Monday, June 26, 2006

My Grandpa

My Grandpa visited me this past weekend. My Mom finally guilted him into coming to Michigan since he had already visited my aunt in Florida numerous times this year. It was a quick visit but is was great to see him again. On Friday I took he and my Mom to a new upscale restaurant in Lansing called Majority and we had a good lunch together. Then I took them on a quick tour of the capitol building to see where I work. I like playing tourguide and I think they enjoyed seeing the capitol.

One thing I noticed was that he is getting up there in years. I usually don't notice people getting older but he was much more labored this weekend than I remember. I guess that's what happens when you get over 80. It's weird but I never really think of him as that old. He is just my Grandpa who has been a fixture in my life for so long that I still think of him as being the same man he was 25 years ago. Now seeing him age, I am forced to reflect that life is shorter than we think and that we should enjoy people while we have them in our lives.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I met the pastor of a new church plant a couple weeks ago. My friend Kevin is his neighbor and knew that I was looking for a new church so he gave me his contact info. His name is Noah and the church is called barefoot. After having coffee together, I could tell he was a cool guy and someone that I wanted to get to know. I was also interested in learning more about the church and tonight I finally attended one of their meetings.

It was mostly young people who were very friendly and down to earth. What impressed me most about this church is that they are committed to helping other people. In August they are planning a trip to Mississippi to help out victims of hurricane Katrina. Later that month they are sponsoring a concert at a local club to raise money to purchase a well for a village in Africa. These are the kinds of activities that I strongly believe the church should be engaging in. I can see myself buying into their vision and even though the church hasn't even officially launched yet, I think this could be my next church home.


I am sick of this week's over-reported story of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen calling someone a fag. I listen to a lot of sports radio and all I heard was people talking about this incident. Good grief, when did calling someone a name become a capitol crime. Now I don't think it' s good manors to call someone names, but whatever happened to sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me. If anyone doubts that the public is being indoctrinated to react to politically incorrect thinking, I hope they are paying attention to this story. I seriously doubt that he would be sent to sensitivity training if he called the reporter a jackass instead. Although maybe the democratic party would have complained.

The tragic irony of this story is that all across the sporting landscape, there are many serious incidents that are being swept under the rug. Just this week, Brett Myers who pitches for the Phillies, was arrested for beating his girlfriend. This story received far less coverage and as far as I know he was not sent to sensitivity school and there is no clamor to suspend him so as to teach him a lesson. Earlier this month, JJ Reddick the former Duke guard was arrested for drunk driving. When asked how this might effect where he will be drafted, most commentators did not think it would matter at all. And that was the extent of the story.

I may be old fashioned but aren't domestic violence and drunk driving far worse offenses than calling someone a fag. Yet you would never know that by the level and intensity of coverage of these stories. The real story of this week is that our public moral outrage needs to be redirected and prioritized.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We Are Family

Thanks to last night's win by Carolina in the NHL finals, my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates continue to hold a compelling place in modern sports history. Not since 1979 when the Pirates beat the Orioles on the road in game 7 of the world series has the road team won a game 7 in a championship series. Not just in baseball but it hasn't happened in hockey or basketball either. One would think that the trend would come to an end at some point but home court advantage really does help in the playoffs. That's why all Dallas has to do is win game 6 at home this week and they should be the heavy favorites to win the championship. It's nice to remember to the good old days when the Pirates were still good.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Political bloggers

Just recently the liberal bloggers held a convention in Las Vegas to discuss their role in the political process. I was disappointed that I wasn't invited since I love Las Vegas and have recently been accused of taking more liberal positions. Having said that, internet played a big role in 04 election by promoting Howard Dean as the early front runner. He was the first national campaign to fully utilize the internet's strengths and he rode that momentum for several months until his true personality was revealed in Iowa. Since the election the left wing bloggers have mostly focused on galvanizing the anti war and anti Bush crowd.

Blogging is not exclusively for liberals and there are many conservative blogs out there as well. In fact, the blogosphere has become the townhall of the new millennium. This new political forum has several interesting dynamics to it and I honestly do think it has a chance to change the political landscape. In college, I read a book called Understanding the Media by Marshall McCluhan. It was dated back then but the message still resonates. The premise of the book is that the medium is the message in politics. He used TV as example of how it shaped current events and focused arguments into newscast soundbites. The Internet is doing the same thing today. The message of modern politics is open to the masses, immediate, largely opinion based, highly partisan and without perspective for the bigger issues facing the country. These characteristics are all influenced and encouraged by the growing power of the internet.

