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15 posts from June 2016

Is the division in this country leading us towards a political civil war?

This column written  by Nolan Finley of the Detroit News deserves to be taken to the coffee shops and dinner tables around the country this week.  He writes that the political division is moving us closer to a political civil war with anarchy just over the horizon.

Wherever you live, it's hard to give your political opinions about anything without somebody calling you a name and carpet-bombing your path with a whole lot os fighting words.  Go ahead.  Test it out.  Tell your liberal friends that you're looking closely at Trump and good chances are you won't leave the conversation without some scars.

Conversely, tell your Republican friends that you are leaning towards Hillary Clinton and good chances are you'll get the same name-calling response along with a lot of angry bombast.

What are the consequences of this attitude and division?  Are we going to reach a point where we just can govern ourselves?  Is anarchy on the horizon?

Important point here: Are you more empathetic than sympathetic?

A friend of mine who is a hospice chaplain posted the above video on Facebook.  In a very concise way, it points to the difference between empathy and sympathy.  When you're feeling tough or down, would you rather have one than another?  Which one connects people rather than disconnects them?

This is good.  I'm putting it on my blog, so I can easily watch it again.  It's by Dr. Brene Brown.

Don Stypula of Grand Rapids writes about the difference that an involved dad made in his life


Don Stypula
Don Stypula

 I enjoy hearing stories about people when they pull back the layers of their lives.  I learn from other people, especially hearing them talk about the pivotal people in their lives, circumstances that shaped them and the happenings that shaped them as the person who they are today.

Most recent person to share about their life is an old friend of more than forty years, Don Stypula of Grand Rapids.  I first met him when he was a reporter for Lansing radio station WITL.  I was the pressroom manager at the State Capitol.  Our friendship grew over the years as we worked and socialized together.  I was at his wedding.  Our wives had kids around the same time.  We maintained the relationship during several job changes for each of us.

But somehow I missed his telling about the role that his dad played in his life.  He changed that this morning by publishing a blogpost about his late dad and the key role that he played in the formation of who he is today.

It's a strong testimony to the role that fathers play in the lives of their kids.  In Don's case, his dad provided the cookie cutter for the man he is today.

During a time when fathers are not regarded as having much value beyond the biological contributions they made and when Dr. Phil concentrates on the role of moms and ignores dads, Don clearly shows how dads can be a world-changer for their kids.  This is worth a read.

Los Angeles television crew captures amazing iPhone video yesterday from nearby wildfire

When I had a day job I worked around a lot of still and video photographers at all kinds of news happenings.  They brought the world to the viewers.  There were some who would hang in there shooting an event even when they were in dangers.

I stumbled into this link from a wildfire in the Los Angeles area.  The reporter and photographer were doing a story when the fire moved within 30 yards of them.  The shooter kept his iPhone shooting video while they were hurriedly collecting their equipment.  You can almost feel the searing heat from the fire, as well as the immediate threat they were facing as they drove out of danger.

Most news video these days is predictable and, quite frankly, boring.  This video is not and it's worth watching. 

Are these old Gillette Razor Blades found in my garage a treasure?

Gillette Razor Blades
I found these at the bottom of an old pickle jar filled with old screws and nails.


Our plan is to downsize which means cleaning out rooms and our garage which has been a catch all for all kinds of stuff, including items I inherited when my mother died.  My mom was a saver.  One of the items was a big pickle jar filled with old screws and nails and in the bottom was a pack of old Gillette Razor Blades.  

It has been decades since I've shaved.  And when I did I usually used an electric razor.  Check these pictures.  Are these old?  Worth saving?  They look almost antique, a little piece of Americana.

Franklin Graham comes short of filling his dad's--Billy Graham--very big shoes

I grew up watching Billy Graham.  When I was a kid and one of his Crusades came on in the evening everything would stop.  My mom and I would both watch it.

He had her respect and he had mine along with most of the world and its leaders.

What about his son Franklin Graham who has apparently said that Donald Trump is a better choice than Mrs. Clinton?  Hmm . . .

He needs to get away and take sometime alone with God and reexamine his think.

Any reaction?


A report to my mother--Frieda Thorp--in heaven about her great grandkids






I'm not sure what my mother-Frieda Thorp-would be doing in heaven on a Wednesday afternoon.  She would probably miss this blog post showing three of her five great grandkids visiting my mom's sister Aileen Anderson in West Virginia.  I would ask my mom's cronies in heaven to point these pictures out to her to show that she has left legacy that has left a trail of love in its wake since she died in 1996.

My daughter and her husband along with their three kids were traveling through Aunt Aileen's area and popped in.  You can see that their visit to my 91-year-old aunt would rival most medicines you could obtain in a pharmacy.  The smiles show it.  I hope that my grandkids will pack away a memory of that visit.

