Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cold Case Reopened

Your mind can be a very powerful influence on what you believe and the actions you take. Yesterday, I went through my regular routine to prepare to leave for work without incident. I even walked out to the mailbox in my shirtsleeves and I thought to myself, "Hey it's a little cooler than I thought it might be today." But, I shrugged it off, finished getting ready, and was at my workstation before 5 a.m.

About 8:30 I received an email from my wife in all caps: YOU DIDN'T EVEN TURN THE HEAT ON FOR ME AND IT'S 29 DEGREES IN THE NEXT TOWN! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? To tell the truth I wasn't thinking about it being cold at all because the last report I heard it was only supposed to get down into the 40's, therefore, that's the expectation I had and I guess I responded to what I thought rather than the reality of it being much colder.

Maybe this is an example of mind over matter or the power of suggestion or just plain being out of touch with reality. This situation ended up making for a good laugh from both of us and to be sure while it is only 55 degrees this morning as I sit here at 5:20 a.m. doing this blog, that furnace at home is on overdrive preparing for her to wake up and start her day. I sure hope she remembers to turn it off before she leaves for work but that's another story entirely. On the way in this morning I heard that in Buffalo, New York, yesterday, it was 53 degrees at 3 a.m., and 15 degrees by noon. Maybe she should be thankful she wasn't in Buffalo and be counting her blessings instead of sending emails in all caps!

I do know that with the variety of medications I am taking, (I do need to blame it on something), I am no longer quite as resilient against the cold as I used to be. Remember that running joke about my Granny Mac and her telling me she hoped someday to see me cold like she was all the time? Instead of going out on the driveway on a frigid day in short sleeves and looking up and saying, "Not today, Granny!", I might be soon bundling up like an eskimo and mumbling, "Guess you are finally happy Granny, because I'm really cold". To be sure I haven't reached that point yet but I can begin to see myself on this slippery slope.

It seems more to be my feet that gets colder and sometimes when I get into the bed at night I find myself spending more time stretching over to my wife's side where she has the warming blanket going. She noticed this increased access into her domain and a few days ago she actually repositioned the blanket so that I would have more of it on my side. I was outraged. I told her it was nearly impossible for me to sleep with those hot wires all over my body. She laughed and moved it back to her side and said she guessed she would just have to share her domain with me each night until I was warm enough to move over. As if she really has a clue. Doesn't she know I am dealing with issues and I have this medical condition and I'm taking all these pills? What ever happened to the "Compassionte Conservative"? It's one thing to answer to Granny Mac about this cold natured business but I will not be subject to taunting in my own home! I do hope you find the little things in your life to be a source of laughter because when it's all said and done, "You might as well laugh than cry". God bless and have a great Thursday. ......More later.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Evil Personified

I know some would rather not think about the bad old days but remembering the past gives us opportunity to thank God for those who persevered and made it possible for us to live the lives we have today!

On this very day, January 30, 1933, seventy-five years ago, Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany. On that same day, my grandfather and his family in rural Louisiana were doing their best to deal with meeting their daily needs during the period that became known as the Great Depression. My mom was an eight year old who was very much involved in that struggle as well. The world was preoccupied with the global economic collapse and this change in Germany really didn't seem to be a great cause for alarm. It was on this very day in the United States that the Lone Ranger program on ABC Radio was first aired and it would stay on for the next twenty one years. The year ahead would see the movie 'King Kong' released starring Fay Wray and in March, Franklin D. Roosevelt became America's 32nd president.