1. Information is now available to a much wider audience than before. Anybody can log onto their favorite website and read the latest happenings of the day. Even with cable you still have to wait for the show your watching to cover the topics you want covered. With the internet you just go right to it. This is both good and bad for political campaigns because you can have your own website and have people read about your candidate at their leisure. But there are so many sites out there that it is tough to control the message sometimes and you can't be everywhere at the same time. When it was just the big three or even with CNN you could control the message by getting on their shows. It is much harder to do that today.

2. Reporting is almost instantaneous with actual events. If someone bombed a building in Iraq an hour ago, I can already read about it. This is really fast and exciting but it also creates a short attention span because so much is happening and being reported so fast. I can check the drudge report every hour and get new headlines. Politically the speed of the internet is a great benefit to the campaigns that are most nimble and able to respond quickly to the latest issue or story. It also allows good politicians to get their message out quickly.

3. Much of what is written on-line and especially in blogs is opinion based and not actual reporting. This is okay as long as people remember this point and don't start taking other's opinions as wholly factual. Sometimes I worry that the truth gets lost in the debate but this is true on TV and talk radio as well. The implication for campaigns is that you better be very persuasive. To run an effective campaign you need to get close to all these opinion making bloggers and make your case to them. Each of them has a following and if you can win them over, you can win their entire readership generally.

4. Bloggers are also usually very partisan in nature and one sided in their arguments. They tend to develop loyal followings who all share the same views of the world. This creates a sense of community in a world where many people do not have that network of likeminded friends. The bad part about this is that most people never hear the other sides of the argument. They begin to think that everybody agrees with them and their position except the extremists from the other party. It reminds me of college when Clinton won in 1992. Everybody on campus was a Republican and we were just stunned that people would actually vote for Clinton. It is easy to to get wrapped up into one's own blog cocoon and miss what's really happening in the real world.

5. The internet is not very good at sorting out the important from the mundane. The large events that deserve in-depth reporting are just sort of thrust out there with all the rest of the day's events. I think this can lead to a loss of perspective and I worry that we are trending this way more and more. The serious issues of the day are not getting the attention they deserve and many times it's because they are too complex for the public's short attention span. Everybody agrees that healthcare reform is one of the most pressing needs of the day. But how many articles and blogs have you read on that issue? Nobody because they would be boring. Instead we prefer to read about tantalizing scandals and hot button issues because they are much more interesting even if less important.

Finally, the results are still mixed as to how effective the internet is in regards to specific campaigns. Yes Howard Dean would not have become the front runner without it but in the end he didn't win the election. Other elections have also tapped into the internet but so far it would be tough to say that any one candidate has won based on the power of the internet and grass roots bloggers. I think talk radio can make a much more compelling case that is helped usher in the Republican majority in 1994. The internet hasn't had that watershed moment yet but maybe it's coming sooner than we think.

Church Shopping

This morning I went to Riverview Church down in Holt. I had been to a Saturday service a while back but wanted to see what Sunday morning was like. The worship was good and the sermon while long was good as well. The sermon was on how to avoid being selfish and that life is better when we look for ways to serve others. He used an illustration of how selfish people are when they are looking for a new church. They want a church that meets their needs and forget that they should be looking for a place to serve as well.

Since I am looking for a church that hit me directly. The expression of church shopping is sometimes thrown around loosely but it does really describe how one looks for a church. We all have a list of what the perfect church should be and if it doesn't meet that list we move on. I always want to know what they have for single people over 30 and most churches have nothing for people in my age and walk of life. But instead of asking that question, I need to ask what kind of opportunities does that church have for me to serve.

Finding opportunity to serve is tough just by visiting a service. You can scan the bulletin or the information desk but that's about all. What frustrates me is that I am still not entirely sure of what type of service I want to be involved in. At Faith Church I did a little of everything and still never really found my niche. After my trip to Mississippi I thought disaster relief was my calling and I have been training with the red cross here in town. Unfortunately, most churches really aren't that involved in this kind of service. It's been kind of pawned off to the non profit professionals while the church focuses on church-centric activities. This morning when I read the service opportunities at Riverview and almost all involved doing things for the church service or children's ministries. While this is important, I think I would rather serve outside the church community instead.

