Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's up with Drudge?

Every day on the Drudge Report, there is a new "article" blasting away at Mike Huckabee. It's as if they are doing the dirty work for Romney. It's bad enough that Hugh Hewitt practically begs Romney to french kiss him every time he writes a column but I like Drudge and expect more from him. After all, I view his site everyday but I don't need to read any more Romney press releases. Enough already. It just reveals how truly desperate Romney is and I suspect his internal polling is worse than the public polls. Romney is in trouble with a capitol T; and not just in River City but all across Iowa.

One thing that I am beginning to notice is that Romney and Thompson are both going after Huckabee for being too liberal on crime, immigration, taxes and spending. Ironically, Huckabee's "liberal" side is what draws me too him and what separates him from the rest of the field. Me personally, I am a social conservative and there of plenty of candidates to choose from. But I am also an economic moderate and Huckabee is the only candidate who comes close to my political philosophy. I won't support someone who blames illegal aliens for all our ills, offers nothing but tax cuts and "the free market" to help the middle class and thinks health care and the environment are democratic issues that will take care of themselves. If that's your candidate (Fred Thompson) more power to you but that's not for me.

I am sure the political establishment will continue their attacks on Huckabee but I don't think they will work. In fact, I foresee him increasing his lead going into Christmas and winning big in Iowa and South Carolina.

Monday, December 10, 2007

michigan coaching search

The past week has been rough for Michigan fans. First word leaked out that we were interested in Kirk Ferentz but apparently he wasn't interested in Michigan. Then the athletic director, Bill Martin, screwed up with Les Miles by not contacting him with any reassurance that he was the school's first choice despite an ESPN report that he had already accepted the job. This forced Miles to state publicly that he was staying at LSU. Late last week Greg Schiano withdrew his name from consideration to stay at Rutgers. Fricken Rutgers, a school that is roughly on par with Indiana in the big ten. It's like getting turned down on prom so the gal could go with the math club president. Then my personal choice, Paul Johnson, took the job at Georgia Tech and I fully expect them to be a national power within 3 years. Now I hear Brady Hoke's name mentioned which is startling since he has a losing record at Ball State. Apparently his only qualification is that he was an assistant at Michigan under Carr. Oh and both are crappy assistant coaches interviewed as well.

The basic problem is that Martin sucks as an athletic director. He is a bean counter with no real expertise in athletics. Unfortunately this means he is relying way to heavily on Lloyd Carr in this process. That's a big problem because Lloyd got us in this mess in the first place and is probably responsible for not hiring Miles right away. Apparently, Carr doesn't like him. So what? Carr's leaving should be a wake up call to the program but hiring someone just because Lloyd likes them would be the equivalent of hitting the snooze button. And if that's what Martin wants to do so be it; but that is not what fans and boosters want. We don't want a Lloyd Carr clone. In fact, we want just the opposite.
Our best hope is that Jeff Tepford from Cal expresses some interest. He is a good offensive coach who could recruit out west. The other option is Brian Kelly but for some reason he seems to be out of the mix. I have a bad feeling that Michigan is in big trouble.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ramblings on the Trinity

I am taking a class on the Trinity taught by a professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. It's interesting to participate in a thoughtful academic discussion and reminds me of my time in college. One thing that was mentioned last night was that creative theology is most likely in error if it strays from the traditional orthodox teaching of the church.

I agree, but then we got into a tangential discussion as to which traditional teachings are sacrosanct and which ones have more room for discussion and interpretation. Obviously, since the class is on the Trinity, it makes sense that understanding and accepting this teaching is essential to being a Christian. But my experience growing up in the church makes me question if we as the church really believe this. Most Christians will say they believe in the trinity but ask many of them to explain it or defend this belief and they have few good answers. (Evangelicals included) So if the trinity is truly an essential part of our faith, why is there such a dearth of understanding it.

I know that I have been taught the doctrine of the Trinity since I was in junior high, but I have many questions such as why we refer to two thirds of the trinity in masculine human terms but the third is spiritual. Also, if all three are equal why choose to explain their relationship in terms of father and son which suggests a hierarchy. And doesn't a father exist before a son yet we are taught that they both always existed.

These questions don't even begin to address the historical development of the doctrine which didn't formally exist until three hundred years after Jesus death. Why do we trust that the church leaders who determined this doctrine are in fact correct? Many protestants will reject other historical teachings of the church but they accept this one. Why? For instance we reject the idea that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ during Communion and yet this was an essential teaching of the church for over a thousand years and still practiced today by catholics.

Finally what about the application and treatment of each part of the trinity within the church today? For instance, the holy spirit is all but ignored in many churches as we focus on our relationship with Jesus. Other churches focus almost exclusively on being baptized in the holy spirit and question others faith if they haven't been. If the doctrine of the trinity is essential to our faith how come we don't exercise its practice consistently? And what would that consistent practice and teaching look like?

I realize that you could probably apply this same question to other "essentials" of the Christian faith. But since I am taking this class on the trinity, I figured I would focus on that doctrine. And before I get deluged with comments, I want to state that I do believe in the Trinity and will defend it to the best of my ability. But these are legitimate questions that I have, and if I have them, then my guess is that many others share the same questions.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Handicapping the Race

Today I was speaking with my co-worker and we realized that everybody in our office was supporting a different Republican candidate for President. Each of us represents one vote for each of the five leading candidates. Ironically, the most conservative person in our office is backing Rudy and the most liberal is backing Huckabee but that' s a different post for a different time.

Our office is microcosm of just how wide open the Republican race truly is this year. There is a candidate for every type of Republican but not one who can rally all the factions behind him. If I had to guess right now I would say that Rudy is leading but just barely, Romney is a close second, Huckabee is third but with momentum and McCain is still a possible dark horse candidate if everyone else falters. It' s getting harder and harder to see just how Thompson wins the nomination.

One can only hope that as the field whittles down that our party can unite around one strong candidate regardless of who wins the nomination. But as I listen to the rhetoric it may prove difficult to mend fences. Hopefully, we have Hillary as the opponent and as the driving force to reunite. Unfortunately, she is looking more and more desperate herself and Obama seems to be on his game recently. I have been worried about him from the beginning hoping that the Clinton machine will take him out for us. But her clumsy attacks so far only seem to be driving women voters away from her. She could be in real trouble. I was hoping that she would wait until the general election to implode and show her true colors but she appears to be starting early.

To quote Hillary, we are finally getting down to the fun time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Time

This weekend I put up my Christmas Decorations. My Grandpa gave me his Christmas decorations a couple years ago in a spirit of Bah Humbug but this is my first time putting them out. My friends Erin and Tameshia came over to help give it a woman's touch. Thankfully, they let me hang my Steelers Stocking and Michigan football ornament so it still looks like a bachelor's tree. It took us a while to assemble the tree but after an hour or so we figured it out. and it looks really nice. After we finished, we baked cookies that turned out very well. I had a really fun time and enjoyed their company. It definitely put me in the Christmas spirit. Well that and the eggnog with rum.

Friday, November 30, 2007

This is why I don't play football

A couple weeks ago, I decided to play football with a group of guys in our community. Some of my friends who play every week had been inviting me and I kept turning them down but they finally won me over.

I was one of the oldest, slowest and smallest guys on the field and it was a serious game, not some family picnic game. And while I didn't excel, I don't think I embarrassed myself which is saying a lot since I hadn't played in a long, long time.

Well during the game, I attempted to make a tackle and afterwards noticed that my thumb was a little sore and bent out of shape. I figured I just dislocated it and kept playing. Fast forward two weeks and the thumb feels okay but won't bend or work at all so I break down and see the doctor. My initial thought was that maybe I broke it and would need a little thumb cast. Uh no! Apparently, I torn a tendon in my wrist which is why I can't move my thumb. Now I have a temporary cast on my left arm and am scheduled for surgery on Monday morning to repair the tendon.

It's frustrating because my thumb doesn't even hurt and yet I still have to have surgery and wear a cast for up to 8 weeks. So lame. I mean knew I was getting old but this is ridiculous. The only good thing to come out of the whole incident, is that several women think it makes me look tough. Especially after I tell them I injured myself playing football.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Online

They just posted my sermon online. It is available here.

