Then he shared how he had intentionally mislead us.  He didn't lie, but he didn't tell the whole story.

Journalism opened the world to me.  As a reporter, I could learn about anything about anybody on any given day and that turned me on.  I found a career.  Until then I said I wanted to be a lawyer.  I don't know if I had the intellectual firepower to be an attorney.  Without that class, I'd probably still be living in the small northern Michigan town where I was born and raised.

Dr. Louis Doll was a history professor at the community college that I attended.  He was tall, tolerably arrogant and had a passion for going back to original documents in history.  But, he also had an insatiable desire to debunk the Bible.  Students had to buy a paper he wrote showing that God's Word was nothing more than myth.  Some of my fellow students were really changed.  I just got more stubborn in my beliefs.  

Another professor at my community college was Dr. Gerry Faverman.  I took a Russian history class from him.  He was a huge man, had an imposing voice and seemed to have the ability to recall passages from any of thousands of his favorite books.

He had a booming voice that matched his provocative style.  I'd read through an extra armful of books just to prove him wrong.  And then I realized what he was doing.  He was helping me think and explore stuff that really interested me.  Back then that was politics, particularly as it related to the old Soviet Union.  Our paths crossed again in Lansing where I spent most of my working career.

I owe a lot to Dr. Bud Myer who taught at the journalism school at Michigan State.  I was part of a regular line-up of students outside his office door who waited a couple hours or more just to talk to him.  I took every class he taught.  He helped me take a person or an issue and lift it up and look at it from all sides.  I always wanted to learn more as a result of his class.

He the reason that I have the question "so what" burned in my mind.  After his class, I could never read or hear anything without asking, so what?  

A couple of years ago, we went to an Easter Service where the title of the sermon was "The Easter Story: So what?"  That made me listen and it made me think of Bud.

There were other teachers who impressed me, but it was these four who really left their stamp on me and who I am today.


I am counting on Jeff Manion being right

I listened in the auditorium as Jeff Manion talked about a passage from Ephesians 1 that says we have been adopted by God.  We have become part of his family.  We are his beloved sons and daughters.

He went through a whole litany of places and positions where people get their identity.  For many it is their jobs and their position in the community.  It can be athletic skill.  Musical skill.  For many it can come from being a parent.

And then he got to my part of the list where he said many get their identity from having been abandoned by someone.  He talked figuratively about being thrown off the train by a parent who just plain walks out and never comes back.  He had my attention.

As long as I can remember my identity had been calibrated from that point where my dad made a statement by just walking out on my mom and me.  I wasn't important enough for him to stick around, hence, I always felt I wasn't that important.  This is a feeling that would come and go.

It was like a monkey on my back that would ride there for weeks and then one day kick me in my side with big spurs on its feet and I would be reminded of who I really was.  I was the person that my dad wanted my mother to abort when she was pregnant.  

Then I found him in my late twenties and he totally disowned me.  I went to his door on the other end of the country expecting at the very least that he would at the very least acknowledge me as his son. He threatened me if I didn't leave.  Not knowing what he would do I left.  I was devastated.

His reaction to me was another big piece in the puzzle that went into the make-up of my identity.

I've gone through periods where I would mentally call myself a loser, shithead, stupid and all other kinds of stuff.  

This didn't stop me from living life, but it took some of the quality and the confidence that you need in daily living.  I did stuff.  I worked at some really neat jobs and knew a bunch of important people.

But there was always the dad piece in my identity.  And then last October, Jeff Manion, the pastor where we attend church started talking about how we got our primary identity.  This is the one that really counts.  

It came from being adopted into God's family and this happened through what Jesus did on the cross to pay for all the crap of mankind.  

Jeff kept saying, "Remember who you are.  Remember who you are.  Remember who you are."  He said that I was adopted. paid a price for and firmly sealed into God's family.

I really need to hear that everyday and today is no exception.  So do my kids and my grandson and grandchildren to come.

I had heard pastors say this kind of thing before, but it always came across as a bunch of spiritual blah, blah, blah.  I could never wrap my hands or my heart around it.  This spiritual truth seemed unreachable and unreal.

Maybe I need to have it tatooed on my arm or on my hand so I can constantly see it.

I'm counting on this being the truth.




I don't know why this stuff still bothers me

Do you remember the poem from the Antionne Fisher movie where he talks about the little boy still inside of him?  He had been abandoned by his mom, never knew his dad and grew up in some pretty bad foster homes.