So now my goal is linking up with a church that has a strong community service component. I need to get involved in a church that already has that type of ministry established and where the church has real buy-in. I don't want to be the one to start a ministry but I want to partner with other people who have a similar interest. I know such a church exists but I haven't found it yet in my quest. But at least now I know to look for more than just how good the singing and preaching is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How low can she go?

A poll came out yesterday that has Dick Devos leading Gov. Granholm 48-40. This builds on a 6 month trend of him moving ahead in the polls and her falling in the polls. It's really a shocking trend considering at one time Granholm was thought to be unbeatable. She has a winning personality, is a great speaker and the press loves her. Unfortunately for her, that is all she has going for her since she has almost no record of accomplishments to speak of. This combined with Devos spending millions of dollars already on TV has really made it a competitive race.

I was speaking with a member of her administration a few weeks ago and I asked her what the Governor planned to campaign on. She mentioned something about the environment and balancing the budget. Since most polls show the environment ranking just below making sure the sidewalks are plowed this will hardly be a winning issue for her. Balancing the budget sounds nice but less compelling when you learn that she has a constitutional obligation to balance it each year.

Even worse than having no record of achievement is that the current Governor has no real vision of what she wants to accomplish. Even those who hated Engler admit that he knew what he wanted and how to get things done. Granholm is the opposite. People like her but she has no discernible agenda or compass. In retrospect it is hard to see how she got elected in the first place. Her political skills are negligible and if anybody can remember something she promised during the first campaign I'd like to hear what it was. She ran on personality alone last time and that says something about our political system.

Devos has run an excellent campaign so far. He too is staying away from the details and instead is tapping into the anti-incumbent sentiment. There is a growing anxiety that government officials are out of touch and part of the problem and his campaign as an outsider who can fix the system resonates with a lot of people. It's a winning campaign strategy but I just hope he has a winning strategy on how to govern once he gets elected.

Despite the effectiveness of the Devos campaign, Granholm's real opponent continues to be the Michigan economy. Michigan remains mired in a economic quagmire despite the fact that other states are rebounding from the recession. If the state continues to lose jobs, it looks more and more likely that the Governor will lose her job.

Monday, June 12, 2006


There are a couple things that I read over the weekend that I feel compelled to comment on.

First of all, I am sick and tired of Ann Coulter and her books. Yes I understand that many of her arguments are correct but why does she need to be so venomous in her attacks. Apparently is her newest book she goes after some of the wives that lost their husbands in the 9/11 attacks. Now I do think that when these women entered the fray of politics they should have expected to face some attacks. Politics is a bloodsport and they should have seen this coming. But why should a professed Christian like Ann write such mean and hurtful things about these women simply because they do not share her political persuasion? Differences in opinion and pointing out where one's arguments are wrong is fine and we shouldn't be afraid to take on those arguments even against grieving widows but there is really no reason to ridicule and call them names just to sell some books. This is all Ann seems to do and it ruins her credibility and what would otherwise be some persuasive arguments. Instead of simply making her arguments, she has become a caricature of what many people regard as a hateful right wing Christian. And that does nothing to advance our cause.

Tom Delay is next on my list. I am glad to see him go. He too is a self professed Christian and yet he still believes that he has done nothing wrong and that everything that has happened to him is the fault of his enemies. Whatever happened to love your enemies and turning the other cheek? Whatever happened to taking responsibility for one's own actions? I have very little doubt that he did engage in some shady practices. Whether what he did was technically legal is for the courts to decide but isn't he supposed to live a life above reproach. At what point does the buck stop with him?

What's sad about both of these cases is that I agree with them on so many political issues. I used to respect both of them but how long can one's political views insulate them from such poor behavior. To me, how you convey the truth is as important as the truth that you are trying to convey. Living a life that reflects integrity and charity goes a long way in building the case for one's arguments. When you live a life without those characteristics, not only does it damage themselves but the very arguments they were to trying to make in the first place.