Go Mike Go

Mike Huckabee continues to climb in the polls and last night he shined in the presidential debate. For those that think Huckabee is a one trick pony who is going to ride away after Iowa, forget about it.

Just this week he surpassed Romney in Iowa despite being greatly outspent there. He also has more enthusiastic support than does Romney, as many of Romney's voters said they could still change their mind about voting for him. Not so with Huckabee supporters.

Huckabee is also rising in South Carolina. He places third in the most recent poll only 4 points behind Romney and 2 points behind Thompson. Huckabee is the one with momentum. He is the one with an engaging personality and an attractive message.

One pundit said it best when they stated that Huckabee is the only Republican that has story and agenda that connects with the middle class. I completely agree. And while some will say he is not a complete conservative, I say so what. America doesn't want the same tired conservative dogma that die hards want to pass off as an agenda. That's the problem Fred Thompson is facing.

Many people are trying to say the race is now down to Rudy and Romney. And that may still be the case but if Huckabee beats Romney in Iowa then Romney is finished. And if Huckabee can squeeze Fred Thompson voters in the south he has a real shot at beating Rudy head to head. So don't believe the political hacks like Hugh Hewitt, who try to tell people that voting for Huckabee is throwing your vote away. They just say that because they support Romney and don't want Huckabee to embarrass them.

I suspect that the attacks will continue to be ramped up against Huckabee as he continues to gain in the polls. But unlike others, his likability will shield him from the attacks. And ultimately Huckabee will be left standing after Feb 5th.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh No, Not Kirk Ferentz!

I just read from a reliable source that Michigan has offered the job to Kirk Ferentz of Iowa. This is the same source that broke Lloyd Carr's retirement so I have confidence it is not just a wild rumor.
Unfortunately, Bill Martin was honest when he said he wanted a clone of Lloyd Carr as Ferentz has the same stale, predictable football philosophy as Carr. Basically Ferentz is Carr but without the high winning percentage, big ten titles, national championship and strong recruiting skills. If you think Michigan football was stagnate with Carr, just wait til Ferentz accelerates the decline and turns Michigan football into Iowa East.

I really question why Michigan would make such a choice. I guess they think they are such a good program that they don't need a great coach and that they will win just because they are Michigan. Well look how that turned out for Nebraska. But maybe this signals that Michigan really isn't the dream job that every other coach wants. Maybe they already sent feelers out to other coaches and Ferentz is the best they could get. I really hope that's not the case.

Our only hope is that Ferentz turns down the job to stay in Iowa out of some sense of loyalty to his players. After all he has such great talent coming back next year, he wouldn't want to miss going 7-5 next season and playing in the Alamo Bowl.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me last night. The sermon went very well and I sense that it was just the right message for our community. I'll admit that I was nervous before hand and almost panicked when I got a call just before the service, that our entire worship band was not coming because they were sick or out of town. Without any music, I didn't like the idea of being the sole center of attention. But thankfully, it wasn't about me and when I was reminded of that, it helped me relax a bit.

So instead of singing, we prayed and took communion and it was a really good service. I have to laugh because last Easter we didn't have heat in our building and now on Thanksgiving we didn't have music. I suspect Christmas will be interesting. Maybe we will run out of coffee or have no power. Good thing we are flexible.

Last night's message was from Numbers 11 and was a reminder to be thankful for what God provides in our lives. I think the church will have a podcast available of the sermon later this week on our website. So for those who missed it in person you can listen at home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This weekend at Barefoot

For those interested, I am preaching this Saturday night at Barefoot Church in Lansing. Our pastor is out of town visiting family and I am filling in for him. I will be speaking on thankfulness for our daily bread. It should be a very exciting service. I would encourage those who are in Lansing this weekend to come by and check us out. Here is the link to our church. See you Saturday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Goodbye Lloyd

Over the past few seasons I have not been a big fan of Lloyd Carr. But watching his press conference today did make me a little sad and reminded me of what I do like about him and what I like about Michigan football. I was reminded of my first time at the big house which was also Coach Carr's first game. It was against Virginia and they had an amazing fourth quarter comeback on a last second catch from Scott Driesbach to Mercury Hayes. It was the start of a special run at Michigan.

And while I want to win every game, there is something to be said for running a clean program with honor and integrity. Lloyd Carr did that. On top of that he did win 75 percent of his games and delivered us the only national championship in my lifetime. He was also one heck of a recruiter. He can certainly leave Michigan football feeling very proud of the things he accomplished. Unfortunately, I don't think was able to keep up with the new schemes in college football and his inability or unwillingness to adapt is what ultimately led to his downfall. I also don't think he ever truly got the most out of his players. Look at Tom Brady for example.

Now as for the new coach, I have seen 20 names listed as possibilities. Here are a few that are mentioned most often:
Les Miles - LSU
Brian Kelly - Cincinnati
Rich Rodriguez - W. Va.
Kirk Ferentz - Iowa
Paul Johnson - Navy
Jeff Tepford - Cal
Mike Belotti - Oregon
Chris Peterson - Boise St.

The most prominent is Les Miles from LSU. I'll be frank, I don't want him coaching Michigan. I have watched LSU this year and they have great talent but even though they are ranked #1 they have under achieved and play below their talent level. For those Michigan fans who are upset with Carr, that pattern should sound familiar.

My criteria for the next coach is someone with experience running a winning program and someone who is a good recruiter. They also need to be innovative offensively and able to get the most out of their talent. Most of the coaches listed above fit that criteria but not all (See Kirk Ferentz). My top two choices are either Brian Kelly or Paul Johnson. Both are having good seasons with minimally talented programs and both would excel with the kind of athletes that Michigan attracts. Chris Peterson intrigues me as well but he doesn't have a very long track record although 23-1 in his first two seasons is pretty impressive.

I suspect it will be a couple weeks before we find out who the next coach is. But in the meantime, I am going to remember the good job that Carr did and be thankful that he leaves the program in good shape for whoever the next coach is.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Movie and a Makeover

While most men are watching the Michigan-Ohio St. pregame show, I have been feasting on several romantic comedies. TBS has been showing When Harry Met Sally, Serendipity and Spanglish as part of their movie and makeover and they are three of my favorite films. So basically, I have up since 7 a.m. mindlessly watching movies that I have already seen but thoroughly enjoying all three of them. They remind me of the possibility of love which sounds sappy but then again, I live vicariously through romantic films. The dating and relationships are always much better and exciting in films than my own personal experiences. I want to fall in a love with an old friend, or spend years pursuing a woman after just one date, or better yet have a hot Spanish maid move into the house. Instead, I find myself having half hearted interest in women with boyfriends and no interest in women that are available and interested in me. Not exactly the makings of a movie. More likely a really good Greek tragedy.

Silver Bells


One of the things I enjoy about most about Lansing are the festivals and events that occur throughout the year. Last night we welcomed in the holiday season with the annual silver bells parade and Christmas tree lighting. To celebrate the event, I invited several friends of mine downtown and we watched the parade from my office. This is the first year that my office actually faces the capitol building. About 12 of us watched out the window in the dark. From the sixth floor it was a great view of the parade route along Capitol Avenue. It was also a lot warmer than standing on the street. My favorite part was watching the fireworks with the capitol building as background. It was a good time and I am already looking forward to next year's silver bells.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dan In Real Life

Contrary to those people who think I never like any movies, I just saw one that I really enjoyed. Dan In Real Life is a very good movie about a single dad who meets a woman and the impact that relationship has on his family. A majority of the scenes take place with his extended family at their cottage in Rhode Island. It was very touching, romantic, beautifully filmed and laugh out loud funny. Steve Carell does a terrific job acting, as does the rest of the cast.

One scene in particular stuck with me. The teenage daughter's boyfriend tells the father that love is not a feeling but an ability. I realize it is just a line in a movie but it was thought provoking. I have never thought of love in those terms but it makes sense and gives me great pause. I wonder some days if I have somehow lost that ability because it has been so long since I have been in love.

