The Summer of Death

Farrah Fawcett, Micheal Jackson, Steve Mcnair,and now Ted Kennedy. Much has been written about the death of Kennedy(most of which makes me spew) but the best I have read so far was in The World Herald Op-Ed page here. It is a short article but you should read it before moving on. Watching the public mourn all these deaths I have had a number of thoughts.......

1. We overvalue celebrities.

The death of the three men this summer show that. All three had personal lives in shambles while considered heroes and icons in their professions.

-MJ(will not bother to comment)

-Mcnair fathered 4 children with 3 women and was killed by his mistress who then shot herself. Upon his death he was remembered as a leader in the community and one of the few black men to lead a team to the Super Bowl. These things are true but how much went unsaid. On of the biggest problems in the black community is the number of kids who grow up without the father in the home. Mcnair was not an example in this area and his off the field legacy looms large.

-The above article will you much about Kennedy. He grew up in privilege and no matter his irresponsibility his family name was always enough come press time and election day.

We live in a time with more news and pictures than any other but ironically this has produced fewer icons and more celebrities. I explain this by pointing out if I say a certain name from history we all focus on one picture(probably from Life Magazine). Marilyn Monroe(holding the dress down over the duct) or Lou Gehrig(the microphone) but not anymore. Now there are 1000 pictures of anyone famous out there to see on the web. Every politician,athlete,musician, or actor is seen so often they don't register that one image anymore. There are probably more pictures taken of Paris Hilton than anyone in America who isn't named Obama. We cheapen those who are famous so that they blend in with those who are infamous. I think of a book I read,The Beckham Experiment, where they discuss the family came to America seeking iconic status. His wife Victoria did a few TV things that bombed but she will guest host American Idol! This vanity comes from the belief that our identity is defined by who others perceive us to be. A christian response would be that our value is realized in God's image and saved by his grace. But even many non-christians teach their children that they should not live to be defined by others.

2. We don't expect or appreciate character.

The coverage of these deaths this summer showed this clearly. These men has huge issues and press seemed to separate the professional from the personal as if each man was two separate men. This is becoming common now and I think it is wrong. I find that nearly every funeral I go to the discussion is about the personal life of the mourned, not their job accomplishments. Because we don't value character anymore we don't report the absence of it.

3. I am not interested in any autographs.

I find there is no one in the world whose autograph I want. Why does a piece of paper become more value based on a signature? But as a culture we obsess in ways unimaginable. American standards for celebrities are at an all time low. On a related note so is the character of our nation.



I am going to start this post out by being honest and saying something that may shock some of you....I'm not very self disciplined! Take a second and breathe deep. If this news has caused you to have a heart attack, then call 911 and I did not mean to surprise you like that. Those of you that know me got a good laugh there but is a struggle. I am not good at
-getting up early
-stopping when I'm full
-regular exercise
-setting a budget
-keeping a calendar(and updating it)
-keeping an address book updated(my sister Becky tried to help by buying one as a gift and filling it up from hers)
All these are struggles for me but I have improved quite a bit. But I find myself thinking about time. For a few weeks I have begun getting early for my work out and bible reading. I have been fascinated by the people who could get up early, I have long done a poor job. But it seems to me time management is such a sign of priorities. Dr. Rushing was a prof at Grace U and I spent time with him in and out of the classroom and he said one thing that has really stuck with me:"The best way to measure your heart is to look where you are spending your spare time and disposable income. You use those to invest in what is important to you" I confess that is not an exact quote but I know I got the gist of it right. Some interesting thoughts.....
-When Dawson Trotman(founder of Navigators) was traveling he would take a secretary that he would dictate to. He would also write down scripture to memorize and review. A great book called DAWS reveals how he used his time.
-I once heard that Dr. Eckman(Grace U Pres.) planned out his day in 15 minute increments. He is an amazing(and busy) man between writing,his radio show,providing campus leadership, and teaching Church History without notes.
-After being on facebook on for a while I have noticed a trend. My facebook friends who I respect the most for living purposeful,gospel-driven lives are never on facebook! Instead it is always the same people but I realize I am questioning if I am one of these people. Understand this is a general trend with many exceptions but I think it is true.