Big Ben

This morning I was struck with the tragic news that Ben Roethlisberger was in a motorcycle accident. When I read it off the newswire I was sick to my stomach as I realized that this great guy was seriously injured. I spent most of the day trying to find out just how bad the crash was. I guess he broke his jaw, his nose, had a 9 inch gash in his head and lost most of his teeth. He was in surgery the last time I heard.

It was strange to let an accident that happened to a person I have never met affect me. But when you cheer for someone and follow his career you build a bond with that player and I feel like I know him since he plays for my favorite team. Ben has been the savior for the Steelers. He was finally the next Terry Bradshaw that we had been searching for decades to find. He led us to the promised land and gave us one for the thumb. Now he lies in a hospital with serious wounds.

One of the sad parts of this story is that he wasn't wearing a motorcycle helmet. He had been warned by his coach and others that he should protect himself but he's young and felt like he was above those risks. I am just thankful that he survived the accident because often serious head trauma can occur on top on the other injuries he suffered. On a side note, Pennsylvania recently changed their law to allow people to ride bikes without helmets. I wonder how many Steeler fans now wish they hadn't changed that law? Michigan is currently considering that same change and it has passed both the House and the Senate. I hope the Governor sees this example and vetoes the bill. There is really no need to ride without a helmet.

Friday, June 09, 2006


I went to the Ottawa County Lincoln Day dinner last night and heard Newt Gingrich speak. It was a fun event. I took my brother Vince who is an opinionated conservative and my friend Rachel who is an oppinionated moderate. It definitely made for entertaining dinner conversation. One thing I learned last night that I didn't know was that no democrat has been elected in Ottawa County in the last 70 years. That's hard to believe until you visit the county and realize that there really are no democrats in the area.

After an agonizingly long program where they introduced all the candidates running for office (they have two state house primaries with 18 total candidates running) Newt finally got to speak and he was very good. He highlighted the flaws in the Senate immigration bill and why that bill would help defeat Debbie Stabenow. He then went to discuss the challenges that America faces at home and abroad. He makes a great point that we need to learn how to compete with China and India in the new economy. He has a strong grasp of the proper role of government and obviously has the experience to know how to solve problems. He used a great phrase that says "real change requires real change". I like that and am wondering how to apply that in state government because we often go with the status quo or tinker around the edges and wonder why things continue to not work.

I am hoping that he does run for president in 08 not because I think he can win but because I think he could help shape the debate around policy issues instead of namecalling and soundbites. I had to leave right after he finished but Vince hung around and got to meet Newt which makes me a little jealous. Maybe I'll get to meet him when he comes back in his campaign for president.

The World Cup

Today the World Cup starts and although I am no big fan of soccer I am strangely excited about it. Since I know as much about soccer as I do about dating, it's a little tricky for me to forecast who will win this year. The only player I've really heard of from Brazil and I don't even know how to spell his name. All I know is that he is very good.

What I like about the World Cup is that you don't have to know Soccer or even athletics in general to enjoy it. The event is more about national pride and bringing all these countries together to settle their differences on the field of play instead of through war and politics. It's like the olympics that way except that I get to actually watch the whole game live instead of spliced and tape delayed.

I have done some reading on all the teams and here are my predictions. Even though I am cheering for the USA I don't think they can win the whole thing and they may even have a hard time advancing out of their group. Brazil is the clear favorite but I don't think they will win it this year either. I am predicting a darkhorse. I have no idea why but I am picking Ivory Coast to win the world cup.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gay Marriage

This week the politicians in DC are debating an amendment to the constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I am a little frustrated over this debate.

First off, most people realize that the Senate does not have the votes to pass the bill. So essentially the public is being forced to watch a show in which everyone already knows the conclusion. Unfortunately, this debate is the only way republicans know how to stem the tide of evaporating support among conservatives. The first rule of politics is to reach out to your base when you're in trouble. But with no real intention of actually solving the proposed problem I don't think it's going work. It looks incredibly self serving and explains why the public is so cynical and has such a low view of politicians.