Anyways, the movie is well worth seeing in the theater. And if you know me at all, you will understand what a powerful endorsement that is.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Big House

This past weekend my friend Keri and I had the opportunity to tour University of Michigan's football field. It was a very fun experience. We started out in the media room where they bring in new recruits. They showed a presentation on the history of Michigan football and the history of the stadium. Here is some quick trivia: Michigan did not lose a game from 1901-1905 until the very last game of the 1905 season. They lost that game 2-0 to the University of Chicago. The irony is that those 2 points were the first points they gave up all year.

After the presentation we ran down the tunnel onto the field and threw the football around. Keri has a good arm but she needs work holding for kicks as she flinched at the last minute. Of course my field goal kicking needs work itself. Standing on the field brings a new perspective into what the players see each week. It's also neat to think that I was walking on the same field that Anthony Carter, Charles Woodson and Tom Brady all played on.

The tour ended in the Michigan locker room where we tried on some of the players uniforms. It's amazing how tight fitted those jersey's are. Definitely not like my 30 dollar TJ Maxx look alike jersey. Michael Taylor, a former QB for U of M in the late 1980's, gave a moving speech inside the locker room and broke down crying when he spoke of how much Michigan football meant to him.

This season has been a bit rough for us Michigan fans but Sunday reminded me of why I still love Michigan football.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bobby Jindal: Remember this name

This weekend Louisiana held their gubernatorial primary. They do things differently down there as they vote on a Saturday and have multiple candidates running against each other in the primary and then winnow the field down to the top two if nobody wins over 50 percent. Well this time Bobby Jindal, a Republican congressmen, won with 54 percent avoiding a run off election and becoming the next governor.

Jindal is a 36 year old Indian American who is incredibly bright and articulate. His election makes him the youngest governor in the country and the first minority to be governor of Louisiana since reconstruction. He has extensive expertise in health care as he ran Louisiana's Department of Community Health and later served as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC. Additionally, he has a strong understanding of higher education as a result of his tenure as President of the University of Louisiana System.

Just as impressive as his resume is his ability to win statewide where there are twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. Granted the Democrat party has taken a beaten in recent years due to how poorly the current Governor responded to the Katrina crisis. Notably, Jindal was able to capitalize on this discontent and create a broad theme of good government to campaign on. This is the exact message that all Republicans should be using instead of the same tired conservative cliches. Instead of ideology, the voters this year want demonstrated competence. Jindal's campaign and background filled that desire.
The following is a great clip from an article in the AP that illustrates this point:

The governor-elect said he is not worried that in a state known for its brash and flashy politicians, he's seen as methodical and wonkish. "If I go down as one of the more boring but effective governors, I'll take that as a great compliment," he said at a news conference earlier Sunday. "Our people don't want to be amused by our politics anymore. We don't want to be entertained."

I guess you could say he is the antithesis of Barack Obama.

Here is my prediction: Jindal will perform very well as Governor. He will be a model for other Republicans across the country. I also suspect that he will be considered a top tier presidential candidate in 2016

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sanibel Island Photos


The wedding


At the rehearsal dinner


View from our condo



Enjoying the sunset


Dinner with my parents



My grandpa and I match



View from our balcony


Our pool

Back home

I have been in a funk since I returned from vacation. That's why I haven't felt much like writing recently. I have come to realize the problem with vacationing; no matter how relaxing you always have to return to reality. Finally, this weekend I started to get back to normal.

Friday night I had several friends over to play poker. I really enjoy Texas Hold'em but more importantly I enjoy spending times with my friends. It's a good group of people. We stayed up late and laughed at a lot of stupid things like the number of cheeses and how to play octopus. I guess you had to be there. The fact that I won some money made it all the more enjoyable.

Then yesterday I met my nephew David in Grand Rapids for lunch. It was great to see him again after a two month absence. When had a good time eating wings, watching football and playing video games. Afterwards we visited my Dad at the cemetery which was overdue because it had been a while since I had stopped by. David has a strong sense of family which I appreciate. I wish I lived closer so I could see him and his family more often. I offered to let him move to Lansing but he wasn't interested.

Last night I went to my friend Aaron's going away party at Aladdin's restaurant. The food was good and he had a huge crowd. I don't think he realized how many friends he has. It's surprises me, that he and I friends as we are so completely different. He dresses in all black, is a vegetarian and has a socialist view of the world. I have no such view, enjoy meat and like wearing colors but I realized that he and I do have more in common than meets the eye. Both of us have been in dating draught, both want to find deeper purpose in life, both enjoy music (we play together in the church worship band) and we both are restless souls. His restlessness is leading him to Hawaii which is great for him but lousy for those he leaves behind. I am truly going to miss him.

Tonight I get to watch the Steelers on national TV which is the first time I get to see them play without having to go to the bar. Hopefully they cap off a good weekend with a big victory over the Broncos.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Vacation


I am currently sitting in our screened in porch overlooking the gulf of mexico and enjoying the warm weather. I arrived in Sanibel Island Florida, along with most of my extended family to attend my cousin Brie's wedding. The wedding itself was fabulous and Brie looked terrific. They got married right on the beach with steel drums and a guitar playing. They each wrote their own vows and you could tell they were in love. The reception was very fun. It was outside and the weather was perfect.

Contrasting the wedding is the crazy streak that runs through my family. Wow. I had forgotten what it was like to have them all gathered in one place. It's sad that some could not behave themselves even for a weekend or more importantly out of respect for Brie but selfishness reigns supreme. Since I have often been accused of sharing too much information, I'll save my most scathing stories and comments for personal conversations.

Now that the wedding is over, I have been playing golf, kayaking and generally just soaking up the sun before it disappears into the long winter. I find it soothing to simply float in the gulf and watch the seagulls fly overhead and the dolphins swim by. It's a regular tropical paradise and I can see why my cousin decided to get married on the island.

Well that's all from here as I am off to get my free margaritas by the pool. My guess is they hope to entice me into signing up for the timeshare. It's a great place but I don't see it happening. Just wait til they see my bank account; they will probably ask me to repay them for the drinks.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dream for Darfur

As some of you know I am a part of the Whisper Campaign which is a Lansing based group with the goal of raising awareness of the atrocities occurring in Darfur. This Saturday evening we are joining members of the Save Darfur movement from Jackson and Detroit in a 5K relay converging on the steps of the state capitol. There will be live music, food and keynote speakers. All of this, in an effort to shame China into taking a stance that supports the end of the Government of Sudan's genocidal tactics against the people of Darfur. I encourage those who live nearby to attend this historic event.



Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Michigan Budget Update

Michigan finally resolved it's budget crisis Monday morning at 4 am. Thus we avoided a government shutdown and took one step toward rebuilding confidence in Michigan's government and economy. After many hours of negotiations and several legislative gaffes, things came to an end by passing two tax increases, cutting spending by more than 400 million and several reforms including changes to the health care and retirement benefits for teachers and public employees.

In the end my boss did vote to raise the income tax from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. It was not an easy vote. In fact, without his vote the bill would have failed and the entire budget agreement could have fallen apart. People before and after the vote have asked my boss what he got out of the deal. They are stunned when he tells them that he didn't trade his vote but simply voted for the tax hike because he thought it was the right thing to do. And it certainly wasn't politically expedient because we are now facing a potential recall effort. The reality is that the state has been cutting its budget since 2000 and yet every year the hole gets bigger and bigger. In the past we have cobbled together one time solutions by selling off future money to pay the current bills and this gimmick finally caught up with us. At some point we couldn't continue to do the same thing year after year and expect different results.