She's a special lady.  She had five sisters and six brothers.  They lost both their parents at a very young age.  It happened during a time when there was no foster care or social services.  The older siblings took the younger ones as their responsibility.  This was during the 1930s when life in this country was uniquely hard.  They stuck together.  

Aileen married when she was a teenager.  Her husband-Ron Anderson-served in the South Pacific during World War II.  When he came back he took his radio skills and used them to become a pioneer in two-way radio communication for governmental units.  He did this with Motorola.  He and Aileen were role models for me and my cousins.  

Last year, Ron became real sick and didn't recover.  He died one week and Aileen had a leg amputated a short time later.  During that time she kept looking forward.  She didn't dwell on her loss, but on what she still had and what she was looking forward to.  I've watched her hit lots of high walls in her life and you could almost see God right next to her boosting her over.

My mom needs to know that Aileen was there today representing the family.  Three of my grandkids got to meet her.  I hope they remember.  If not I hope this blog post will help.

Mom, you should be proud.  

I have reason to be dancing down the middle of our street today

Our wedding picture.
Today's our 35th wedding anniversary. We start the day at the ophthalmologist.

Yes, we are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary today.  I hope God hears me when I shout thank-you to him for connecting me with Gladys.  We have a whole bunch behind us and we are both looking forward to life ahead of us.

We've seen new life through our kids and their kids and we've seen death through the passing of our parents.  I enjoy spending time with her now as much as I did before we were married where we would talk and talk at the Char House in Bay City over blueberry pancakes.

Our first stop of the day is at one of my ophthalmologists to get a retina check.  Supper will be at the Lansing Brewing Company.  

We started our lives together as two people.  There are now eleven of us with our kids, their spouses and our grandkids.  In marketing today that would be described as the beginning of a brand.  Thank-you God.

Fathers-in-law need to say "Happy Father's Day" to their sons-in-law

My son-in-law Adam Jones
My son-in-law Adam Jones poses for a picture with a new friend he met in Vienna, Austria

A relationship between a father-in-law and son-in-law has a very special dynamic that needs to be learned, especially if he married the daughter that made you walk on clouds from the time that she drew her first breath outside the womb through an archive that is crammed full of cherished memories.  That father-in-law/son-in-law relationship can be very delicate and needs to be handled with care, but, also, with utmost honesty and patience along with redemption.

This Father's Day I have to send special greetings to my son-in-law Adam Jones.  He and my daughter Krista have three wonderful kids.  The depth of this guy's character has been shown to me through so many ways, especially through the way he relates to and loves his kids.  

My memory bank is filled with pictures and videos of him showing love to his kids.  He's a hands-on dad who has changed his share of diapers, played lots of Candyland and provided loving guidance when needed.

He and I have drank gallons of coffee together and sampled more than a few beers working to get to know each other.  I am proud of him and I'm proud to call him my son-in-law and my friend.  

This morning he and his family are visiting his family in North Carolina.  I hope he can fully enjoy this visit with his dad Dennis who has built a legacy that keeps on growing.


When was the last time you took your son out for a beer to celebrate your relationship with him?


Having a beer with my son
My son is an amazing man and a stellar father

 I really looked forward to that recent Thursday night in steamy St. Louis when my son Justin asked me if I wanted to go to the Urban Chestnut beer hall on the south side of St. Louis.  It was a chance to celebrate a whole bunch of stuff especially the birth of his infant daughter and celebration of his son's second birthday.  

Doing this has become a new tradition for he and I whenever he comes home or we go to his place.  It's not a night at the bar, but an hour or two where we have a chance to compare notes on our lives, kids, jobs, retirement, driverless cars, apps, phones and presidential candidates.  When he comes here we drink a really classy edition of a Founders beer that had been aged in old scotch barrels and in St. Louis, we have a Schnickelfritz crafted by Urban Chestnut.

He shared with me his middle of the night visits with his two month old daughter and life with his two year-old son who looks like a carbon copy of him.  He loves being a dad.  He changes diapers, including the ones that had been filled by a volcanic poop and he washes clothes.  We talked about our mutual interests in the world, especially those involving technology, the area where he works.  Our conversation included a slice about life with and without Trump and about political parties.

The time went by quickly, but I know we'll do it again.  What did I learn?  I really enjoy his friendship.  I am also impressed by him as a man, a husband and a dad.

Not every dad can do this, but for the ones who can and haven't, I'd encourage them to do it.  



Without the guy on the right, I would have never been a father


My mom and dad's wedding picture
This is a picture of my mom and dad on their wedding day in 1945 

I've smiled a lot lately as I walk around our house.  It's the pictures of our kids and our grandkids that does it.  The only room in our house without their pictures is the bathroom.

They all make me smile and they heat up my heart to the point of having a big glow.  I love being a father.  There's never been anything better than this parenthood journey I've taken with my wife Gladys almost 35 years ago.  My daughter and my son have added a layer of love to my life that I had never experienced until we had them.  And that keeps on growing with a son-in-law and daughter-in-law and five grandchildren.

