Monday, March 26, 2007

Alabama State Parks

Deer crossing the road at Lake Guntersville State Park

Deer on the side of the road

The deer were tame and happy to pose

Don't ask how I got him to smile :)

Redbud tree at Buck's Pocket State Park

Lake Guntersville

Buck's Pocket

Friday, March 23, 2007

Looking Towards the Election of 2008

My friend Sharp, in a recent blog entry, raised some very relevant questions regarding a Biblical response to current events. Well, that was right up my alley and it lit a fire under me inspiring me to post my thoughts. Great questions! I hope my answers are good too! Constuctive comments are highly desired, kind readers!

"Can he/she give us a government that will recoup our reputation in the world as a generous and compassionate nation? And could he/she take more seriously the fact that a large part of this world now finds our country distasteful? And this goes for Christians in other lands also. (I'm embarrassed every time I go abroad.) "

Answer: Should we be more concerned more about our reputation or reality. It brings to mind the verse that says, and I paraphrase; as much as possible, be at peace with all men. Many people in this world will resent us no matter what we do, whether it is as an individual or as a country. Frankly, I am more concerned about our country doing what is right and best for our country first, and what is best for our “reputation” second. Many of the very things this country has traditionally stood for will give us a poor reputation from others. For example, why should we expect Islamic extremists or ultra liberal European socialists to respect us. Frankly, I would be alarmed if they did respect us. As it stands now, the USA remains the most generous nation in the world.

Is he/she brave enough to influence the formulation of bold new initiatives regarding energy-consumption, healthcare, and Social Security? (If there isn't, the year 2030 isn't going to be a good year).

That is really a loaded question. It assumes, first, that bold new initiatives are needed in these areas. Second, Bible-believing Christians can have some honest differences as to what solutions are best. For example, I believe that we should look for alternative forms of energy, but we might disagree on which alternatives, how much the government should spend (if any), and why. The healthcare issue is really complicated. I believe that government-run health care is a proven failure in Canada and Europe, in comparison to our current system. That is not to say we cannot make improvements to our current system. But what should the government’s role be? What should the role of the church be? How much should we be taxed for this, if any? As a government employee, I believe that in most cases, government solutions are the least efficient. Social Security is a good example of this. And, whenever a politician has courage to bring up Social security reform, (see George W. Bush), they usually get tarred and feathered by the media.

Does he/she think they could stop putting our grandchildren in hock with hideous deficits? (Isn't being debt-free a Christian value?)

Interesting question about debt. While I think that living debt free is generally a wiser course of action and consistent with Biblical precepts, I don’t necessarily look at that as an absolute. How would most of us “own” a home without incurring debt? Most would rent their homes, which, if avoidable, is generally not the best form of stewardship. Then the question should be asked, “Should government debt be considered the same as individual debt? I say “no”. The government and other large organizations, including businesses could not function, or even exist, without carrying some debt. If you accept that some debt is not only permissible, but preferred, then the question becomes, “How much is too much?” I do not accept the premise that government deficits are always a bad thing. I think Christians can have honest differences on this issue. As a rule, I do believe fiscal conservatism, and lower deficits are preferred, and generally more consistent with what God would prefer our nation to maintain.

Would he/she take the issue of climate change and environmental care seriously? (It is God's creation, and some more generations may have to share it.)

As a lifelong weather enthusiast, I do not yet accept the premise that the climate is undergoing any human-induced change. I think mankind is eminently arrogant to believe that we are capable of altering God’s creation to such an extent. Secondly, I think it is just as prideful for us to believe that we can accurately assess future climate trends. We cannot even predict where the next tornado will touchdown this year in Alabama. How can we trust anyone (or any computer model) to tell us with any degree of accuracy what the Earth’s climate will be like in 10, 50, 100, or 1000 years? I am deeply troubled that Al Gore and others are claiming this as undisputed scientific fact and that politicians are asking our citizens to pay billions of dollars for policies that are based on such conjecture. Having said all of that, I DO support the general idea that we should be better stewards of our God given resources. I think that “global warming” may very well be another pop science fad that will go the way of the global cooling we were warned about in the 1970's. There is nothing new under the sun.

Would he/she pledge to be so truthful with the American people that no reasonable person would question their integrity? Let's describe this as being Lincoln-esque. (I'm tired of spin.)

Now this is a Christian issue if there ever was one. I am of the opinion that our nation hungers for this, especially Christians. But here I will blame the media. Lincoln would be chewed up and spit out by the media in 2007. Besides that, our citizenry is sadly too lazy to investigate and learn the truth. Too many wouldn’t know it or believe it if it hit them upside the head.