A 6 percent sales tax on services also passed but without my boss voting for it. Left off the list is golf, marinas, cable TV, sporting events and movies theaters. Here are all the new services that will be taxed:

(a) Carpet and upholstery cleaning services
(b) Business service center services
(c) Consulting services
(d) Investigation, guard and armored car services
(e) Investment advice services
(f) Janitorial services
(g) Landscaping services
(h) Office administration services
(i) All of the following personal services:
(i) Astrology services.
(ii) Baby shoe bronzing services.
(iii) Bail bonding services.
(iv) Balloon-o-gram services.
(v) Coin-operated blood pressure testing machine services.
(vi) Bondsperson services.
(vii) Check room services.
(viii) Coin-operated personal service machine services.
(ix) Comfort station operation services.
(x) Concierge services.
(xi) Consumer buying services.
(xii) Credit card notification services.
(xiii) Dating services.
(xiv) Discount buying services.
(xv) Social escort services.
(xvi) Fortune-telling services.
(xvii) Genealogical investigation services.
(xviii) House sitting services.
(xix) Social introduction services.
(xx) Coin-operated rental locker services.
(xxi) Numerology services.
(xxii) Palm reading services.
(xxiii) Party planning services.
(xxiv) Pay telephone services.
(xxv) Personal fitness trainer services.
(xxvi) Personal shopping services.
(xxvii) Coin-operated photographic machine services.
(xxviii) Phrenology services.
(xxix) Porter services.
(xxx) Psychic services.
(xxxi) Rest room operation services.
(xxxii) Shoeshine services.
(xxxiii) Singing telegram services.
(xxxiv) Wedding chapel services, but not churches.
(xxxv) Wedding planning services.
(j) Other travel and reservation services
(k) Scenic transportation services
(l) Skiing services
(m) Tour operator services
(n) Warehousing and storage services
(o) Packaging and labeling services
(p) Specialized design services
(q) Transit and ground passenger transport services
(r) Courier and messenger services
(s) Personal care services
(t) Service contract services
(u) Security system services
(v) Document preparation services
(w) Miniwarehouse services and self-storage unit services

It's a really long list and I am not sure why some things are in it and some are not. It doesn't seem particularly well thought out and I doubt that anyone truly understands what the fiscal impact will be on both taxpayers and the state budget.

The reforms that passed are often overlooked but the reality is that they may have the most long term impact of anything that happened this weekend. Reforming teacher benefits will save the state hundreds of millions each year which means more money going to the classroom. It also weakens the teacher unions politically. Under the current system they make gobs of money by administrating their own health care benefits. The new law provides school districts greater ability to purchase their health care benefits elsewhere. Without the monopoly on health care, the teacher unions will not have as much money to spread around during campaign years. And since they usually spend this money against my boss, the less money they have for politics the better.

That is the update from Lansing. I am thankful we avoided a government shutdown and relieved to return to normal working hours instead of being at the capitol until 5 a.m. every night.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mackinac and the Budget

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I was up in Mackinac last weekend for the Republican Leadership Conference. Every Two years the Republicans take over the Island and turn it into a two day party. I love Mackinac Island and the weather was beautiful. I was able to connect with several people who I haven't seen in a long time. In fact, I couldn't walk more than 20 feet without stopping and talking to somebody on the street. It was nice to feel so popular. Although, I do notice a little disconnect between myself and the rank and file Republicans as I become less and less black and white in my political views.

I did get to meet Sen. McCain Friday night and then again on Saturday. He was very gracious but he looks really old in person. Ron Paul was also there and had a boisterous crowd of followers that chanted his name up and down the streets. It was so obnoxious. Effective but obnoxious. I didn't listen to Fred Thompson's speech or meet him but I heard he bombed big time. His awe shucks country lawyer persona is already wearing thin and he hasn't even been on the trail two months. I was disappointed that my candidate Mike Huckabee didn't make it. Apparently he missed his commercial flight and doesn't have enough money to charter a flight. The perils of running a low budget campaign I guess. In the end Mitt Romney won the straw poll which was expected but I didn't sense a lot of enthusiasm for him. The conventional wisdom says that he wins the Michigan primary but don't count out Giuliani yet especially if independents think the Democrat primary is already decided and come over and vote in the Republican primary.

Now I am back in Lansing and to be honest it is not pretty. In fact, it is the worst I have seen in my 9 years here. Last night the Senate was in until 1 a.m. with the anticipation of passing a budget which prevents the government from shutting down on Monday. Negotiations are still going on but so far no compromise has been reached. One side wants to cut the full 1.7 billion dollars out of the budget and the other side wants to raise the income tax to fill the hole. I suspect the solution is somewhere in between but the anti-tax people are extremely vocal and have several lawmakers scared of a recall effort.

Personally, if the state shuts down I won't get paid which sucks but I have a vacation planned starting next Friday anyways so I'll just start my vacation early. But there are a lot of other state employees who are depending on their paychecks and many state residents who are depending on government services that simply will not be available. Just wait until people realize the casinos are closed and they can't buy liquor or lottery tickets next week. Then the average citizen will feel the pain.

That's all for now. If I am laid off next week, I'll have plenty of time to post more. Until then.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Last Thing We Need

I just read that Alan Keyes is throwing his hat in the ring for President again. What a terrible idea. Wasn't his Senate campaign against Obama embarrassing enough? I voted for Keyes in the 96 primary but haven't been real impressed with him sense then.

He told a radio station during his announcement that "We're putting together an effort that's not going to be like anything before, because it's going to be entirely based on citizen action. We're going to be challenging people to take a pledge for America's revival." These are code words for "we have no money and no organization and very few supporters but we are going to run anyway".

Yes, he gives the best political speeches and is very inspiring. But he has no chance to win. He has a track record of losing campaigns in both Illinois and Maryland and in previous primaries. And even if he did somehow win the presidency, I have no confidence that he would be effective.

His announcement is frustrating. We should be narrowing down the field of candidates at this time but instead we keep getting more and more lackluster people that we don't need (Fred Thompson). Gingrich will probably be next. And then who? Gary Bauer again?

Friday, September 14, 2007

If you can't beat em, join em

My friend Chad is fed up with Michigan football and seriously who can blame him. He has recently taken his frustration to a new level by auctioning off his football allegiance on E-bay. All the money raised goes to a local charity. As a long time Michigan fan this is painful to see but I admire his creativity. So for all you fans of lesser football programs this is your time to gloat and put your money where you mouth is and make a bid for Chad's allegiance to your team.

Anyone home?


Yesterday the Nationals-Marlins game drew a crowd of only 400 people. That's less than the members of the Kevin Federline fan club. And I thought the Pirates fans were bad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why We Don't Need Fred Thompson

There was an interesting column on Fred Thompson's candidacy today. I would encourage people to read it. I like Fred Thompson personally but I am still not sure why he is in the race. What does he bring to the table that the other Republican candidates don't have. He is not a down the line conservative that some want him to be and for all his communication skills, I haven't heard him say one thing yet as to why his being President would make our country any better.

For all you out there that are still undecided, you should check out Gov. Mike Huckabee. He has the experience, the personality and the ideas to be an effective president. He is not acting the part. Instead he is the real deal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

my boys

I have a new favorite TV show. It's called My Boys and it airs Monday nights on TBS. The story is about a 20 something gal named PJ who works as a sports reporter covering the Cubs and hangs out with a group of guy friends playing poker and drinking beer at the local bar. Her only problem is that she has a hard time finding "Mr. Right" and even when she does find him, her guy friends tend to get in the way. It's a great premise and I found myself getting hooked over the summer.

They had the season finale last night which was very funny. PJ is leaving for Italy with her friend Stephanie and they were both supposed to bring boyfriends along with them. However, PJ cannot find a date and finally gives up and decides to go alone. Only days before the trip PJ bumps into ex boyfriends and other guys in her life that are now suddenly available and she must choose which guy to go with. At the end of the episode she explains that she invited one of them to come but waited for him to show and he never came. Then all the sudden the flight attendant invites her into first class to sit with who she decided to take. But they never show who the guy is and viewers are left with a cliffhanger. I hate that. Now I have to spend the rest of the year not knowing what happened.

Was it the botanist that lives in the suburbs who didn't get along with her guy friends and who she thought was blowing off but really simply busy working? Or how about the baseball player whom she had feelings for and was recently traded from the Cubs thus freeing her up of any ethical dating questions? Maybe it's the dashing reporter that's her old flame and who just left his fiance? Or even more shocking, will it be one of her guy friends that she spends so much time with?

I remember when I was younger there was a show called It's Your Move staring Jason Bateman that ended the season on a cliffhanger only to get canceled the next season. Thankfully, I just read that My Boys got picked up for a new season so at least we don't have to wait forever to find out who is on the plane.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Those lovable Cleveland Browns

For those that missed the Pittsburgh - Cleveland game yesterday there was a play that demonstrates just how pathetic the Browns truly are. It was fourth and long down deep in their own territory and they bring in the punter. First the punter muffs the snap and barely gets off the kick which is a wobbler that just gets passed the line of scrimmage. But that's not the worst part. They were called for four separate penalties on that play. Two holdings, one illegal formation and one ineligible player downfield before the ball was kicked. One play, 10 seconds and 5 mistakes. That sounds about right for the Clowns, I mean the Browns.