Sometimes, I can really relate to that poem and I remember showing that movie to guys inside of the prison where I volunteered and watching their reaction.  Many had tears in their eyes.

I still feel that way when I see movies or stories about fathers and sons.  There are tears just beneath the surface waiting to come out.  

I felt that way when I saw a picture of my son-in-law and my toddler grandson walking hand-in-hand around a track carrying a basketball.  You could see it in their eyes.  They enjoyed being with each other.  I want that picture hanging in my family picture shrine in my study.  

It's the same with two pictures of my son and me taken on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.  The first was taken fifteen years ago at Stand In The Gap where  a million guys got together for a Promise Keepers event.  A few weeks ago, we took another picture in the same spot.  In the first, he was a newly-minted teenager and in this one he's a married man.  And I'm really proud of him.

I can't change what happened to me.

But I can encourage my son, my son-in-law, my grandson, grandchildren to come and other guys with kids.  

The real payback in life will come from those moments together where you are talking and caring for each other.  It doesn't take a lot, but the effort can change somebody's world.

I wonder if my dad got much attention from his father

I often wonder how well my dad knew his father.  Did they spend time together?  Did my dad understand what made his father tick?  Did my dad ever get an atta-boy from his father?  Did they talk about life?  Politics?  God?  Girls?

My dad grew up somewhere in New York.  I've heard Millerton mentioned.  I think he came from a small town environment and somehwere along the line moved to New York City.

I think my biological grandmother on my dad's side died when he was a child and that my dad had a step mother.  

But, the big question is who did he have as male role models.  Was it his dad?  What was my grandfather like?  My mom met some of these people and shared some of this with me when I was very young.  But, I was too young to be really interested.  Because of the intense emotion involved in talking about my father, I remember more of the strong feelings and less of what she learned.

Did I ever have a male role model who took an interest in what I did and what I was thinking?  In a way, in a kind of, sort of way I did.  I had some uncles who took some time with me occasionally.  And I'm thankful for that.  

I will wonder about my Grandpa Thorp.  Did he spend much time with his kids?  Did he take an interest? My guess is that he didn't.  Did my dad show more interest in his other kids than he did with me?  I got none.

What's the cost of this lack of "daddy-interest" through the generations?  It has to be huge.  I still look for that older guy to say atta-boy.  That's becoming less of a desire as I get older and as my perspective changes.

That started to happen last October.  I was told to "remember who you are."  My real identity doesn't come from being my father's son.  What do I mean?  Do I really buy that?  Do I understand what that means?  

There's more to worshipping God than page five and fifteen

I grew up believing that real worship of God meant going to church on Sunday and using an order of service from the hymn book that started on either page five or 15.  It was always the same.  The hymns were always in the same place.  The readings were done in the same order and there was always just one place for the sermon.

There was the Lord's Prayer, the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed and they always had a reserved spot in the service.  

When I got to a certain age I could recite all these without thinking and I could run through most of the liturgy in a way where my mouth would say the right thing, but my head would be someplace else.  I'd leave church thinking that was worship.

It was something that you never questioned while going to a parochial school and my aunts and uncles would rarely talk about it.  My uncles would shrug their shoulders and then change the subject and a few of my aunts would move into a mini-sermon about the holiness of what was done during the sermon.

In my teen years, I started to raise questions revolving around the service, particularly sermons.  I had to be among the first in my denomination to take notes to try and understand.  I tried to outline what pastors said.  I would ask.  I grew up feeling that my faith hadn't evolved enough to truly understand how it applied to my life or that I was just slow in the head to understand.


My mom always had a Portals of Prayer under her pillow

After my dad left, I know that there were days when my mom was not sure about where the next meal would come from.  She always had a small notebook on the kitchen table with literally every penny she spent carefully listed.

Next to her notebook, she always had her church envelopes which she was very diligent about using every week.  I remember lots of weeks where she had nothing more than a coin or two to put in the offering for the week.  She never looked to get anything in return, but wanted to give back a share of what she had been given.

Another constant in her life was a copy of the Portals of Prayer was always under her pillow.  It was a devotional book published by her church denomination.  I know that she would use it and I know that she would say the prayers in the back.  There was a prayer for each day of the week and ones for special occasions.

I know she prayed.  But in the denomination I grew up in prayer was something that lay people didn't talk about a whole lot.  Prayers were either written in a book or booklet and others were usually said by a pastor.

