Saturday, December 19, 2009

Writing in the Snow: An Irreverent Perspective on Our Cultural Ideas About Inclusion

Warning: This blog entry involves imagery that some might find offensive, while others might find quite natural.

Once upon a time there was a small town in which all the children, except one, were boys. The one lone little girl, Sally, was cherished by all, even though she was "different". At first she didn't notice the difference because, well, small children don't naturally notice those things. The other kids didn't notice either, and all was good in the world. Her parents knew that she would come to understand that difference, as would all the boys, but that if they made sure there was always a way for her to participate in the town, then she would not see that difference as something to be ashamed of. The world was full of girls and everyone knows how important they are! In fact, when she was all grown up, she would be one of the most valuable "possessions" that the town had!

So time went along and all were happy in Boyville. But as she and her friends grew, she began to notice things.

For the most part, her friends were faster and than her. True, she was faster and stronger than some of the other children, but she never placed first in a test of strength or speed. But, that was okay, because she also noticed that there were things she could do better them them -- she could sit still and pay attention longer, and was able to add her own perspective on things to conversations. She was always able to keep up, and her smaller size made her an attribute in some games (like hide-and-seek). She was different, but no one saw that as a problem. The lone girl in a town full of boys, comfortable with who she was.

One winter day, though, her friends all discovered something that they could do that she couldn't. They could write their names in the snow. Now, really, Sally thought that this was juvenile and didn't really care that she was missing out on this "fun". There were hundreds of other ways a kid could have fun! So, she contentedly found another activity to fill her afternoon, never a thought about it.

The next afternoon, the boys were all done being enamored with their unique ability to write in the snow, and so the kids all went back to playing dodge ball, snowball fights, video games and board games. Occasionally they would write in the snow, and when they did, Sally just found something else to do.

But, then, one day she heard the oddest thing. Her town was going to have an afternoon play date and the focus of that play date was -- writing in the snow.

Sally held back the tears as she read the flier on the town square:


What?! The one thing I can't do? Why in the world would they pick that? She thought. There are so many fun things to do... why would they pick that one thing? And why would they make it the only thing at this party?

Up till now, there are had been moments where it felt awkward to be different, but this, the feeling of being left out, this was completely new. Her Mom and Dad understood, and tried to advocate for her, but no one was willing to really listen. They thought that inclusion meant that she was simply welcome to be there, not that she was to be included as a valuable and equal part of a celebration.

Her parents sought counsel with the Mayor. The Mayor was a nice man, but he just didn't get it, because, well he could write in the snow, too, and had done so all his life.

"We'll get her an aide." He told them. "She can have some one with her and when they write in the snow then the aide can do it for her. She can kind of wiggle her hips so it feels like she's participating."

"Well," her father replied, "Sally doesn't want to pretend she's participating. She wants to participate. And she definitely doesn't want some adult following her around all afternoon. I mean, would you have wanted that when you were 10? Something like that will only make her feel like she's standing out even more!"

"Well," the Mayor responded, "It just doesn't make sense that you wouldn't want the town to have fun...." and the case was closed.

He didn't understand that the parents weren't saying not to have the town party or that the town party couldn't contain some form of writing in the snow, but that by making that the focus it was excluding Sally, and any other little girl that happened into town. Or maybe the boys who were uncomfortable with writing in the snow, or whose parents didn't have the money to purchase them snowsuits to keep them warm while writing in the snow, that those boys would be left out as well..... with a world full of options, why is there a need to focus on this one thing?

For the weeks leading up to the event, all the kids in town talked about it. Sally was silent. Her parents were silent. There was nothing for them to do, but every time a smiling boy came by and mentioned it, or a teacher at school asked if they would go, just one more tiny little part of their hearts would break.

Not because writing in the snow was really all that fun, but a certain realization would sink in even more each time they heard about it. People were willing to include Sally, as long as it cost them nothing in exchange for doing so.

They also felt sad, too, that people would never understand that the joy of having Sally, or any other little girl, included in what they were doing, far outweighed the fleeting fun of an afternoon of writing in the snow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

This was forwarded to me by a new friend of mine, Santa Bill, who is a kind gentlemen that happens also to beSanta Claus for some beautiful Ukrainian orphans in norther western Ukraine. It was a role he took on because he loves Jesus.

I don't generally post forwarded things on my blog, but I absolutely love the perspective of this:

Letter from Jesus about Christmas~

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up..... It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit-picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday.. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then BEHAVE like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest.

Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love -- and remember:


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas, A Long Time Ago: Twas the Night Before Christmas Part II

I remember a long time ago, when Christmas was a peaceful time of year. However, it just seems that with each year, there are a group of my fellow believers who just want to make even Christmas Season a time of war with our culture. And while there many things I love to take issue with our culture, I just don't get this Christmas thing.

You take a sacred holiday which was originally celebrated by Christians (after being converted from being a pagan holiday) and was designed to celebrate the fact that God himself made him vulnerable enough to become a human being. Then somewhere along the way, St. Nick made his way in, as did other traditions.

Then Santa joined in, and within about 50, maybe 75 years, you have a holiday called "Christmas" but that really, in functional terms, has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with stimulating the economy.

In my decision to NOT be depressed by the excessive materialism and arguments that just seem to erupt from this season, I have searched my inner poet (OH NO, NOT THAT!) and written yet and other cuplet. I channeled my inner Dr. Seuss.

It's cheesy and smarmy, but it's also in reaction to the hundreds of forwarded emails I keep getting about "Twas the night before Christmas.... yada yada yada... people don't care about keeping it Christmas, they just want to take Christ out of it."

Well, in my opinion, I don't really want them putting such a beautiful name into such a sickly excuse of a holiday. If the stores are needed for Christmas, I don't want anything to do with it. They can keep their holiday season and I can keep mine!

All I can think each time I hear the alarm sounded, is a little meek voice inside my head that says, "Didn't Christ love them enough to give them a choice?"


Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Christmas day danced in their heads.

They were thinking about what they had bought for each other

Each brother and sister, friend, father and mother

Dreaming about playing with cousins and Aunts

and Uncles and parents and sweet yummy snacks

Dreaming about cookies, family made feasts, gifts from those who love them

And celebrations so neat.

They didn’t have wish lists that went out the door

They didn’t have appetites that just wanted more.

Christmas had been shown them as a love celebration

Of the love of God, who sent his son for salvation

It wasn’t about presents, or a man who brought toys

It wasn’t about buying more games or stuff that makes noise

It wasn’t about manipulation or culture war battles

It wasn’t about catch phrases or false holiday values

It wasn’t about pining for the days way gone by

It wasn’t about yelling for the world to comply

It was about the passing of love and submitting of power

First by God , and then Christ in his first and last hours

The Word became flesh, God lowered himself

To become one of us and give of himself

God does this but once, and it just seems to be

Something to celebrate, and think of as holy

So, to turn it into a material mess,

where we yell and we fuss, as the stores have digressed

Is simply a miserable, angry response

That, really, we shouldn't want to focus there even once

When what we should do is give them the less

Let them have their shallow materialistic fest

Then, we could be like my sweet children each year

And we'd have "won" for he'd be remembered with cheer.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Not a Christian was praying – they were all tuckered out

From buying and charging and hording galore

But, only from AFA approved stores

Not wanting to offend Wildmon or Dobson

they undertook causes by hundreds and thousands

But not about Gap who has nothing to say

Of Child labor, sweathouses and low wages they pay.

Taking kids from their families, and pumping with drugs

Making cute little coats, hoodies or gloves.

“Ooops” they say, “We just didn’t know.

Obviously our employees were hiding it so.”

1 time, maybe 2, but now 3, 4?

No ‘tis obvious to all there must be something more.

Turning the cheek, in this world, as they say

no longer means forgiveness but, look the other way,

But Christians, that’s not the cause that they fight,

but instead protest a rather small slight.

For avoiding the word “Christmas” GAP was banished by men,

But now that they say it, we can shop there again,

Little Madhur will work while suffering the flu,

And depression, and starvation and homesickness too,

But we know for sure, that when under our tree,

Gap gifts will be honoring to Jesus, you see

For they were purchased from a store that made sure to say

“Merry Christmas” with their “Happy Holidays”.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

I haven't blogged much lately because I've been too busy home schooling, attempting to promote my book and have actually started graduate school (part time). I thought about closing this blog to help focus my attention elsewhere, but decided to keep it opened for times I wanted to write about something that I thought was important. As such, that time has come.

There are few things that grieve my soul more than the twisting of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things that I believe to be morally wrong, but few things that grieve me in this way: American Civic Religion. And, yesterday I saw a website that I found so disturbing that it actually gave me nightmares! As so often is the case, the perversion of truth starts with a grain of truth. In this case, the poor handling of debt and stimulus in our federal government. What is so frightening to me, is the way those who pervert the truth do it so cunningly and make it sound so "good." Unless, of course, you commune with the only One who is truly good, and so can recognize His Presence or the lack thereof.