Deja vu

I just watched Deja vu last night. It stars Denzel Washington as a federal agent attempting to solve a terrorist attack on a ferry. During his investigation, he falls in love with a murdered victim and then goes back in time to try and save her so they can fall in love. It was a ridiculous plot but I was willing to suspend belief for the sake of entertainment. But at the end, when he has only 2 hours to save the ferry and he doesn't call the police because he wants to do it himself so he both catch the bomber and disable the bomb, I began to lose interest. Why do Hollywood movies treat their audiences like idiots? At least pretend to respect our intelligence.

As I was complaining about the ending, my roommate told me to not be so critical and enjoy the movie. I realize I am critical, especially when it comes to movies, but I simply cannot enjoy a movie that has no connection to reality. Being subjected to impossible and stupid story lines does not entertain me. Instead they just frustrate me and I think "Is this really the best that Hollywood can come up?". I mean they spend millions of dollars making these movies and they can't even write a coherent script.

Deja Vu did contain some elements of two much better movies. The concept of going back in time and retelling certain scenes comes from a really cool movie called Memento. And the idea of a cop falling in love with a dead victim came from a 1940's movie called Laura which is actually one of my favorites. Instead of renting Deja Vu I would encourage people to rent either of those movies. They treat the audience to well thought and well written stories instead of the drivel that's usually for rent at the video store.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stupid Predictions

Once again I feel compelled to share my NFL predictions for the upcoming year. But since I picked the Bengals over the Panthers last year, I no longer have confidence in my own football knowledge. So instead I am simply drawing names out of a hat. Without further ado here are my predictions for this year's NFL season:

New England
Buffalo
Miami
New York

Oakland
Kansas City
Denver
San Diego

Indianapolis
Tennessee
Houston
Jacksonville

Baltimore
Cincinatti
Pittsburgh
Cleveland

Baltimore over Indy

Carolina
Tampa Bay
Atlanta
New Orleans

Green B ay
Chicago
Minnesota
Detroit

Washington
Philadelphia
Dallas
New York

San Franscisco
St Louis
Seattle
Arizona

Carolina over Washington

Superbowl winner:
Baltimore over Carolina

Friday, September 07, 2007

By popular demand

I have been asked to give my thoughts on the Republican debate from a few nights ago. This will be tough because I actually didn't watch it. In fact, I was putting in a new garbage disposal instead. Well actually my good friend Aaron did most of the work while I assisted him.

My only thoughts on the debate are what I read about it and the clips I've seen. From what I can tell, Huckabee continues to outshine the others in this format. There was a great article in the observer about his performance. He is the one candidate who has the authentic conservative credentials without scaring off average Joe Americans. His mix of populism and good government results along with his ability to clearly communicate make him the best choice in the race.

I know that some of my friends are jumping on the Fred Thompson bandwagon. I like Fred. In fact I have a picture of he and I proudly displayed in my office. My question however, is what's his message? What does he bring to the table that the other candidates don't? He looked and sounded tired on the Leno show and he hasn't even hit the ground running yet. My guess is that he was nervous and he will improve but he is hardly the savior of the party that some want him to be.

My analysis of the current race is that there are three conservatives; Romney, Thompson and Huckabee that will battle it out on the right. Romney will win the NE and Midwest while Thompson and Huckabee will split the south. Whoever wins the conservative base will then face off head to head against Giuliani. And frankly, I am not sure if any of the conservatives can beat him. My heart wants Huckabee, my professional judgement says Romney but my gut tells me nobody.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Stunning

Well the University of Michigan's football team didn't take long to disappoint this year. Yesterday they lost to division 1aa Appalachian State in what some are calling the greatest upsets of all time. I missed the game because I was at the MSU game but the crowd there sure did enjoy getting the scoring updates.

While Michigan should never lose to a school like Appalachian State, I can't say I am terribly surprised. I knew they were overranked and was just telling my Stepdad last week that I didn't have a good feeling about the team this year.

The most frustrating part of yesterday's result is that this season is already lost. Even if they run the table and win the big ten and a BCS bowl game it won't matter. They lost to Appalachian State. That's the story of this season period. Despite a fourth year starting QB, an NFL left tackle, a star wide receiver and a potential Heisman candidate in Mike Hart, they still couldn't beat a division 1aa school. What does that say about our coaching?

By all accounts they were out coached and unprepared. Hmmm? That sounds familiar because they say that after every loss. And the reason they that is because it's true. By all accounts Lloyd Carr is a good man but he is simply not a good enough coach for Michigan if they really want to compete for a national title. We should have gone after Urban Meyer two years ago. It worked well for Florida. Instead, we will have to ride out this year with Carr. If yesterday is any indication it could be a long year.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Are you Ready for some Football

Last night I attended the Lions-Bills preseason game. While the action on the field was pretty dull, the event still heightened my anticipation for football season. Earlier this week I had two of my fantasy football drafts and both turned out decent. As always Running Back depth will be a problem but it is for everybody. I have two more drafts this weekend, so maybe I will end up with at least one team that I really love going into the season.

I just read ESPN's football preview and nobody is picking the Steelers to win the Superbowl. What a bunch of morons. How quickly they forget that this team won the Superbowl only two years ago with many of the same players. I guarantee that the Steelers rise above the pundits expectations.

Late last year my friend Charlie "mad dog" Thornhill passed away. For those who never meant him, he was a great guy and former spartan football legend in the 60's. In fact, he told me he once had 50 tackles in a game against Wisconsin. To honor his memory some guys in my building started a scholarship fund in his name and they are selling T-shirts to raise money for the fund. Tomorrow, I am going to the Michigan State-UAB game and wearing the t-shirt in his honor. I am looking forward to that.

As summer winds down, I do get leery of the coming weather and shorter days. But at least football provides something to look forward to this fall.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spreading the Word

This weekend the Lansing State Journal ran an article about divesting Michigan retirement funds from firms that do business with the Sudan Government. My friend Tashmica is one of the driving forces in this battle and deserves credit for shedding light on this important issue. I would encourage anyone who is concerned with the atrocities taking place in Darfur to contact their state senator and urge them to vote for SB 555. You can find their contact info here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Theresa

Like most people, I have a great deal of admiration for Mother Theresa and the work that she did for the poor. Lately, the church has released a series of letters she wrote that may change the way many view her. In these letters to her church superiors she expresses honest questions about her faith and her relationship with Christ. Her letters suggest that this struggle lasted for several decades even while she was doing so much to help so many.

I am sure some will take her doubts and use them as an example of hypocrisy that didn't match her public acts of faith and service. To me however, her service in the face of such doubts makes her faith all the more real and evident to me. Her faith sustained her during her doubts. Without faith, how else would she have been able to carry on her mission?

Her experience reveals the true nature of faith that we sometimes want to gloss over. True faith is intricately linked to our lack of trust in God. It sounds contradictory but without doubt we wouldn't need faith. Faith is the expectation and belief in something that doesn't seem real to us and let's be honest; sometimes God doesn't seem all that real. We want certainty. We want all our questions about God answered. As Christians we want a perfect relationship with Christ every day. But the real world doesn't conform to these ideals. In fact, Christ's very disciples didn't have a perfect relationship with him despite 3 years of close physical contact. If that's the case why should we expect or demand more faith from us and others?

This is good news for us. It's okay to doubt. It's okay not to understand why God answers some prayers and not others or why he seems nearby some days and very distant on other days. God doesn't mind us being real and authentic with him. Rather he prefers us to be open and honest in our relationship with him. Read the Psalms and the prophets and you will read over and over again people of God, crying out to him, lacking in faith. But their stories didn't end there and neither do ours. When we submit our fears and questions to God, he gives us just enough faith to carry us over the chasm of doubts in our life. God promises to complete the work he started in each of us. He doesn't guarantee that work will get done quickly or without struggle or doubts but he promises to get it done and be with us along the journey.