Little did the world know at that time the 'King Kong' of Evil had ascended to his throne in Germany. I was born in 1946 in that first year after the end of WWII. That was only thirteen years after Hitler was installed as Germany's Chancellor. We all know what transpired during his reign of terror. However, it's still hard to grasp as we look at the magnitude of the sheer numbers of people killed and wounded during this season of hell unleashed upon the world. Total deaths from the war is estimated to be 72 million people of which 47 million were civilians and 20 million of those attributed to famine and disease. Military deaths numbered 25 million including some 4 million who died in captivity as POW's. Allied deaths accounted for 61 million of the total and the enemy countries called the 'Axis' lost 11 million. The total deaths represented 3.7% of the world's population wiped out including the death of an estimated 6 million Jews who were specifically singled out by the Third Reich. Those accounted as being wounded was over 20 million. Nearly 100 million people dead or wounded and literally hundreds of millions more family members devastated by the evil fomented by this Austrian born German by the name of Adolph Hitler. I do not take the time here to speak about the Stalin era where some 62 million Russians were sent to their deaths, and the Mao era where nearly 80 million Chinese lost their lives, but suffice it to say there's enough evil to go around, and then some.

I don't know about you but these numbers are hard for me to process. We are prone to think that WWII happened so very long ago but it wasn't very long at all. In 2005 we had in the United States over 55,000 people 100 years or older. These folks were in their thirties whenever these horrific events took place. I don't know how many we have in their 90's but it is most likely a much larger number and they would have been in their twenties when this took place. Statistics do tell us that 3 out of 4 of these older folks in our country are women but most of them could most likely paint a chilling portrait of what it was like to have been a part of this time in our history. I'm sure there are ratios and projections that give graphic insight into what all these losses meant to the population in each country. No matter how one evaluates it, the human toll is beyond our imagination.
Over 2500 years ago the Prophet Jeremiah was inspired to record this about the human potential for evil: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) On this day when many will pause to recall the example of this verse in action as seen in what basically started in the heart of one man given over to evil, we need only to look around us and perhaps even inside of us to know the potential any of us have, if we are without God and His help. The advent of Hitler and all that happened going forward pretty much silenced the teachings that man would somehow grow better and better until Jesus would have no choice but to come and live with His enlightened human family. Our hope is in God and we believe that God's truth is the final court of arbitration. Therefore, when He says, "The fool has said in his heart their is no God", we know this to be His judgment upon those who deny His existence and His authority. We also embrace His inspired admonition which tells us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". Seventy five years ago the world was shown what happens when God's Word is distorted and rejected to be replaced by man's hatred and evil. May God bless the memory of all those who gave of themselves in sacrificing to stand up against this tyranny. What they did then, allows you and I to be free today. A sobering thought on this Wednesday morning. .....More later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union

Last night I was working on my Bible study handout planned for this upcoming Sunday. I had a CSPAN live stream up in a small screen to watch, mostly hear, President Bush's State of the Union address. Just as he was being escorted in I lost the feed from CSPAN. It was obviously overloaded and maybe their servers were going bonkers but after several attempts I switched over to radio and listened to the speech. After the first few minutes my eldest called and asked if I was watching and I told him I was working on my lesson but listening on a web radio station. He told me I needed to turn it on because he thought something was strange about Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, who was sitting behind the president. He said she was continuously licking her lips and blinking her eyes. I told him it was not unusual for those sitting behind the president to even nod off at times. I didn't turn it on but I did think it was a good speech, however, I am realistic enough to know that it was mostly a speech, and since it was his last state of the union before he leaves office, and it is an election year, therefore, I seriously doubt it will have much impact on our nation's agenda as we move forward.

Before I lost the feed it was good to see our government on display before our nation and the world. We have so many issues, problems, and challenges as a people but all those branches of government filing in reminded me of what a uniquely privileged people we are. God bless America is one of our popular tunes and He has and He does even in these days of uncertainty and angst. The history of the state of the union is one that began as a written report from the president which was then read to the congress. It is said that Thomas Jefferson had such a frail voice that he could not be heard past the second or third row and that was one of the reasons he had someone else read his state of the union address.