The Prophetic Ministry of Bob and Bonnie Jones has managed to gain a fairly significant following as they pervert and twist scripture to meet the needs of their political desires. I'm not certain if their perversion is the product of years of poor Biblical teaching or if they just openly desire to manipulate people by preying on their fears in a politically tumultuous time. Either way, I would go so far as to call them blasphemous.

Isaiah 61 in no way references the Tea Party of America. The Tea Party is a legitimate political movement that contains many faithful Christian people. It is not inclusive of the entire church. There are Christians who simply are not as conservative in their political views and are not part of the movement. There are Christians who are politically polar opposite of them. To reference a current political movement as scriptural is not only academically laughable, it shows that they a have a complete misunderstanding of scripture.

The good news being proclaimed in Isaiah 61 is the good news that we are all forgiven! The good news that Jesus is evidence of the fact that God, directly after the fall of man, sought us out in relationship despite our fallen nature. It is NOT the proclamation that "taxation without representation" is unacceptable. The Bride in the Bible is not the Tea Party of America. It is the church -- which is comprised of every tribe, every nation and EVERY POLITICAL PARTY.

We are not ancient Israel. We are not a theocracy. If we are a theocracy then we are scripturally very off base and according to the book of Acts should be pursuing socialism rather than capitalism. I, for one, am very glad we are not a theocracy.

Every Christian is called to political action, but our political action will not manifest itself in the same way. By proclaiming the Tea Party some kind of movement of God, Bob and Bonnie have totally cheapened Christ's sacrifice, furthered a political agenda that risks removing real Christianity from the public square and probably made a few bucks in wake of it all.

Christianity is about following Jesus Christ. It is about pursuing the Kingdom of Christ while living in the Empire that we were born into. Don't legitimize the empire by trying to make it the Kingdom it simply can never be. Make the empire the best it can be by living Kingdom principles in it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Opportunity to Help Kazkh Orphans!

Here is a link to a blog written by a fellow adoptive mother and author (Adopting Alesia: My Crusade for My Russian Daughter). The blog is enjoyable and Dee is currently holding a raffle in order to raise money for the Antares Foundation -- a great non-profit in Kazakhstan that serves orphans. Great cause and great prizes!!! The raffle ends tonight so check it out today!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Perspective On Canadian Health Care

I don't normally post things on my blog that have been written by other people, however, the following email was written by my cousin, who lives in both the US and Canada. So, I feel she has a perspective on the Canadian health care that would be, by my standards, a original source. She's seen it first hand. I think that no matter how you feel about universal health care and that even though the Canadian system is different than the changes being argued in congress, it is worth reading because there is a contingent within our country who still clings to the belief that the system works well there. I also think it's an important part of the discussion because, ultimately, our world is not a just place. As a Christian I am constantly striving for social justice, however, no system in the world outside of God's kingdom -- be it public or private -- is going to
to achieve that. If we naively believe one system can solve all our problems and preclude the need for the church to care for the health and well being of humanity, then we're simply finding our own way to abdicate our responsibility.
There is an awful lot of talk going around about the proposed health plan for this country. Several friends and relatives have sent me e-mails asking me about Canada's national health plan and how it functions. I have finally decided to just relate our experiences with their plan and let you all make your own decisions about whether you think we can afford or even want a government run plan.

We live in a town of 16,000 people. We have four general practitioners, one ob-gyn, and one general surgeon. There is a massive waiting list for those people who wish to have a private doctor. Meanwhile, those who do not have a doctor go to the emergency room. This includes all of the poor and minorities and much of the middle class population of the town. There simply are not enough doctors. They are coming to the US to practice. If a person in our town needs an MRI, there is a 6 month wait, and they must travel 2 1/2 hours to Winnipeg to get it. There is a 10 yr. wait for hip and knee replacements there, a 6 month wait for biopsies after positive mammograms. Colonoscopies are used as a last resort, and mammograms are only done every two years. When a new doctor comes to town, people are called and assigned an appointment time to be "interviewed" by the new doctor. Basically, the docs pic and choose whom they want to bother with. Old, preexisting condition? Forget it. Poor? Forget it. If you cannot keep the appointment, you lose your chance until the next time around. Remember, it was assigned.

There is an 18 month wait in our town for carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. It is done the old fashioned way. If you want the new surgery, as we have in the US, you must wait up to three years to have it done in Winnipeg. In short, elective surgery (even when you are in extreme pain) is wait, wait, wait.