I am thankful that Mother Theresa felt free enough to be honest in faith. It makes me respect her all the more.

Praying for our Neighborhood

This past week my church participated in a prayer vigil for our community. Lansing has recently had several violent murders take place, including one in Hunter Park which is near our church. We teamed up with Blacksoil church to bring the community together and prayed for peace and justice in this neighborhood. Here is the article that appeared in the Lansing State Journal.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When was the last time?

One of my previous posts caused a lot of discussion about how one's Christianity influences one's politics. To be honest, I was frustrated by the discussion because it was not based in charity but rather on trying to prove how right we are on certain issues. Furthermore, I am particularly frustrated that we chose to use politics to measure each other's faith. Being a Christian is much more than how we vote and address political issues. Yes, I do believe that God wants us to honor him in our politics but he wants much, much more from us. So instead of using politics, I thought I would share other barometers to measure our faith. Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. When was the last time you really prayed for more than 15 minutes?
  2. When was the last time you thanked God for his vast and unexplainable love for you?
  3. When was the last time you had to trust and depend on God because the task he called you to was more than you could handle?
  4. When was the last time you admitted to yourself and others that you don't have "being a Christian" all figured out?
  5. When was the last time you stayed awake all night and cried for someone who isn't a Christian?
  6. When was the last time you shared the name of Jesus with someone who isn't a Christian?
  7. When was the last time you showed an act of love or mercy to your neighbors?
  8. When was the last time you helped someone who is hungry, homeless, in prison or mentally ill?
  9. When was the last time you actually took care of a widow or an orphan?
  10. When was the last time you forgave someone who didn't deserve it?
  11. When was the last time you gave more money to the church than you could afford?
  12. When was the last time you confessed your sins to another Christian so they could hold you accountable?
  13. When was the last time you experienced lasting freedom from the sinful addictions in your life?
  14. When was the last time God visibly demonstrated his miraculous power in your life?

These questions are not to be used to judge another person's faith. But rather when we answer them ourselves, we get an honest assessment of our relationship with Jesus.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Faith and Politics

Here are some quotes from the 2008 presidential candidates on how their faith influences their politics. See if you can match the quote to the candidate.

A. "I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena. In fact, the pandering that typically occurs in the election season I find to be distasteful. But for those who have asked, I freely confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior, and that I seek His guidance in all that I do."

B. "Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey”

C. "I don't think that a person who's running for a secular position as I am should talk about or engage in discussions of what they in their personal faith or their personal beliefs think is immoral or not immoral."

D. "I believe that a higher being has a mission for me in my life, a reason for me to be here. Now, that doesn't mean that he wants me to be elected or not, but it does mean that I have a purpose. And that purpose, I think, is to live a life based on Judeo-Christian principles and honor and integrity."

E. "For Americans, ['first principles'] are found in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They include a recognition of God and the fact there are certain rights that come from Him and not the government."

F. "My faith informs everything I think and do. It's part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible. I would not, under any circumstances, try to impose my personal faith and belief on the rest of the country. I don't think that's right. I don't think that's appropriate. But freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion."

G. "My faith informs me ... It guides my decisions and taught me to promote the common good, social justice and to do everything possible to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.”

H. "Real faith makes us humble and mindful, not of the faults of others, but of our own. It makes us less judgmental, as we see others with the same frailties we have. Faith gives us strength in the face of injustice and motivates us to do our best for "the least of us."

I. "I feel that through my Roman Catholic beliefs, I care about social justice, I care about improving the lives of those who are destitute, those who are poor."

J. "Faith gives us a broadly held belief in the importance of basic moral principles: the need to care for each other, the need to protect the vulnerable, to refrain from violence, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us."

K. "All of us inevitably live our faith, our ethics, our spiritual principles in everything we do, in every word, in every deed. It is integral to who we are."

L. "Faith doesn't make all your decisions, but you can't segregate it out — it's part of the values basis you bring."

M. "I'm very proud to be Catholic. It's part of my spirituality, part of my identity. When John Kennedy ran for president, I remember being so proud that he was Catholic. But he had to prove that he wasn't ruled by his beliefs. I'm with John Kennedy on the role religion ought to play in politics."

N. "The [Catholic] church has built the road that allows my intellect to traverse to the outer reaches of what is comprehensible and, at that point, the church offers a leap of faith to carry me where my intellect cannot go. For me, being a Catholic is not limiting but liberating."

Answers:

A. Ron Paul
B. Barack Obama
C. Mitt Romney
D. John McCain
E. Fred Thompson
F. John Edwards
G. Chris Dodd
H. Mike Huckabee
I. Bill Richardson
J. Hillary Clinton
K. Dennis Kucinich
L. Sam Brownback
M. Joe Biden
N. Rudy Giuliani

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Iowa Straw Poll Results

Well the votes are in and my predictions were not far off.
Mitt Romney: 4,516 / 31.5%
Mike Huckabee: 2,587 / 18.1%
Sam Brownback: 2,192 / 15.3%
Tom Tancredo: 1,961 / 13.7%
Ron Paul: 1,305 / 9.1%
Tommy Thompson: 1,039 / 7.3%
Fred Thompson: 203 / 1.4%
Rudy Giuliani: 183 / 1.3%
Duncan Hunter: 174 / 1.2%
John McCain: 101 / 1.0%
John Cox: 41 / .1%
14,302 Total Votes

Romney did what he had to do and is still the Iowa front runner. Huckabee had a strong showing and will be quickly elevate him to the top tier in place of McCain. Brownback despite only finishing 300 votes behind Huckabee has big problems because he spent much more money than anyone other than Romney and planned on finishing second. He will soon drop out and it will be interesting to see where his voters go. My guess is they split between F. Thompson and Huckabee. T. Thompson and Hunter are both done after poor showings. So is McCain whether he admits it or not.

But the real story of the day was the total number of votes which was only about 2/3 the total number of voters from 1999. This reveals two things: First Iowans are dissatisfied with the Republicans candidates as a whole and second it reflects the overall national mood of Republican fatigue. Democrats are more energized and or organized this year. They draw larger crowds, raise more money and have much more enthusiasm. That does not bode well for the Republican candidate whoever it is.

Annoying statements

I wish people would stop trying to encourage me by telling me I will get married someday. Last week, I had the difficult duty of explaining to a female friend of mine that I wasn't interested in dating her. When I explained that conversation and how awkward it was to another friend of mine she mentioned not worry because some day I will find the right woman and get married. Then earlier tonight, I was recapping one of my past dating horror stories. After the story, he told me almost the exact same thing about how some day I will get married.

Both statements annoy the heck out of me. The purpose of sharing my experiences in both cases wasn't to illicit pity and say "woe is me, I will never get married". Rather, I was trying to share how difficult it is to reject a crush even when you have no romantic interest in the other person and I was simply sharing a funny moment from my dating past.

The worst thing about it is that both of these friends are single as well so you would think they would have a better grasp of where I was coming from. Maybe they are both preoccupied with finding the "right" person themselves and they transferred their feelings onto me. Or maybe they were really well intentioned and trying to encourage me. But trite answers that miss the point of my stories aren't encouraging to me. Rather they just served as a reminder that our culture remains marriage obsessed even among those who are still single.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Morning Reflections

This morning as I was in the shower I began to realize all the changes going on in my life. About a year and a half ago a good friend of mine called from NY. She and I hadn't spoken in a long time and she asked me what was new. At that time, nothing was new; same apartment, same job, same church and so on. At the time I remembered feeling almost embarrassed that my life had become so lethargic. Fast forward to the present and I have had major changes occur in my life.

It started last May when I left Faith Church which eventually led me to Barefoot. This change has been a very positive one and through it I have made a lot of new friends and essentially I have an entirely different peer group than I did a year ago. Then a few months ago, I bought a house which was a huge change for me after living in the same apartment for 5 years. On top of that, I now have a roommate and also another friend of mine who rents the upstairs apartment. My latest change is the laser eye surgery which was amazing and makes me feel like a different person.