Later, Woodrow Wilson, who was a great orator in his own right, began doing the speeches live and since then they have been presented pretty much like they are today with some additions here and there. I'm a sucker for these pomp and circumstance gatherings because they are historical and relevant as a testimony to this democratic experience which we are so blessed to be a part of. America with all of her blemishes, warts, and things that could be better, is still a beacon of freedom and hope to a world where far too many can only dream of such a place.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Church at Thessalonica, Greece, when he told them he would have them to pray for all those in power, for the governmental leaders, and those locally who exercised authority over them. Seeing President Bush made me think of how his life has changed over the past eight years and you can see the visible toll of this great responsibility in his face. In many areas I have been disappointed in his decisions and actions but I've never lost my respect for him, his office, and I continue to pray that he would seek God's direction as he leads our nation. The type of speech I heard last night was designed to establish a framework for what President Bush would like to be remembered for as his legacy while in office. I will tell you this. I believe the status of our country is in God's hands and I am trusting Him because He is always faithful and just in all His ways. As for Nancy Pelosi, I'll have to wait and see if she turns up in the funny papers anytime soon. Have a terrific Tuesday and may God bless. More later.........

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thoughts About Downsizing

When I was in the big corporate world I came to know quite a bit about the subject of downsizing especially in terms of cutting back on people and programs. It was an extremely difficult, gut wrenching process, that literally changed people's lives. Over the years there were different names used but typically the end result was still the same, people lost their jobs. Names were used like layoffs, reduction in force, rightsizing, and attrition but it all pretty much meant the same thing. Today it has become so common that it's more or less a routine part of how businesses operate.

My wife and I are beginning to begin to think about thinking about our own concept of downsizing. Today we live in a two story house with five bedrooms of which two of those upstairs currently serve as offices, one for me, and one for her. This is quite a large space for two people. Therefore, we might consider making a change at some point and time in the future. It would likely be if and when the real estate market became good again. My eldest son was over this past Saturday helping with a number of maintenance issues. This is another consideration for an aging home. In addition to this, we are paying insurance and taxes based on the value of our property and home. So much to think about.

One of the things I have been doing as a way of evaluating all of this has been to look at smaller single floor plans to get an idea of how this all might work. We bought a brand new home in 1971 for $16,999.00. It was either 1100 or 1200 square feet, including the garage. Some of the floor plans I've looked at are in this same size range but the one thing that has jumped out at me is the issue of closet space. In our current home we have a total of seven closets with three of them being fairly large. They are currently stuffed to capacity and I will not comment further other than to say that I could get by with one.

Whenever my wife and I talked about the fact that a downsized situation might only yield a couple of walk-in closets, well, that brought up the subject of what's currently in our closets. Coming out of this discussion I will only say that at this time the only thing we know for sure is that they are all full. We have not determined the nature or ownership of the items in the closets, only that we agree they are all full. However, it's good that we are having these discussions because whenever we do decide, if we do, to make changes, it will involve decisions regarding issues like closet space.

One of the characteristics of my tenure at the big company in doing computer systems was my belief that you find the very best product available that will accomplish the most of what you want it to do, and then you change your environment in order to conform to the purchased program. Many folks objected to this approach because they wanted to modify the purchased software to make it conform to our environment. I learned the hard way that this was not a great solution. Therefore, if we ever decide to go from 2800 square feet back to 1100 square feet, well, we are going to have to change our way of living! We will be like we were when we bought our first house nearly forty years ago. Essentially, back then we fit our lifestyle around the space we had to live in. This is how I see it going forward, but, bear in mind, I'm only 1/2 of this equation, therefore, what the future holds is any one's guess at this time.

I remember a fellow who worked for me and how his parents sold a huge home and purchased one of the big buses like the entertainers travel in to live in. They would travel to different places in the different seasons of the year but what a change! Now that's what I would call the ultimate downsizing project. But it does tell you that it can be done, therefore, we will continue to evaluate our situation and pray that God will direct us to the best solution for us going forward and that He will help us deal with the seven closet challenge when that time comes. Have a great Monday. .........More later.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Nothing Bad to Report.....YET!