Generally when I post about something it is an issue I have been thinking about for a while. 9 days ago my pastor preached a sermon called no mulligans(a golf term for do-over). He talked about how he plays in a group that allows them and as a result his golf score is always much better. This has given a false idea of his ability and skill. When later playing in a group that did not allow mulligans his score ballooned and he was caught off guard by this. He thought he was a better golfer than his score indicated. Then he applied this to time. We don't get time back. He talked about how much he still want to teach his sons and in 6 years he will have an empty nest. When we evaluate time based on this concept of no mulligans it takes on an urgency that should push us to focus more on what is important in life. Most of us think we do a better job than we really do. I hate the fact the sermon was so much better than my recap but you get the idea.

The funny thing for me was my struggle the last few days is one I didn't see coming. I am up early,exercising,eating well(get behind me Satan/Garrett). The hours I waste are at night. Whether they are unproductive based on wasting time on facebook or just staying up and not sleeping. I actually think it it is harder to go to bed early than get up early. I want to read,sudoku,spider solitaire,and do many other noble things. I hope this post is a valuable use of your time. Feel free to post or comment your thoughts if you read this(or if you look at the site and don't read it)


Worship Woes

I hesitate to write about this but I have been thinking about this for weeks so here goes. It seems like when I am involved in coorporate worship(church) I do a horrible job of staying focused. This frustrates me greatly because for a long time coorporate worship was just pure joy and now it is not. I don't think this is a part of getting older. I have been intentional about this for weeks but I have seen little change. I love to worship in car or home but for some reason I have just really struggled coorporately.

I confess that my critical side wants to look for exterior reasons. I will say I feel the worship guy at my church is too much of a cheerleader and not worship leader. His commands are never to calm my heart and mind but to sing out and clap louder. He comes across really....happy. But to put any blame on him is a cop out. If my God is so big then how come one guy keeps me from seeing him? I realized a while ago it was because during worship I was too focused on the worship leader and not the worship object.

At my church we lead off with worship(probably yours too) but I wonder if there is a reason so. Has church just always been like this? Personally I feel like hearing the Word preached always increases my desire to worship. Is vice-versa true? Does worshipping God increase my desire or soften my heart for preaching of the Word? I guess I don't seem to notice as much. It seems like worship is much more active and participatory then shouldn't it wait for primetime? I know those are just my feelings though and surely some disagree. I know there are many practical reasons why church exists in the current order. People who are late just miss a song and not some of the sermon. You can have kids in for worship and release them afterwards for some sunday school.

If any of my readers have had similiar struggles please let me know. I would appreciate any input on the matter. I know at the core this is a heart issue and a frustrating one. But I know I am not alone in this and would appreciate feedback.

Closing Story: This summer I have had the chance to meet a number of people who just graduated high school and are headed to college. Spending time with some of them has been a great encouragement to me as well as enjoyable. But when talking to Paul I teased him about the "Freshman 15" and his response........"I cannot wait to put on 15 pounds! I've been trying to gain weight throughout high school and I cannot do it!" To be young again..........


Health Care Questions

My interest in politics has been focused on the health care issue the last few weeks. Its all anyone is talking or writing about but a reason I started this blog was to express frustration with what I hear. But on this topic it not just the answers I hear but the lack of questions being asked. Let me break my thoughts down. I want to start with some Presidential quotes. A few of these are pointed out by Arianna Huffington on Huffington Post.

1. Last week Obama negotiated with Drug Companies and they will continue to set the prices for prescription drugs. Here are some quotes from Obama on the campaign trail about this topic.

"Congress exempted medicare from being able to negotiate for the cheapest available price. And that was a profound mistake."
"We will break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on the health care market."
He has just repeated the mistake and broken a promise from the latter quote! But next there is a good quote from a campaign document.

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will repeal the ban on direct negotiations with drug companies and use the resulting savings,which could be as high as $310 billion,to further invest in improving health care coverage and quality."
Obama is all about making election promises he can't follow through on.. If you are a liberal that disagrees go ask your fellow liberals who thought Gitmo might be shut down or the gays about the rights they've gained so far. I respect Arianna Huffington for standing up in her blog! The Huffington Post is a liberal blog site but she called the President out on the issue when she saw it instead of letting him coast and I respect that.