What I realized this morning is that while I love all these changes in my life, I still have a bout of restlessness that creeps in. I used to think that this restlessness was a result of my lack of change but that was obviously not the case. Now, I wonder if my feelings of unrest arrive from having the same job for the past 9 years. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate my job and enjoy it more often than not, but my zeal and enthusiasm for it have waned in the last few years. Maybe my uneasiness comes from that fact that I will turn 34 later this month and I am not married and have no significant hopes of a relationship on the horizon.

Lately, I have been rereading my favorite author Henri Nouwen. His writing consist largely of his inner struggle and his journey to find peace in this world through prayer and contemplative living. His writings often encourage me and put words to my inner conflicts that I cannot articulate. But how could a man with such spiritual insight spend his entire life battling the same type of restlessness and discouragement that I often feel? Shouldn't there be a secret to reaching a point in one's life where you surpass those feelings that haunt us and hold us back in our life's journey? Maybe not.

Maybe the point is that regardless of all the good changes and good people in my life, I still ultimately need to the Lord to bring me peace. Lasting peace doesn't come from buying a house, or having a strong network of friends or even finding the perfect church. It has to come from something deeper than that. And perhaps we are not even supposed to achieve a permanent peace but we are instead required to seek it out everyday. This approach makes sense when I look back and measure my relationship with God in times of relative peace versus my relationship with him in times of uneasiness. The more restless I am the more I feel compelled to call on his name. So for that reason alone, I am grateful for my restlessness as it serves as a daily reminder of my dependence upon the Lord.

Iowa Straw Poll

This weekend is the Iowa Republican straw poll. The event is a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party and will draw over 30,000 people. The straw poll is the first real test of strength and organization among the candidates and will propel those that fair well into the top tier while weeding out those candidates that fair poorly. This is why they are each spending hundreds of thousands of dollars buying tickets to events, busing in people from all over the state and giving away free food at the even. It's funny to think they our political system requires this much money to spent on a fake vote but that's how the game is played today.

So how do we measure the results today? It will be a bit tricky as they are matched the expectations going into the event. For instance Mitt Romney is expected to win today because neither Rudy, McCain or Fred Thompson are spending any time or money at the event. But Romney cannot just win, he has to win big to meet the expectations and show he is the front runner in Iowa. If he only wins by a few votes, it will be spun as a loss for him. The real key to the results will be who comes in second. Will it be a lesser known candidate like Mike Huckabee, Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback or even Ron Paul? If any of them win, they will automatically move up to the top tier of candidates. If they get beaten by Rudy or Fred Thompson who aren't even campaigning at the event then they most likely drop out of the race in the coming days.

As a political junkie I will be following the event closely today. Here are my amateur predictions:

Romney 29%
Huckabee 18%
Giuliani 13%
Brownback 12%
F. Thompson 9%
Paul 6%
T. Thompson5%
Tancredo 3%
Hunter 3%
McCain 2%
Cox 0%

The big stories will be Romney not reaching the 30 percent plateau that Bush won in 1999, Huckabee finishing in a strong second and Giuliani finishing third even though he didn't compete. It will also be the final nail in the Brownback, T. Thompson and McCain campaigns.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Finally

Barry Bonds finally passed Henry Aaron's all time home run record last. Unfortunately, After watching his first two at bats I missed the swing that set the record as I was flipping channels back and forth. But thanks to ESPN and the Internet I can watch replays of it over and over and over again.

I for one am thankful that this chase is finally over. All the hype and build up was unnecessary and annoying. I guess if I had no life and all I cared about was baseball then maybe last night would have been the life changing experience that the media wants to make it out as. But the reality is that it was just a home run. On top of that, I was sick of watching Giants- National games just to watch Bonds. If it weren't the record there is no way I would ever watch either of those teams play.

For the record, I am admit that I am a fan of Barry Bonds. I may be the only one who doesn't live in San Francisco. As a former Pirate and the last link to our glory days in the early 90's, Bonds will always have a spot in my heart. I realize that he probably took steroids but that doesn't really bother me much. Here is why: Many other players were taking steroids at the same time including pitchers that pitched against him. In fact, the pitcher that he hit 755 off of was busted for taking steroids. Additionally, steroid use was not against baseball rules until just a couple years ago so he was essentially playing by their rules. Finally, while everybody knows he took steroids, he has never been proven to have taken them.

To me Bonds, regardless of steroids, will go down as one of the top 5 players of all time. He now owns the single season and the career record for most home runs. He is the only player ever to have hit over 500 home runs and stolen over 500 bases. He won 8 gold gloves so he was obviously a good defender. He is a 7 time league MVP with many of those coming before he took steroids. Finally, if he plays next year he will pass 3000 hits, become the all time leaders in runs scored and finish third all time in Runs Batted In.

In the end, while I am Bonds fan and apologist, I am glad that this whole saga is over and we can now move on to the rest of the baseball season.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Moving closer

The 2008 presidential race continues to move at a rapid pace. This weekend about 30 thousand Iowans will vote in the Republican straw poll. While some candidates are not competing in the event, it does give lesser known candidates to make a name for themselves with a strong showing. One of those candidates is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. I didn't know much about him before he entered the race but the more I hear him speak and the more I read about him, the more I like him. I am not quite to the point where I am ready to endorse any one particular person yet but I find myself rooting for Huckabee to do well this weekend and breath some new life and new money into his campaign. The Weekly Standard recently wrote a fair story about Huckabee that has more details about him. I would encourage folks to read it.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Democrat Christians?

One of the things I enjoy most about my church is the diversity of political views among the congregation. Growing up in West Michigan and attending Indiana Wesleyan gave me the impression that all Christians were conservative Republicans. Only when I attended Seminary did I learn that there were honest, God fearing Democrats. It was a real shock.

At Barefoot, we are about a 60-40 conservative to liberal mix. To me, this is the perfect balance as it keeps me open to other ideas but my view is still in the majority. Seriously though, this diversity does add some interesting discussion about the world and the church's role in addressing social issues. This debate is very healthy for a church because no one political worldview has the complete truth of the gospel. One observation that I have noted is that most people hold their political views more firmly than their religious or theological convictions. I attribute this phenomenon to the convenient mixture of religion and politics that defines people's religion more by their political views than by their faith.

An example of this thinking occurred last weekend when my roommate's parents came to town. They were very friendly and both firmly Republican. His Dad enjoys politics so he and I hit it off right away. During our conversation his Mom made a statement about a woman that works at the Christian school but still votes Democratic. This was incomprehensible to her and she asked me how to reconcile that. It was interesting for me to explain and defend the liberal mind but having liberal Christian friends made it easier. What's funny is that I used to agree with her notion that being a Democrat and being a Christian were incompatible but the older I get the more I see how limiting this can be to message of the church.

Attaching the church to a particular political agenda runs the risk of turning our message of hope and grace into a message of judgement and power. No wonder people who don't share our political views are turned off by the church. This does not mean that the church should stop being an agent of change in our culture but advancing that change through politics is not the answer. Our hope is in the gospel, not in government.

I know that many of my cconservative friends will read this post and think that I have been indoctrinated by attending a liberal church and will want to argue their tightly held points of view. But my point is not to argue liberal vs conservative positions but simply to highlight that there is room for both views within the church. No in fact, it is imperative to have both views within the church.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

No Way to Pick a President

I am incredibly frustrated with the Michigan Republican party. Because they cannot get legislation passed to move the presidential primary before super Tuesday, now they want to hold a state convention to select the party nominee for president. This could be the single stupidest thing I have seen proposed in my many years in politics and believe me when I say that I have seen many stupid things.

Basically, what the party is telling the public is that they don't trust outsiders to vote in their primary. But it is these same outsiders that we will be begging to vote for our party's candidate in the general election. Why will they do that when we didn't want their vote in a primary. Add to that fact, that many Republican activists will effectively be shut out of the process as only a handful of party leaders choose the nominee for them. Of course, these are the same party leaders who selected John Smietanka to run for attorney general which opened the door for Jennifer Granholm's rise to power in 1998.

What these party leaders are proposing will set us back in the mind of the voters. They will see us a party dominated by the good old boy network and who could blame them for this judgement. Instead of closing off the process we should be working to make the process more open and inviting to public. Primaries have worked effectively in the past so why change course now?