I am doing my best to keep this diabetic deal in the background but it sure isn't easy. This past Wednesday I went to an ophthalmologist for an eye exam because my doctor has been hounding me to go since diabetes can do damage to your eyes. This lady doctor was very nice and pleasant and she explained how the greatest risk is something called retinopathy. They did all the testing and dilation and measuring and the infra red examination and then she said, "Well, you should be glad because I'll be sending your doctor a note to tell him there is no sign of any retinopathy damage at all". I swelled up with a good dose of feel good but discovered she was only in a pause when suddenly she added, "YET". Why couldn't she just leave well enough alone? I didn't need the 'yet' as part of her finding no damage at all.

That same evening when I came home from work I had a huge packet of information from our insurance company regarding a program they have available to help me manage my illness. According to the cover letter they will be taking an active role in providing me with information, support services, and ongoing monitoring of my developments going forward. While I am impressed with this proactive approach, it doesn't tend to help my desire to put all of this on the back burner. In addition to that, as I was thumbing through the booklet they sent, I saw a chapter that dealt with end of life issues. Now just a cotton pickin minute!

Then last night when I came in I had a letter from my doctor along with my recent lab results. Remember that little time release jewel I helped him come up with to further lower my glucose numbers? Well, according to the lab results I am doing so well I should stop taking it immediately and go back to the regimen I was on before. For crying out loud! Is there any end to my seemingly useless efforts of not allowing this blip on the radar screen of my life to become an obsession?

Okay, enough with the jokes already. All of the above is true but these events are primarily opportunities to give praise to Almighty God for helping me cope with this situation since last August. I was so proud of all my research and how I helped the doctor find that little 2.5 mg of Sulfonlyurea to help me, but the lab results say I don't need it......YET!!!!! To be honest, at first I was a little perturbed but when you think about it, in August I was diagnosed with full blown Type 2 diabetes, and today my numbers are very close to being in the non diabetic range. If someone would have told me I could have lost 35 pounds, changed my diet completely, and began drug therapy consisting of 12 pills a day, I would have most likely burped a big old "Blue Bell ice cream" laugh. But, with God's help, and I do give Him honor and praise for His help, and the support of my good wife, at this point and time I am again committed to making this situation a background issue. But meanwhile, I might as well enjoy the parts of it that I can! Laughter and medicine do go hand and hand. I do hope you all will have a wonderful weekend and that part of your plans will include assembling with God's people to hear God's message. Amen. .....More later.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Presidential Politics Fatigue

I've had jet lag a number of times and I know how it feels. But never have I been so exhausted from the political fatigue I'm already experiencing with this run up to the 2008 presidential election. On the Democratic side there appears to be chaotic mud slinging between the Clinton Machine and Barak Obama's team. For the Republicans, there's no one in the race that even causes me to show even a modicum of interest. This is sad because I believe our country needs a Ronald Reagan type to stand up and be counted. I would even love to pull for someone who didn't have a shot but who had the qualities I look for but I don't find anyone of this caliber on either side.

Even sadder, I can't really come up with a good name for a 'write-in' candidate. Some look forward to an independent showing up like the white knight to save the day but if it's Michael Bloomberg, well that would not be my idea of anything more than a liberal democrat dressed in a moderate suit and tie. I told my eldest son that I was thinking about doing a write in and he said that if I did I would be wasting my vote. But would I be wasting my vote? Since I believe I am not alone in my assessment of those who are currently seeking the nomination, my fear is that many of us will just sit out the election altogether. Both parties are counting on a surge at the end which is to vote for their person primarily to keep the other person from getting in. This would be in keeping with the motto, 'anyone but....' which will be a prominent theme in this contest.