As the hands of our clock move into Father's Day tomorrow, I started thinking about my own father.  I was walking through the hallway of our upstairs and spotted the above picture.  It's of my mom and dad on their wedding day.  I only knew my mom.  She raised me and she loved me unconditionally.  My feelings towards my dad are complicated and have been shaped by his actions when I was a toddler.  I never really felt kindly towards him.

Then going by their picture this morning, the realization hit me.  Without him, I wouldn't have my great, one-of-a-kind wife, my kids, their spouses and my three grandsons and two granddaughters.  I would not exist.  I'm glad that I do.  

Perhaps, I need to say Happy Father's Day to him and to say thank-you.  I'm happy and I hope he had a chance to experience to same happiness of a wife, children and family.  

Here's a perfect prayer for our country after Orlando and other situations to come

Our Daily Bread online
This is the Our Daily Bread devotion for this morning.

Since our retirement, my wife and I have established a ritual where one of us makes coffee which we drink from our own sides of the couch with our computers in our laps.  My first online visit is to Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional based on a Bible verse.  At the end of the written piece, there's usually a short prayer. Today's prayer seems to be spot on for our country with its division and inability to come together.  Check it out.  

Lord, give us eyes to see those around us as You see them. Give us ears to hear their stories; give us hearts to share Your love.

When my son was really young his favorite baseball player was Ernie Camacho of the Cleveland Indians

My son and I were talking about his baseball cards the other night when our conversation turned to Ernie Camacho, the retired reliever for the Cleveland Indians.  Justin and I would go through a pile of cards, looking at teams, player names and their stats.

He was in early grade school and when we did this, he'd always stop at Ernie's card.  I think he liked the way his name rolled off his tongue, plus he played for a team with cool looking uniforms.  

Whatever happened to Ernie Camacho?

Well, I think I've found out.  He apparently is a school maintenance guy in California and a prominent advocate for people with Alzheimers, a diseased which toughed his father.  

A CLARIFICATION:  My wife reminded me that my son was attracted to Camacho because my son was a Bert and Ernie fan from Sesame Street.

His name has never been forgotten by me or my son.  It would be fun to tell him someday.

These baseball cards bring back a flood of memories of collecting with my son


Making sure my son gets our baseball cards.
My son Justin and I went to countless baseball card shows. It's time to make sure he gets them.


As part of downsizing to a smaller house,  my wife and I have been going to almost 35 years of accumulation of stuff gathered while the kids were still living at home.  Both of our kids are grown adults and have kids of their own.  Some things in their rooms can go to Goodwill, some can be thrown away, while some needs to be passed on to them.

What about old baseball cards collected with my son starting while he was still in early grade school?  It started with buying a pack here and there at the neighborhood convenience store and grew to pretty regular attendance at baseball card shows.  They were fun to collect and it was something that we enjoyed doing together.

Now it's time to move them down the family line.  Justin has a two-year-old son who has already shown a fondness for wearing baseball caps.  I can see a little baseball mitt in his future and I can see Justin using baseball stats to help him get into numbers.

The cards carry some nostalgia and that's not bad.  It can be good.  It's part of our past that's worth remembering.

The Issue: Does grace give us a license to rewrite what God wants us to do and not do?


Ada Bible Church Pastor Aaron Buer teaches about the Bible's book of Jude.
Pastor Aaron Buer of Ada Bible Church closes two-part series on the Bible's book of Jude


 We talked about this weekend's teaching at Ada Bible Church while eating supper last night at a Subway near Ada and then talked about it this morning after eating breakfast.  

My wife and I have been talking about the teaching from the Bible's book of Jude in the New Testament.  It's just one chapter and barely over twenty verses.  We've been talking about the "so-what" of the sermon.  Why is it important to us living in the heart of contemporary United States and at this stage of our lives?

Jude was writing about people in the early church who believed in Jesus as their savior and then took that as a license to sin, the things that God says we should not do.  The logic is that "hey, I'm already forgiven.  Why not?"  Any of that sound familiar?  Personally, it does to me.  Have I used that as an excuse to sin?  Have I been affected by other believers who use that as an excuse to turn away from God's will?  Yes, I have.

I want to retain what I learn in church.  I want to keep what I've learned the past two weekends from Jude.  I've learned that I can't just go listen to the teaching, take a few notes, walk out and expect to gain much.  I need to run it through my brain and my heart more than once.  

I hope to pass on this challenge to my kids and grandkids about processing sermons and making them a part of their lives.  This is a start, maybe a re-start.


These are the verses from Jude that Aaron Buer taught from.
These are the verses from Jude in this weekend's sermon at Ada Bible Church.




Andy Ferris leads worship at Ada Bible Church.
Worship last night at Ada Bible Church pointed to Jesus as the one true thing.