2. The atmosphere and mischaracterizations of these town hall debates. Many people have asked hard questions but some have been too rowdy. I can agree with that. But the democratic response has been disappointing. Nancy Pelosi has called them "unamerican" and many liberals have said this proves conservatives don't want debate. I find that an appalling statement! Remember the goal of the democrats was to vote on this before the break to avoid these debates! The House has passed Cap and Trade-a bill that will concern billions of dollars acknowledging they have not read it when they passed it! Why did they not debate that more? And they accuse others of not wanting debate! Where was this open debate about the stimulus bill/pork project that Obama needed signed immediately so it could sit on his desk for three days and take years to implement! The democrats don't want to debate this issue. When congress has agreed on a bill and takes it back to vote will there be a lot of debate? If past precedent applies they would have to read it first! The current administration has never debated issues and if my fellow "unamericans" had not voiced a loud disapproval this issue would already been voted on. But now these tactics of "voting before reading" have been exposed it will be tougher in the future.

3. How will it be payed for? There is one thing that has not been said I want to address. One possible plan would be to tax the private companies to pay for the public option. That does not work in competition. Imagine that tax is 5%. Two basketball teams are in "competition" and the game finishes at 100-95. Now tax the winning team(private industry) and give it to the losing team(public option). The score is now 100-95 and the other team wins!! That solution guarantees the eventual banktrupcy of the private sector! This is what Obama wants as he has stated clearly. The slow death of private insurance will be seen as an unintended consequence when it is clearly intended.

4. "The death panel" This phrase was coined in an op ed by Sarah Palin about a group of health care officials who will make decisions regarding the rationing of health care. This brings up a lot of questions for me....look at the panel put together for the GM hearings......
-It was run by a 30 year old venture capitalist with no experience in the automotive industry. I don't know how many people were there but only one had experience in the industry! Why should we believe it will be differently? Will the valuable,billable time of doctors be given up to sit on bureaucratic panels that will take much time. It will be Hospital Administrators who are most interested in the bottom line. If that is already true for medical industry why would vicious competition end it?
-Their decisions were politically motivated. There were numerous examples of Democratic donors holding onto dealerships that were far less profitable and sold fewer cars than other dealerships. Would the same be true for the death panel? I know that is a sick idea but it must be addressed. If two people are the same age with similar conditions paying the same health care will they really get the same treatment. Will celebrities be treated the same? How about those with political histories? Those are scary questions.
-Obama denies that his goal is end human life in order to save money but facts say differently. He wants end life counseling at a certain age. Is this to encourage people to use their last years wisely? To not give in to the temptation to not live dead when you are alive? He said at one town hall meeting at some point we might need to pass on operations and prescribe pain pills.

This is a thick blog and not the easiest of reads. I know I missed stuff and perhaps made mistakes but these things aren't being said. I would be curious for some dialogue on this issue if anyone has any thoughts or opinions. I think something will be passed eventually as Obama cannot risk a shutout on the issue. However to get something through he will have to water it down so much it will be hard to measure the impact and it won't be what he promised. Hard to measure the impact and not what he promised. This issue may define the Obama presidency after all.


"Now that's what I call high quality H2O"

I mentioned in my last post about the diet I am on. I have given up many favorites like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, as well as everything deep fried. But the one thing I was most nervous about.......soda. Those of you who know my family probably think that is funny. I am sure my sister is the only mom with three kids who has devoted multiple postings on her blog to Dr. Pepper. On my diet I am avoiding soda and pretty much drinking water only which is not real easy for me. Drinking soda has become a habit and I thought nothing of stopping at QT or driving through Sonic for a Rt. 44 Vanilla Dr. Pepper. As much as I love that drink I don't crave it anymore. I am on the 12th day of my diet now I am averaging about 5 liters of water a day. I am not educating you when I say water is good and soda is bad because you already know that. The contrast between the two has got me thinking......
-When you are really thirsty soda does nothing for you. It will not meet your needs because it will not hydrate you. When you are thirsty you drink water because it refreshes you and fills you up.
-Sometimes water seems too bland but it tastes so good when you need a drink.
-Most of the time when I drink soda I am eating unhealthy along with it. The waitress rarely refills water glasses after dropping off the cheese fries or onion rings.
-I start a lot of sodas that I never finish. And that is never because it hit the spot. Most of the time I don't want more soda, but oddly enough I am still thirsty.
-Sometimes I get a look ordering water in a restaurant. On the other hand I do say"I'll just have water" like I owe them an apology.
-Drinking water and thinking about it has led me to this...........