We need a God fearing states person to step forward but I'm not sure we have too many of them around anymore. I'm not saying Ronald Reagan was perfect. But he stood for something as a symbol. He was an encourager and one who believed in the America that stood for our founders' vision. I noticed that Barak Obama said something nice about President Reagan the other day especially about his ability to inspire, and the Democrats responded by hurling virulent curses at him and for over a week he had to run for cover and explain and explain why he wasn't a fan of Reagan. Now I ask you, "Is this sad or what?"

No, I will not be putting Snoopy or Charlie Brown on my ballot, but I am beginning to understand why some people do this sort of thing. Meanwhile, I will continue to pray that God will have mercy on us and will provide the kind of leadership that will honor Him and serve the interests of all our people going forward. This past Tuesday we helped our Bible club kids memorize this verse from Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24, verse 35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away." I later prayed with four boys who actually perceived the meaning of this verse. They understood that whatever Jesus said was the truth and it could not be altered. Pretty good for youngsters, don't you think? Well, in the context of this political mess we find ourselves in, the Word of God is still the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Therefore, I can take a cue from those young boys who got it. God is in control and He will keep His word regardless of who becomes our next president. Thanks guys for reminding me of this truth. What is that we hear? "From the mouth of babes......" And so it goes. Have a good Thursday! ......More later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

See You In the Funny Papers

That phrase 'See you in the funny papers' has been around for a long time. It was one of the responses that Sam Wainright, the fellow who went off and became a rich industrialist, used when speaking to poor George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), in the movie "It's A Wonderful Life". There's quite a lot of confusion about how it originated and exactly what it means. Some identify it with a cartoonist back in the 1930's who used local people in his comic strips, hence, the phrase would make sense. Others think it originated as a term of comic insult to someone who would probably only read the comic section of the newspaper. No one really knows for sure but it has been around and it brings me to my thought for the day concerning finding a source of having a good laugh that brings a smile to your face.

I was a committed reader of the huge local metro newspaper for over twenty years. Once the paper changed hands and the new owners installed people who were intent on becoming a local version of the New York Times, I cancelled my subscription. This was nearly five years ago and I still get the paper. I have called many times and emailed but the local carrier keeps bringing me a paper each day. They usually end up in the trash can because I refuse to read it. But back in the day when I did read it practically cover to cover every day I always enjoyed my favorite comics. Different strokes for different folks I guess but out of the dozens printed each day I was drawn to a few of them.

Most people love 'Peanuts' because it's just downright funny and entertaining. I also liked 'B.C.', not only because it often used a play on word meanings, but also because there often was a deliberate Christian theme to the message. Don't know why but I actually read 'Luann' every day and it's about a teenage girl in all her difficulties with family, school, and life. Not too long ago I was talking to a 'real' cowboy who worked for years on the ranges in Montana. He's about six foot, five inches, two hundred sixty pounds, and he told me that he was a life long committed reader of 'Luann'. Go figure.

I also loved the 'Lockhorns', about a husband and wife going forth and back with each other. And, probably my most favorite was 'The Dinette Set' which is about some older folks and how they live life and deal with a variety of everyday situations. The point here is that we all need to be able to smile and the comics offer a place where we can. Fortunately for me, these are all available online and while I don't get to see every one of them every day, except for 'The Dinette Set', since it is part of my daily routine, I can still enjoy them and they are like a small time out where you can slow down and take the time to laugh at them, and typically at yourself because most good ones have real life as part of their appeal.

So I encourage you to find a source of good clean humor and take the time to pause and enjoy. There's plenty of the bad stuff all around and we don't have to go far to find the gloom and doom that each day brings with it, but there's also some wonderful joys that surround us if we take the time to recognize them. Having a cheerful heart and being able to laugh at many of the things in life that come our way each day will go a long way in influencing others. Until we meet again, I guess I will see you in the funny papers. .......More later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two Weeks And Counting!