Would he/she renounce all forms of torture in the treatment of prisoners? (I'm ashamed that this is even an issue in America.)

Do not get me wrong. I am against torture, in principal. I believe that America’s values on this issue remain higher than most nations of the Earth. I am also against killing other human beings. But I must ask, are their situations that such behavior is acceptable? What about self defense? What about doing it in order to save a wife or a child? What about if it is in our national security interest? What about a war? What about the wars in the Old Testament between the Israelites and her enemies? Has God ever sanctioned violence and destruction? I ask the question: What would be more responsible? Torturing an avowed enemy combatant and thus protecting innocent Americans or placing our own people at risk by squandering an opportunity to gain valuable, life saving intelligence? I am of the belief that there are situations where Christians can honestly disagree about this issue. There are numerous verses in the Bible to support various positions on this issue. It also raises a larger question: are we even a Christian nation any longer, and if not, do we even deserve to debate this issue?

Is he/she concerned about the growing social crisis of the separation between the rich and the poor? (It's becoming a gated world out there and one day there may be a new kind of homegrown terrorism.)

It should be a concern. There is a limit to what can be “legislated” however. The Biblical precept that the poor will always be with us is sadly true. It seems to me, based on what I see in my human services job, that the opportunities to escape poverty are greater now in America than perhaps ever before. Why else would so many Latin Americans seek prosperity here? The main barriers to avoiding povery in America are character and personal responsibility.

Does he/she think they might rethink the exporting of billions upon billions of dollars to places like Iraq when a few billion would make a lot of difference in the education of American children and the absurdly rising costs of college education? (I can't believe we are so silent on matters like this.)

We spend more on education than ever before. Check out the brick and mortar palace called (I decided to delete this school's name), in the middle of nowhere, along the Cullman-Winston County line. That is just one among thousands of in both rural and urban areas across this nation. I wish we spent less on brick and mortar and bureaucrats and more on hiring expert teachers and professors for our children. And that is not a slap in the face of our current teachers. I just wish their salaries would be higher and those that are effective would be rewarded and that those who are not would be removed.

Might he/she intend to offer any form of moral influence that would raise the tastes of our nation in its choices of entertainment, the spending of its money, and its growing addiction to sports? (Or does Rome live again?)

Yes, that would be great, but, like my Lincoln comment earlier, would our post-Christian culture elect anyone like that? I doubt it! Could a Christian holiness preacher, with a talent for leadership, be elected President in this country, regardless of his politics? Absolutely not in our current climate. It sure wouldn’t hurt, though, to give it a chance.

If there is ever again a justifiable reason to take this nation to war, could he/she make sure that everyone becomes involved in the sacrifice that war requires? To date the burden or war seems to be on a relatively small percentage of Americans while everyone else goes on living the so-called "good life?" (You destroy a nation by doing it the way we've been doing it. How did we forget Vietnam so easily?).

In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes of Vietnam was the draft. People who serve this country must do so willingly! God does not force us to serve Him. Why should Uncle Sam?

Could he/she see themselves being as turned on by the dream of alleviating diseases, suppressing genocide, and rescuing the dying nations (debt forgiveness comes to mind) as America once was about getting someone to the moon?

We need that. It doesn’t excite too many Americans, though. How many people are aware (or even care) about President Bush’s initiatives to fight AIDS in Africa? It sure did not help his approval ratings. I have not heard much mention of it on Fox News or CNN.

These are all questions with an admitted political ring to them. But each arises from my convictions as a biblical person.

Thank you for raising these issues. As Christians, we should take these things more seriously.

I will add one issue, that is at the top of my list for America: ABORTION. To me it is like slavery was in the 1800's, only infinitely worse. Instead of enslaving innocent people who could barely stand up for themselves, we are MURDERING innocent children who cannot utter one word in their own defense. To me, as a Christian, this is more offensive and disheartening than anything else mentioned above. I hope and pray that someday, in the not too distant future, Americans look back on those of us living now (like we now look back on Americans who lived in the 1700's and 1800's), and wonder, “What were they thinking? How could they tolerate and accept such evil?” We are correct to wonder that about slavery. But, before we do, shouldn’t we get the log out of our own eye first?