John 4:10-11

"Jesus answered and said to her,"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give me a drink', you would have asked Him, and He would have given it to you." She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water?"

I am always tempted to comment how foolish people in the Bible are and how they miss obvious lessons that are being taught. But like these same Bible characters I so often fail to understand immediately what God is trying to tell me or teach even though I have His word right in front of me. Jesus is trying to tell the woman that though she came thirsting for water she can have what she actually needs.

It is such a simple concept to think of Jesus as living water. He is everything we need and to drink of him is to never thirst again. I have studied this many times and I normally finish my study thankful to have found living water and wondering why I don't offer others a drink. But this time as I study I ask a different question:why do I sometimes pass by the living water Christ offers and instead drink the sodas of the world? Remember soda? It fills me up but never nourishes me. It leaves me still thirsty. It does not quench my thirst but instead numbs it. Nothing good or healthy follows it. It can be addictive but when you drink water again you wonder why you loved soda so much. And then you go refill your water.


Birthday Ramblings

I had a birthday recently and it was the first time where a "milestone" really made me think. Turning 30 has had an impact that 18 and 21 did not. The 18th was no different as I had and still have no desire to smoke. A 21st birthday is not a big deal for someone who lived in Europe growing up... I was 14 when Herr Mueller brought in big mugs of something sweet after SV Morlautern(my German soccer club) pulled a nice upset. But 30 has had me thinking for weeks now and will for weeks more. I have a number of different things to share, I'll start light.

My hair-For those of you fellas who are not aware, male pattern baldness is genetic-look at your Grandpa on moms side. I have not seen a picture of my Grandpa Fass with a full head of hair. My mom tells me he was working the comb over in his 20's. The shower drain is telling me this is coming and I have decided years ago I will be Mr. Clean long before I will be Mr. Comb Over! This could still be years away or maybe months away, I don't really know.

My right leg-A friend of mine just moved and his church had a goodbye picnic for him. We were playing volleyball with its many picnic benefits(social,easy) when some people wanted to play kickball. It brought back memories and I just had to play. I had a lot of fun and went to bed feeling young at heart. I woke up feeling stiff in quadriceps. I don't know if it is from running the bases or what but wow! A not so gentle reminder of my age.

My health-It's not that good right now. I have never eaten well(make that healthy) and as a result I am just not pleased with the weight I have put on. I know this sounds cliche but around the the fourth of July I was going through pictures and I found some......from college. When I was looking forward every night to running the hills by Rosenblatt. I loved it then. The picture is now 10 years old and I haven't enjoyed running hills for some time now. At Borders a few weeks ago I read Body for Life by Bill Phillips about eating right,excercise,blahblahblah. A week ago I started a 12 week program they have so we will see what happens. I took a "before" picture which may make this blog if I like the "after" picture. Its pretty common sense and similiar to the South Beach diet if anyone knows what that is. I try to eat 6 small meals a day, knocking out a lot of water. I have remained siezure free though and and that been huge.

My friends-On my birthday I got a call and when I saw the number my heart smiled. It was a good friend from college who I roomed with later. We talked about our lives and I realized I had not kept up with many of my friends. I have been blessed to know so many great people and want to do a better job of staying in touch. Ironically enough Jeremy didn't know it was my birthday but was just calling to make some future plans. After hanging up with my friend I left for a party to goodbye to John, a good friend of the last two years. Next weekend another friend Lynette has a commissioning service before she leaves for China. As a military brat I became accustomed to making friends and watching them go. But as I get older I realize life is still very much the same. God puts people in our lives for a time and then he pulls them away. A few months ago I did not know John or Lynette was leaving and it came as a surprise to them. It is often too late when we realize how blessed we are to be surrounded by good friends until we are no longer surrounded by them.