Secondly, I am tired of the argument that is thrust out as the reason we need this amendment. It seems like all we hear is that gay marriage is an assault on traditional marriagethat we need this amendment to protect marriage. What crap. The reason they want the amendment is because they don't want the government to put their stamp of approval on a lifestyle that the bible defines as sinful. It's not politically correct to call homosexuality sinful but this is really why people are opposed to gay marriage. It has very little to do with traditional marriage. In fact, I would wager that the divorce rate will be completely uneffected regardless if gay marriage is banned or not banned.

One of the good things and bad things about our country is that people are free to choose what behavior they want engage in. My goal as a Christian should not be to outlaw sin in the law but to change people's hearts by pointing out why I think their behavior is morally questionable or harmful. Banning gay marriage will be a political victory but it will do very little in stopping the trend of homosexuality becoming an accepted part of american culture. That decision will be made in people's hearts not in the halls of Congress.

If the politicians were serious about "protecting marriage" they would rewrite the divorce laws to make it much tougher to get a divorce. Divorce is well documented to be harmful to children and is clearly spelled out as sinful in the bible. It seems like we should do all we can to prevent it. No fault divorce has allowed for people to simply walk away from marriage for any reason. In fact a lot of young people now have trial marriages where they get married to see if they like it. If it works, they stay married and have kids and if they don't like being married, they just walk away from it and begin looking for their next spouse.

The other threat to marriage is co-habitation or as older people call it "shacking up". I am amazed how many people live together before they get married or instead of getting married. This idea is based on the same idea as a trial marriage but without the messy paperwork and fancy ceremony. Many of these couples never get married even though many of them have kids together before they split up. But even if those living together do choose to get married, the statistics say that those couples have a much higher rate of divorce than those who do not live together beforehand. To me this lifestyle is a much greater threat to marriage than gay marraige. Why don't we simply vote to make this living together before marriage illegal because the bible calls this lifestyle sinful as well?

The reason Congres does not take on these issues is because many of the politicians are guilty of these choices themselves . It would also be unpopular with the public because it would be telling a large majority of people that what their doing is sinful. That is not a recipe for reelection and the reality is that Congress cares much more about preserving their own power than preserving marriage.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Davinci Code

I was kind of hoping this Davinci craze would die down but apparently it is still causing quite a stir in the Christian community. My quest for a new church led me to Northpointe Community and the sermon this morning was on the Davinci Code. A couple weeks ago I heard almost the exact same sermon at the vineyard church and my old church is doing a series on it as well.

All this attention is fine and good because most people do not know the truth and it does draw the attention of the average person. But I wonder if all this fuss is really worth it. I mean is the church that worried that a work of popular fiction will really lead people estray? Is our faith so weak? On the other hand, if the church won't get worked up when someone actually blasphemed our Lord then what will it get worked up over? So I can kind of see both sides.

What this reminds me of is a lesson I read in the Screwtape letters. That book is about a young demon apprentice learning from his uncle the ways of the world. The Uncle instructs his pupil that direct assaults at Christianity are often not the best approach. Instead he suggests that he focus on the perimeter issues and slowly chip away at Christianity. In this case, the Davinci Code is a direct assault and it has awoken a resounding response from the church. But what about all the other movies that contain large amounts of sex, violence, materialism and other worldly teachings. Is the church doing a sermon series on these movies? I propose that those movies are having a much larger impact on our culture than the Davinci Code.

One final observation about this recent trend is that it appears the church is responding to the culture instead of the other way around. Since when do we let Hollywood set the debate on the large issues of the day? Shouldn't the church be more proactive in setting the cultural debate? Mel Gibson succeeded with this by making the Passion and I hope that others will soon follow. I know that we are supposed to engage the culture and we should take every opportunity to make our teachings relevant to a mass audience. But these teachings are always relevant and we shouldn't need the Davinci Code or any other movie to motivate us in conveying this truth.

Tomorrow is the big day

Over the past two years I have become a huge fan of Michelle Wie. For those hiding under a rock, Michelle is the gifted 16 year old golfer that has taken both the LPGA and PGA tour by storm. Tomorrow is the day she proves herself to the world by qualifying for the Men's US Open.

While she has played well this year and actually made the cut this year in her recent apparence in a men's tour event she has always recieved sponsor exemptions instead of earning her spot in the tournaments. For this she has taken a lot of grief from both Men and Women players. By earning her spot in the US Open she will not only become the first women to do so but she will also get to tell her detractors to shut up and take notice of just how good she is.