My prayer: Lord, please change the hearts of Americans on this issue so that we will stop killing our babies by the millions. Please have mercy on our land. Please help us to rise up against this evil. Please send a revival of epic proportions, causing us to repent, turn to Christ, flee from evil, and make better choices as a people. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Life Less Ordinary"


The first thing the boys and I did Friday was to go grocery shopping. Grocery shopping on pay day is so much more fun than grocery shopping during the last few days before getting paid. I try to save some money every month, but as most people do, I still live "paycheck to paycheck" and I don't borrow money. It's funny because Thursday evening, I had to scrounge around the house for canned goods and scraped together things that had been passed over for quite some time.

Friday was another story. Without going too crazy, I decided that we would get what we wanted at the grocery store. I got a T-bone steak. Among other things, the boys got two different kinds of chips and dip, biscuits, a variety of frozen pizzas with extra cheeses and pepperoni to add. We also bought way too many colas. I just decided that it was o.k. once in a while to treat ourselves to things that we wanted, as opposed to what we needed.

By the way, I have this little grocery shopping trick. When I finish getting everything, I try to make it a habit to take one or two things out of my buggy that we don't need and put them back on the shelf. It saves money and calories. Friday we didn't do that!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Managing Debut

Tuesday March 13, 2007 at 5 p.m. I made my official debut as manager of a baseball team. My son is on the 9&10 year old team this year and we had our first practice. I introduced myself to the group of parents, spoke to a couple of the dads about helping me as assistants, and spoke to the team.

I introduced myself to the team and called each of their names out from the list and aked them whether they played baseball before, how long, and what positions they have played. I then let them pair up and play catch. The assistants put out the bases while I watched the boys playing catch. I then split them into two groups; half in the infield and half in the outfield. The assistants hit them grounders and pop-ups while I looked on. We also let two of the boys who have pitched before throw to the coach as he hit grounders. I also hit some to the outfielders.

After a break, we swapped the infielders with the outfielders. We made them all do some running. I then talked to the team briefly at the end of practice. I encouraged them to play catch and go to the batting cage whenever they could. I told them that if they don't have many opportunities to play catch, they could throw a tennis ball against a wall. I told them that we have a young team and that we may win all or none of our games but that my goals were that everyone has fun, everyone learns something, and that everyone plays a lot.

This should be an interesting year!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge is located in the western part of Winston County, AL, also known as "The Free State of Winston", because they did not leave the union during the Civil War like the rest of the South.

Natural Bridge is the longest rock arch east of the Rocky Mountains.

View from beneath Natural Bridge

Close up view of Natural Bridge.

Notice the trees that have taken root in the shallow soil on top of the rock.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Strange Sights in Winston County

Look at the instructions under the 278 West sign. Duh!

Yummy! Not!

You dont see signs for goat farms every day.

48th annual? That's a lot of intestines.

I should have asked if their gas really is $1.00 per gallon!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I've gone and done it..., not like the famous song by Shania Twain! I haven't fallen in love. (I don't think?!) I committed to be a little league baseball coach! The 9 and 10 year old league didn't have enough players. I was asked if Matt, who just turned 8, was ready to move up to the 9&10 league. His coaches from last year and I agreed that he was ready. Then the other shoe fell. They needed a coach. I immediately stepped up to the plate and volunteered. I know I can do it. I know baseball like the back of my hand. But I haven't learned the finer points of Dizzy Dean league rules. I'm not used to dealing with unreasonable parents. Wait a minute. Never mind. I do that nearly every day at work. I think I can handle it. It will be a wild ride, I'm sure. The parks and recreation director said he has one rule: Don't embarass the town. I think I can abide. Look out baseball world, a new manager has entered your ranks!

Those Crazy Kids...

Matt changed schools this year and told me it was good because all of the girls at his old school wouldn't leave him alone. They were always trying to hug him and be his girlfriend, he said. He claimed not to like it, but I think I know differently! Matt is outgoing and has a bubbly personality. Joe is quiet, very intelligent, and usually even tempered. David is opinionated, sometimes argumentative, and deeply into sports and music. He is also very tender-hearted and thoughtful of others. They are all so much fun to be with.

Matt told me the other day that I couldn't get married again (I don't have a clue what brought that up). Anyway, I asked him why he said that I couldn't get married. He said it was because he didn't want any more brothers or sisters. He said that the girls (from his mom's relationsips) get on his nerves all the time. I asked him if it would be ok for me to get married if the lady had boys or no children at all. He said boys would be probably be ok, as long as they were younger than him and that it would be better if she didn't have any children at all. I'm thinking, "Thanks a lot Matt! You just narrowed what is already a very small field!"