Now, you say, is it this way all over Canada? No. Our province and Manitoba do not permit private health insurance. Many of the others do. Therefore, people in those provinces who can afford private, often come to the US for treatment. Also, there are more doctors who accept private insurance in those provinces. Are the poor and disenfranchised treated any better there? Our understanding is that they are not. In large cities, such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, the care is better and much of it is state of the art. Great, if you live there.

Is treatment paid for? Some. A lot is not, though - eyes, ears, and teeth are another story. Do they pay high taxes? You bet! In Ontario, residents pay national income tax, provincial income tax, and 15% sales tax. That's to finance their "free" medical care.

I've painted a dreary picture of Canadian health care. I'm sorry. It's what we've seen for 19 years. It's dismal compared to what we have. The poor are still going to the ER, the wealthy are still going where the care is good. Nothing is different.

Our system is not perfect in this country, but it is still the best there is. It has some glitches that need to be fixed, but fixing them would be far better than allowing any plan run by our inefficient and costly government.

I welcome any dialogue about this essay, and know that my cousin reads my blog, so am sure she is willing to answer any questions as well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

And Finally, What I Am Doing About All This Health Care Mess

So, after all my yipping, what am I doing besides blogging? Well, I'm trying to engage in realistic conversations with people who don't agree with me, for one. I've considered arranging a party for everyone I know who is on the left and claiming the only solution is single payer and people who are on the right and are claiming that single payer is what is currently being devised. My plan is to invite them all to one spot, without telling them the purpose, then I'm going to turn out the lights and whisper one word.

"Health Care"

Whichever side wins the scuffle wins the debate. If that doesn't end it, then I'm going to then retry the idea by simply whispering "War on Terror" while they are all catching their breath.

Short of the time to do that, I have expended my energies elsewhere.

I am writing all my legislators explaining to them my problems with the current health care legislation, and pointing out the growing concern over financing said reforms. I'm also pointing out that they are up for re-election, and that if such sweeping legislation does get passed and causes more economic problems, then I, and millions more, will certainly not vote for them. However, if some reforms are passed, don't work well but can be easily changed, then the likelihood of reelection for them is much greater. In my letters I am pointing out that reform is much easier to do through an existing system, and that those options have not been researched enough. I am also pointing out that if they can fix ONE thing in the system, see how that works, then fix another, there is a precise and measurable way to determine what is working and what is not.

Here is a link to a web page where you can find any US Senator and email them with your concerns.

In addition to that, I've looked at systems around the world that combine both public and private in order to ensure universal health care. I plan to continue writing to my senators and to the White House as I see systems that work well, pointing out to them what DOES appear to work and what DOESN'T work. I have also contacted Anthem about different policies I've seen that could be created to ensure coverage for people who are "at risk" for more expensive medical care.

In my daily life, I feel like I fight the health care battle as I challenge the status quo in how my daughter's disabilities are handled, turning down overpriced adaptive devices that are not necessary and using the ones that are necessary until they have outgrown them. I think critically about everything that is offered, asking myself if I would take said item if I was paying for it all out of pocket (saying I had the money), and considering if the item will actually help with something. We also routinely turn down additional government assistance that we qualify for because we believe that it's more important for our girls to grow up thinking that God will provide for their needs through their diligence and hard work, not that they get special perks for simply having joints that don't move right. Of course, I don't believe that it's always wrong to take government money when someone has a disabled child, but for us, we are choosing a different path because we believe that is where God has called us to be. So, please, don't anyone write me and tell me how judgemental I am. This is what we are doing because we are trying to follow God as we think He is leading us at this particular stage in our lives. This is not about how we think other people should or should not use the current system as it is set up. I'm not privy to the particulars of anyone else's life to make a judgement on how much state aid they need or don't need, should take or not take and I am not attempting to make that judgement.

If I had lots of money, I would look into establishing a private for-profit health insurance company that worked on the principal of equal risk pools. In other words, the higher risk people are spread equally among all the various policies, so that the cost to insure them is not any greater. I would also look at establishing wellness clinics and instruction through the company.

If I had lots of money, I would also look into establishing more private clinics and health services to promote health, early screening of diseases, and such. Right now, I think our YMCA is doing an awesome job at this -- promoting health. In addition to their workout equipment, they offer personal trainers, a diabetes management group, Autism inclusive preschool and are soon opening a family workout room with video games and other fun things. Now that's something proactive!