Just two weeks until the Super Bowl and I'm sure everyone is getting excited. I keep saying I'm not interested but the hype alone is somewhat entertaining. I no longer follow the sport like I once did but I do try to keep up so I can discuss the games with others including my boys. In fact, Sunday afternoon while in choir practice I asked a fellow who came in late if he knew what the final score was in the Patriots, Chargers game. He said he wasn't sure but he would check it on his IPOD. Within a minute or two he pulled it up and gave me the final score. I had been watching that game off and on, more off than on, but for some reason I wanted to know the final score. Deep down inside I think it was because I was pulling for the Chargers to upset the Patriots. It's probably just me but those folks up in the Boston area they do tend to go even more off the 'uppity' scale whenever they have a winning team.

I also was keeping up with the game up in Green Bay, primarily because our eldest is a huge fan of Brett Favre but although the Packers had all the advantages of their dreaded frozen tundra they still lost to the surging New York Giants. The Eli Manning story is hard to resist. Here he is doing things they thought only possible from his big brother Peyton and the script just gets better and better. The Mannings are an unbelievable story as a family and having two sons playing quarterback in the NFL is amazing, but having the potential of back to back Super Bowl wins by brothers. Wow! Now that would be something!

But alas, I digress because I'm honestly not that plugged in to the whole deal. I know I've mentioned this before but it's hard for me to think about Super Bowl history without remembering the Joe Namath and New York Jets win over the Baltimore Colts in 1969. It had not been that long since we had moved back to our small rural community from Alexandria, Louisiana, with a transfer I took for a job at Fort Polk, Louisiana. While in Alexandria I was able to watch the NFL teams and I became certain along with the majority of people drawing breath on the planet that AFL parity was nothing more than a pipe dream. But Joe Namath changed that in one game and the rest as they say is history.

I can only tell you that not only did this game change football history but it also was the occasion for one of my most humiliating experiences. On that fateful day we all gathered at my brother-in-law's house for lunch after Church and then to watch the game. They lived out in the country and couldn't pick up anything other than one station that carried only AFL games so my brother-in-law, Kenneth, he took the Jets, and, of course, me being the more seasoned and well travelled expert on football, having lived in a town of 50,000, and with access to four different channels, I, in my own way of unsubdued haughtiness, laughed at his poor, misguided, and uninformed choice.

He was a big kidder and we went on and on before the game started. It was all in fun but also serious because by the time the game began everyone there knew exactly how the sides were divided. Women folk who had most likely never even watched a game were drawn into this contest between the two vocal combatants. Then the game began. Much laughing and much enjoying but it was not what I thought would happen. The Jets were holding their own against a vaunted Baltimore defense that was supposed to get hold of Broadway Joe and make a wish before breaking him in half. Big bad Bubba who was supposed to terrorize the offensive line of the Jets didn't and worse still, he couldn't.

Now I don't mind losing that much, (at least that's what I say now), but whenever we had made such a big deal out of this game and I most likely went way over board in my portrayal of how it was all going to turn out, the taunting and jeers from the entire family was almost more than I could take. I think my wife even was saying good riddance to my cockiness. To make it better for them I no doubt went from glowing red to a deep shade of purple. I can remember it so well. I wasn't on the field but I ended up with a broken ego and crushed pride that still causes me to wince forty years later.

It was good fun for nearly everyone but me. Back in those days I no doubt took it way too personal. And, perhaps that's why today I more or less am a bystander who no longer takes on an entire family over a silly football game. They took me down a notch that day and let me assure you we all need to be put in our place at times. I well remember that after the Jets win, one of the big problems was the network had no cameras in the Jets locker room. They had to scramble to get interviews in a makeshift way because they never dreamed the Jets would win. See there, I, at least was not alone in my assessment. This was embarrassing for them but not nearly as much as it was for me sitting in that living room with no answers to those men, women, and children who laughed me to scorn. Then when it was all over everyone hugged and we went home and after a few months I was able to show my face again! Just kidding but this was certainly how I felt. Here's my advice: Stay cool and don't get too wrought up over this upcoming game because there can be consequences! .....More later.