Just sitting down and praying together was unheard of at least in my experience.  

My mom would listen to me say a "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer every night."  It was the same prayer every night for years.  I'd always tack on the phrase at the end where I'd ask God to "bring a message from my daddy."  It never happened.  But, I did find him when I was in my late twenties.

He did give me a message when I knocked on his door.

He wasn't happy to see me.


I often think about the humanity of my father

It's always been too easy for me to look at what my father did and not who he was as a person.

I saw how he cheated on my mother with other women during the short time they were together and I saw how that hurt her deeply.  Then I saw his complete abandonment of me and my mom.  It was like we were tossed off a train in the middle of the desert left to die.

Now let me emphasize that I know how much I've been blessed.  I will talk about that, but not now.

But, I never spent a whole lot of time looking at who my dad was as a human being.  There had to be more to who he was as a person.  My mom married him.  She must have seen something in him.

How much did she know him before they were married?  

He had to have some goodness in him.  What about his childhood?  His teen years?  Young adult?  His siblings?  His dad?  His mom?  What were the tipping points that changed him?

I grew up with the fear that I'd be like him and run away from problems.  When life pinched me, I would wonder if I had it in me to run away like my dad.

I'm still here.

Christmas celebrations are made for real families

Our world is made for two parent families, a dad, a mom and kids along with aunts and uncles who have kids and grandparents who are surrounded by their kids and their grandkids.  It's not tooled up to handle single-parent families where there's a mom with kids and no husband or dad.

That was my experience growing up in the near-northern reach of Michigan where the memory of past Christmases is still very clear.  It was a time to be happy, at least for a few minutes.  But, I found that it never lasted.  There was a whole lot of sadness and emptiness.

It might not be too strong to say I hated it when radio stations, the music played over loudspeakers downtown and other places would be Christmas Carols.  It wasn't real.  It wasn't my reality.

My mom felt the full sting of being left alone to raise a sickly kid during the late forties and she had the entire responsibility to make sure that we had something to eat and a roof over our heads.  What part did my aunts and uncles play in helping her?  The church?  Other people?  There are lots of stories that I remember.

What stands out are church and family functions during Christmas.  I may not have had this formed thought in my mind as a kid, but I grew to feel that the Savior came first for real families where both parents were present and then if He had time for the rest of us.  

Aunts and uncles would quite often invite us over for dinner on Christmas Eve and Day.  There were great dinners and lots of laughing and talking.  But I never felt connected to the family chain.  It could have been the times, but my uncles never seemed to want to connect with me.

As I grew I found a doorway to a connection and this was politics.  I became interested in how we as a people governed ourselves through the political process.  They were interested in that too.  So, at age nine and ten, I could raise questions about President Eisenhower and the U.S. Congress and Republicans and Democrats and unions.  There was a connection there for a while and then it would go away for a bit and then come back later.

I was part of one children's Christmas program that I never forgot.  I was in first or second grade at Mount Olive in Bay City and I had a piece or a verse to memorize and recite.  It was John 3:16.  It stuck with me throughout my life and never left.  There was one verse that was seared into my memory and that was it.

My views about Christmas have transitioned quite a bit.  But now I'm part of a real family.  I'm now a grandpa and I'm married.  But I see more clearly the hope that the birth of Jesus ignites.

Growing up in the Banks neighborhood of Bay City

I grew up in a neighborhood called Banks because it's situated right on the Saginaw River which runs out into a bay.  I grew up with boats big and small going right by my house.  There were gravel boats and big foreign ships.  There was a shipbuilder about a half-mile down the river where guided missle destroyers were built.

I can't wait for my grandson Xavier to ask about where I grew up.

It was a world onto itself that had an old rickety bridge as its main doorway.  When bigger boats wanted to pass through,it had to swing its center span open where there was a bridge tender in a neat little house. As a kid, I'd stay on to get a free ride that would disconnect me from both sides.  As I got older, I'd go down there on Sundays during the spring and summer when the bridge would open and close constantly.

Riding the center span provided an escape from the rigors of growing up in a single-parent home in the fifties and sixties.  It also fed my imagination as big freighters and tug boats passed through.

Next to the bridge on the shore were big gravel piles that were replenished on a frequent basis by boats that would come in right in front of our house.  They had big conveyor belts that took the gravel from the boat to the shore.  As a kid, those gravel piles were my imaginary mountains that could be climbed with some risk that the rocks would move and cover you.