I realize that there is nervousness that without moving up the primary Michigan will lose out on being a major player in the nominating process. But this thinking is misguided as I am becoming more and more convinced that the primary will not be settled as early as people think. Instead of being a potential key primary after Super Tuesday, we will be left trying to explain why we think a our party leaders know more than the voting public.

I would encourage all my Michigan Republican friends to contact the state party to file a complaint against holding a convention and encourage a fair and open primary. You can find their contact info at http://www.migop.org/

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Change in attitude

Yesterday I helped my buddy Sam move out of his apartment. The day didn't start well as nearly every road between his house and mine was closed for construction. After cussing several times, I finally arrived 15 minutes late. When I got there he and his kids were eating popcorn and candy for breakfast, much had not been packed yet and he hadn't even picked up the trailer. I remember thinking that it was going to be a long day. When he asked me if I would take his kids and pick up another buddy of ours named John while he went and picked up the trailer I was a little frustrated. It wasn't my first choice because I hardly know his kids and had no idea where John lived but I reluctantly agreed. That drive turned out to be the changing point for my attitude. While driving, we took turns selecting great songs from the 80's on Sam's MP3 player. There is nothing better than having young kids enjoy music from my past. We rocked out to Eye of the Tiger and Summer of 69 and by the time I picked up John my mood had changed and the rest of the day went fine. Sometimes it just takes the simple enthusiasm of kids to improve the day.

Monday, July 23, 2007

And the two shall become one?

Just across the street from our church is another church called Black Soil that meets at the exact same time as we do. They are small like us and have a relatively similar mission. Comically, we both place signs within 50 feet of each of other along Michigan Ave inviting people to come to our perspective churches. After both pastors met and prayed they decided it would be worthwhile to explore merging the two smaller congregations with the hopes of combining our resources and creating a tipping point for growth. Last Saturday night our church attended their service and in two weeks they are invited to attend our service.

To be honest, their service is much different than ours but I enjoyed it. The service had much more liturgy than we have and the atmosphere was organic and artsy. They have the room set up in a circle with lots of candles and mismatched chairs. Granted not everything worked in terms of flow and they went overboard in trying to be different but it was a good service.

Having said that, I have a suspicion that I was one of only a few in my church who appreciated their style. Most people I spoke with were fairly critical of the service. Even though we are a new church our self, many people in our church are more traditional and resistant to change. I can appreciate that. It's nice to be in on the ground floor of a new church and have ownership. Joining with Black Soil would certainly shake that up.

But our differences are more than just style. First, we are loosely affiliated with the Baptist church and they are affiliated with the Reformed church. While we agree on an abundance of theology, whether or not to baptize infants will be a challenge to sort out. Second, while our missions are similar, Black Soil is much more committed to it than we are. We both claim to be neighborhood based but the reality is that the core of our church is not from the east side of Lansing. I am little concerned how Black Soil will incorporate people from all over the city that don't fit within their specific model.

Regardless of whether we merge, one byproduct of the process has been a broader discussion of our own church mission and vision. We are an eclectic bunch drawing from a broad range of experiences. Frankly, this diversity is what I find most appealing. But I am not sure that we have ever really worked through these differences or if we have just sort of glossed them over for the sake of unity. This discussion provides a framework to address those issues.

One thing that Noah, our pastor, shared last night was that unity does not mean complete agreement on every issue but submission of our own agenda and opinions for the sake a unified mission. This perspective takes a lot of humility and sacrifice but I believe it is a true reflection of what we should look like as the church universal. This doesn't mean we should accept all teachings and opinions as equal or valid but there has to be room to disagree over the non essentials that often divide the church.

In the end, it is unclear where this journey will take us. But like most trips, the best experience is getting there.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My new look

This past Friday I went in for LASIK eye surgery. It was a success although the whole procedure was a bit nerve racking. Thankfully they gave me Valium before hand which helped me to relax during the surgery. They gave me a dvd of the surgery but I haven't watched it yet. Maybe when my eyes are fully healed.

It has now been two days and some times my vision is great and other times it's still a little blurry. The doctor tells me this is normal. Anyways, I just think it's incredible that they can cut into my eye and correct my vision. Science is truly amazing. That and having insurance that pays for the procedure. It is still weird to look in the mirror and see myself without my glasses but it feels great. Now, I just have to go buy some cool sunglasses.

Almost famous

The other day as I was walking to the capitol building a reporter with the City Pulse stopped me to ask a couple questions. Since I enjoy seeing my name in print, I decided to oblige him. Here is the link:

http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1207&Itemid=2

I actually think the picture turned out quite well. And of course, of the 10 responses, mine is the most well thought out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Everything I needed to learn about sex, I learned in kindergarten

Barack Obama is at again. This time he suggested that schools should teach sex education to kindergartners. When I first read the news headline, I thought he must have been misquoted or taken out of context. But no, he actually believes this nonsense as long as it is taught "age appropriately" whatever that means.

Here's an idea: Instead of teaching kids about sex how about teaching them to read and write and leave it up to parents to teach their kids about sex. No wonder our public school's are failing and that teenage sex is increasing rapidly. Obama's explanation for his position is that since kids are having sex they need to learn at an earlier age to avoid getting pregnant and catching diseases. But if you look at the facts, teenagers engaged in far less sex back when schools were more interested in teaching and parents were the primary source of sex education. And kindergartners aren't engaging in any sex that I am aware of.

Obama's comments once again highlight how out of touch he is with mainstream traditional values. Hopefully, people will begin to see through his centrist facade and view him as the radical liberal that he really is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dog fighting

Last night I heard the news that Michael Vick is being indicted for running a dog fighting ring. This is good news because it means that even his celebrity status cannot prevent him from facing a trial. The more details that come out in this case, the more despicable Vick appears. How anyone could treat dogs with such cruelty is beyond my capacity to understand. Frankly, dog fighting is only one step above what happened in the Roman coliseums.
Here are some details from other news sources:


The indictment said that in April 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick "executed
approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions by
various methods, including hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog's
body to the ground." Vick also is alleged to have consulted with Peace before
Peace killed a losing dog by electrocution in 2003.

The NFL's response to these accusations was less than forceful yesterday. While I realize they need to give him his day in court, how can the NFL stand by and allow these actions to go unpunished? Unfortunately for the league, Vick is one of their most identifiable players and his actions damage their reputation. I used to think that Vick's little brother Marcus was a punk but killing dogs makes Marcus look like a boy scout in comparison.

I would urge all Atlanta season ticket holders to boycott the team until they release Michael Vick. And I suggest that animal rights activist organize protests in every NFL town demanding that the league punish him for his behavior. My suggested punishment is to put him in the ring naked with one of the dogs he used to abuse.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Soccer Hype

This weekend David Beckham, the famous English soccer player, arrived in the states. He was signed by the LA Galaxy in the off season and the media is trumpeting him as the salvation of American soccer. I agree that he does give soccer a bit of boost in terms of interest and marketing but honestly the MLS needs much more than a soccer player who is well past his prime. Granted he is still a good player but hardly dominant. If he were still as good as people want him to be he would most certainly be playing in Europe and not in LA. But regardless, he could be the best player of all time and most Americans, myself included, would still not care about soccer.

Let's face it, it's not the lack of star power or marketing that is holding soccer back in America; it is the game itself. It's slow, methodical and boring. Most games end with only 1 or 2 goals scored and that is simply not enough to keep the American public's interest. Instead of trying to sell the game via Beckham, the people running MLS should try tweaking the game to make it more American friendly. I can hear all the soccer purists complaining as I write this but how many actual soccer fans are there? Maybe five hundred nationwide.

Here is what I would do to fix the game. Get rid of the offsides so as to allow players to get more one on one chances to score. This is such a common sense change and I don't know why they refuse to do it other than tradition. Second, I would widen the field to give more room to maneuver. Third, I would change the substitution rules to allow players to get a break during the game and then come back fresh. There is nothing worse than watching tired soccer players try to finish a game. Fourth, I would get rid of the yellow/red card system and instead go to a hockey type power play system.

If they did all these things, I guarantee scoring would increase and so would American interest. Until then, it will be the same old, same old, with Beckham or without him.