What I find fascinating is how many people do not think she should be playing in Men's events. They suggest that she should play with other girls and learn how to win. I say, if she's good enough to play with the men, then more power to her. And even though she hasn't won on the women's tour just yet she did finish second in this year's major and was the leader going into Sunday in another major. She's good and she's only 16. How many events did Tiger win by age 16? Some observers are even suggesting that Michelle at this age is better than Tiger was at age 16. The wins will come.

Monday morning she will tee it up against 150 men including several professionals and tour winners. She will have to finish in the top 18 to qualify for the US Open. ESPN and the golf channel will be giving updates every half hour so I will have to keep the TV on at work to follow along. In fact, I more excited about watching her qualify than I am about either the NBA or NHL finals. Because tomorrow she will not only make the US Open but she will also make history. And it couldn't happen to a better person.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Chili Cook Off

Last night was a good night. Every year Lansing has a local chili cook off but I have never gone to it. Since it is so close to my house I decided to go this year and check it out. I had hoped to go with a couple of friends but they couldn't go and I considered not going by myself but then figured I wasn't going to let being alone stop me from enjoying the event.

On my way there my friend Sheree called me out of the blue and she asked if she could meet me at the cook off. I was thrilled to have her join me and we ended up meeting another couple that she knew from her church. Just as I was worried about going alone I am reminded that I do have friends here in Lansing.

Despite having to wait in long lines the event itself was pretty cool. It takes place along the riverwalk in downtown Lansing with about 40 or so restaurants that have booths set up with their chili. They also had concerts and mechanical bull ride as entertainment. At the end of the night they give awards for best chili and hottest chili. We had a good time although after eating 15 cups of chili they all start to taste a little similar.

It sounds kind of cliche but events like the chili cook off really do make Lansing feel more like a community. I am going to have to find out what other events are planned for rest of the summer.

Friday, June 02, 2006

That crazy game called golf

Golf if a fickle sport. Several years ago I started taking the game more seriously and two years ago I was showing steady signs of improvement. Then last year struck and I reverted to my prior playing condition and spent the whole winter wondering why I even took golf up in the first place.

This year I decided that the reason for my regression was my clubs. I was playing with a 10 year old set that I paid less than a hundred dollars for and that included the bag. Basically, they were knock offs of knock offs. When my six iron finally broke in two I used it as an excuse to spend the money and finally buy new clubs.

Let me just say that I am amazed that golf clubs are so expensive. It truly is a rich man's sport. After looking all over town and on the internet I settled on a set of Calloway knock offs. The real clubs would have cost me about $1000 but I got similar ones for under $200 which I thought was a pretty good deal.

Last weekend I played my first full round with new clubs. My brother and I met up in Portland and braved the 100 degree weather. I didn't score very well but I hit the ball well with my irons and while Vince beat me it was only by a stroke. Afterwards I was convinced I had made a good purchase and that my game was going to benefit from these new clubs. That was Saturday.

On Monday I went out again with Vince and this time we took my stepdad. We played at the course near my parent's house and honestly I have never really like that course or shot well on it but it's convenient and so I play there often. My first shot I hit a real good 7 iron off the tee and lay up in front of the water. So far, so good. And then everything went to Hell. I chunked my pitching wedge, shot the next one over the green, then onto the green and finally three putted. A 7 on par 4 that is well under 300 hundreds yards. That hole just screwed me for the entire round. I was never able to recover and ended up shooting my worst round of golf this year. So much for my new clubs.

So Wednesday night at my golf league I was looking forward to redeeming myself but also nervous because I had lost so much confidence in my new clubs. In fact at one point I was tempted to send them back and ask for a refund because they didn't work. Thankfully I drew good partners this week and I played the best I've played all year. We shot the low round of the night and I think of the season. Granted we only used about a quarter of my shots but even my misses were playable. So now I am back to feeling good about my swing and my clubs.

It's funny but I don't think my clubs have impacted my game at all. I was inconsistent before my new clubs and I am still inconsistent. It really is all about the golfer and not so much about the clubs. Which sucks because there's not much I can really do change the golfer. But at least I didn't pay $1000 to figure that out.