On our street, there were two separated little business districts with bars anchoring each end, the Town Tavern and the Last Chance Bar.  They were patronized by neighborhood people and by a regular group of bar flies.

Our neighborhood had a couple of convenience stores, a little restaurant, a city dairy, a fire station, a barber shop and when I was four or five years old,there was a milling company kitty corner from our house that made wooden pallets.  I remember the day that it burned down.

This is the neighborhood where my mom and dad bought a big old house that had to be way over a hundred years old.  My mom talked plenty and with some detail about the circumstances of moving there when I was a baby.

But most of the details went in one ear and out the other.  She talked about such things often.  I'd listen and nod my head and acknowedge what she was saying.  Now I wish I had taken notes.

I feel some pride in being able to say I grew up in Banks.  I'm not sure why.  It was a place where there were no pretensions.  There were no country clubbers where I grew-up and a minimal amount of fanciness.

This is the house where we were living when my dad walked out one day in 1948 and never came back.  He left for a carpentry job and just vanished into thin air.  

It's where I grew up.  I did a whole lot of learning here.  It's where I became a man.  A lot of my personal history took place right there.

What would I say if my grandson asked me about where I got my identity?

What if my eighteen-month-old grandson Xavier called me up on the phone and asked me where I got my identity?  Now he's smart, but he's not quite at the point of asking those deep questions.

But he may very well ask that at some point.  Just who was or is his Grandpa Thorp.  What defined one of the patriarchs of his clan?  What made him tick?  What gave his life purpose?  Where did he find true meaning?  What did he accomplish in his life?  What was he most proud of?  What would he do differently if he had the chance?

I could go the job route.  I got a good chunk of my identity from the various jobs I've held.  I worked as a reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper covering a big neighborhood in a large city.  It was there that I talked to a really big-time mayor, a mob boss and a local minister who became a national political figure.

I spent a chunk of time at a series of smaller newspapers where I covered city council's and township boards right next to another major metropolitan area.  My by-line was in the paper multiple times a week.  I knew lots of people and they knew me.

At our State Capitol, I reported for a chain of small newspapers through a column that was in 40 plus papers every week.  Then I was the pressroom manager for lots of years at the Capitol Building where I served as a conduit between reporters and the legislature.

I could go the family route.  I have really enjoyed being married.  I love having the title husband on my resume.  Doing stuff together, facing life challenges as a couple has been super beyond description. There's a buzz that comes from being part of the synergy of being a couple who love each other.

Then I could tell Xavier about the dad role that I've played for almost 30 years.  I love everything about being a dad.  What tops it?  Nothing, in my opinion?  I can remember every moment when his mom was born and I can remember just about every event of her childhood that I was involved with.  Same for his uncle.  

What about sports and my performance in that arena?  I didn't really play any.  I tried out for Little League once to get a baseball cap, but I didn't make the cut.

For several years, I played a lot of golf with his uncle.  That was fun, pure fun.  We had fun trying to get the ball to go where it didn't want to go.  I wasn't very good at it.  But my grandson's uncle, my son and I, had a grand time.  

I'd put being a father in all caps in resume.  I have a life's worth of fathering memories.  These are pure gold to me.

Next I could point to my various involvements in politics.  I got a big chunk of my identity there.  My political interests gave me at a young age an entry into the world of my uncles.  They would listen to me and I would listen to them.  My involvements in this arena grew.  

I became a page in the state Senate during my high school years and got to know a lot of legislators.

After college, I returned to the legislature and never left.  I retired from there.

There was another title that was part of who I am and that's being a son.

I was a son to my mother and that was important.  She was a vital person in my life.

But the other half of that was always a dark hole.  It was filled a whole lot of nothingness with the exception of bits and pieces of information about the person who contributed to the other half of me.

I always wanted to be the son of a father.  I wanted a dad who could say he loved me and who was proud of me.  That meant more to me than anything at certain times of my life.

It never happened.

That hole was not filled in until I was firmly in my sixties.



Here's a status report on the book I'm writing about being a baby-boomer turned senior citizen


Justin and i pose in front of the U.S. Capitol
This is almost the exact same spot that my son and I posed for a picture more than a decade ago.

 Becoming a senior citizen

I'm writing this for my grandkids and for anybody else who's interested in a story about how a member of the first class of baby-boomers is doing with life as a senior citizen.  

I've been looking over my shoulder at my past and have tried to share what I've learned.  I'm a firm believer that we can learn from each other.

I've written approximately 20,000 words of notes and now is the time for me to start stringing them together in one place and leave them for my grandchildren.  

I have only one, but I assume I'll have more. And I hope to validate others who have had experiences similar to mine.  I hope that I can shed some light and hope.

"So what," you ask?

Why should you be interested in my story and what I've learned and which I'll start sharing in this blog soon?

Some questions

  • Are you the child of a parent who has been derelict in his or her duties?  
  • Are you a single-mom left with kids who are suffering because of an errant father?
  • Are you a retired baby-boomer looking at all the time that has passed and how litte is left?  
  • Are you the sibling of somebody who is suffering horribly from a broken relationship?

My biological father

During the past sixty-years I've let my primary identity be determined by my father who abandoned me and my mom in 1948.  He simply vanished.  

There was no word from him period.  Then I found him when I was in my twenties.  He completely disowned me.  I was left with a ton of anger and no place to put it.

Continue reading "Here's a status report on the book I'm writing about being a baby-boomer turned senior citizen" »

This song will help daily life in Michigan suck less--Little Drummer Boy by Sean Quigley

Many people in Michigan are waking up this morning and feeling various levels of despair.  Read this Michigan State University poll as described in this mLive story and you'll see results that show people are not liking what's going on in our state right now.  They are not seeing hope for the future.

How do you relieve that?  How does one recalibrate and reset the compass in a direction where true hope is more evident?

Check out this rendition of Little Drummer Boy by Sean Quigley of Winnipeg, a high school student who produced this music video.  The Little Drummer Boy he sings about has nothing to give to the baby Jesus other than his drumming.  He gives everything he has.

As we approach Christmas in Michigan, it seems like local churches are hiding Jesus behind closed doors. They are hiding the only true hope.  Living in the heart of our state, I'm seeing the church from a broader perspective.  It's more than a building.  It's all believers.

Today as I go to physical therapy for a hurting shoulder and then have lunch with a good friend, I'll be thinking about what I can give to Jesus whose birthday we will be celebrating.  Check out this video from Sean Quigley.  What do you think?


Why does "super-wife" have a pit bull sitting in her lap?

When we visited our son Justin and his wife Lauren for Thanksgiving we met our new "grand dog" Latte.  She's a pit bull-beagle mix.  Now for us over sixty type that was kind of a surprise.  Here in the midwest we see pit bulls through a different filter.

Latte was charming, laid back, liked to cuddle on the couch and had painted toe nails.  She had big eyes and big teeth and looked like she had the strength to pull a Honda Civic out of a ditch.  

She was a delight much like her owners and how they live life.  Very comfortable with others, like to get out see things and meet people and have a little snap, crackle and pop in their smiles.


Politicians should be required to wear patches like race car drivers showing their sponsors

What if members of the Michigan Legislature and other politicians were required dress like race car drivers with big patches sewed on their jackets showing where they get their financial support?

What companies and organizations in our state would be the most visible?  Michigan Chamber of Commerce?  United Auto Workers?  Michigan Education Association?  I draw a blank?  Who are the big political givers?

It would certainly make disclosure of political contributions more visible.  I first heard of this from a friend on Facebook.  Have you seen this before:


How would this Newt Gingrich television commercial play in Michigan?

Newt Gingrich apparently is really amping up his campaign in Iowa to win the Republican presidential caucuses there on Jan. 3.  Check out this new tv commercial released just this morning.  

He's reassuring about the future and about bringing people together.  Does it work?  Would it work in Michigan?  How would our state respond?

Michigan should have presidential selection caucuses like Iowa

I just read the story linked on the Drudge Report about how Newt Gingrich is ahead in the Iowa polls leading up to that state's partisan caucuses where delegates to the Republican National Convention are ultimately picked.

How many of you are familiar with how that process works?

It sounds like fun and much more participatory to meet with other Republicans from my precinct, listen to each candidate's pitch and then put my selection of a blank piece of paper.  It would feel more engaging to get together with neighbors to hear their thoughts and to ask questions.

How does it work in Iowa?  I found this piece from Wikipedia which provides a lot of details about the process and how successful caucus-goers have been in picking ultmate winners at the national convention

Why hasn't Michigan tried this?  Would this be a state party decision?