Since I don't have a lot of money, though, I'll just think those are good ideas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Universal Health Care, A Thoroughly Christian Concept

In light of health care reform discussion, I think it's important to remember the passage in Romans that refers to government:

Romans 13

Submission to the Authorities
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

While I don't agree with the direction that our federal government is moving, it is legitimate government. The people in office were legitimately elected, reflecting the current overall majority of our nation at the time of the election. American government is not the Kingdom of Jesus, and it will not be perfectly run. However, it is legitimate authority. Therefore, as a Christian in this nation I am called to respect that authority, which I believe involves reading legislation and reacting intellectually to that legislation.

What does that mean?

Rather than reacting to what the pundits are saying, find the specific errors in the legislation and provide specific reasons those ideas will not work. For instance, it does no good to just make a blanket statement that "universal health care" doesn't work. For all intents and purposes, that's not true. Several European nations have successful systems that have a combination of private health insurance and a public option. It might not work in Canada, but that isn't going to convince lawmakers, or other citizens who can help to put pressure on lawmakers, here, when the plan on the table doesn't even compare with that system. It's like if someone was saying, "Eating an orange when you have a cold will give you enough vitamin C to stop the cold." And you respond, "It's obvious that eating that apple is not going to solve the problem."

We also need to keep in mind that as Christians, our hearts should be "broken by the things that break the heart of God".

Jesus' purpose in coming to earth was to give his life as a sacrifice for all of humanity's sins, and also to conquer death. Not a small agenda. Yet, a big part of his ministry was healing. He was moved to compassion for the people he saw suffering. While I believe that part of the reason for the inclusion of miracles in the Bible is to reveal Jesus' power, I think it also serves to show us his concern for people who were suffering or simply wanted to be healed. As someone who is trying, in a rather floundering and unsuccessful manner,to be like Jesus, I think it's important to care what happens to the health of everyone. As Christians we need to be very concerned for all of God's children, and our goal should be that every person has at least the option of accessing quality health care.

I think Christians need to reclaim the concept of Universal Health Care!

We've taken a concept that should belong to the church, abdicated our responsibility and allowed it to be delegated to the government. The church used to be salt and light in the area of providing health care to our citizens. Just a look at all the hospitals is evidence of how involved Christians were. However, when was the last time a new (new, not one that's being moved from one location to another) hospital went up in the name of Christ? Have you heard of any new clinics established in his honor? Health Insurance plans?

Universal Health Care does not need to mean socialized medicine. I think it's safe to say that no one wants to live in a society where people cannot access health care. Rather than letting those who want to socialize the system take a term and change it into what they want it to mean, I think we, as Christians, can push for true "Universal Health Care" by making sure that laws are fair and just, medical care costs are not skyrocketing, and private insurance is available as viable options for the vast majority of people who are willing to purchase it. Most importantly, launching ministries that serve the health needs of our fellow citizens, including those poor enough to not have other options, would go much further than anything the government could provide.

It also means being responsible with your own life choices. I've heard people yelling about how they don't want to be forced to purchase health care. That's fine. However, if you are not willing to pay into any system, then are you willing to be completely responsible for your medical costs? Are you willing to sign an affidavit stating you will not access emergency care at a hospital, or if you do, you will foot the entire bill? Part of what is fueling the current health care crisis is the irresponsibility of people who aren't insured showing up at hospitals needing emergency help and ultimately costing the government and the insured significantly more money. Sometimes, that's not irresponsibility -- people can't purchase health care under the current system. However, many people just want to go from job to job without a long term plan or would rather spend their money on cable TV, high speed Internet, newer cars, entertainment, convenience food, and new clothes rather than on health insurance. Paying for health care should be a part of your budget, just as the grocery bill or rent.

If you sincerely don't want to be a part of the system in any manner, then look for models of health care legislation that offer an "opt out" option and lobby your congressman and the White House to add that into the legislation. Currently, the Netherlands is one model that has an "opt out" clause. However, simply saying that you don't want to be forced to pay for health insurance isn't going to do any body any good. And, incidentally, it's now been a few days, but I remember nothing in the legislation that says you have to purchase health insurance.

Okay, I lied, this will not be a three part blog series. Tomorrow I'm going to blog about ideas I have about what Christians can DO about health care reform.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted (Or Why I Believe the Current Health Care Reform Won't Work)

There is one reason, first and foremost, that I believe that this health care reform will not work. We don't have the money to do it. In a way, it's even more ridiculous to believe that we have the money for this than to believe we really had the money for all the bailouts and stimulus. At least, in theory, money shovelled out for the bailouts and stimulus would be either paid back or returned back into the economy by growing the economy. While professing to make health care less expensive in the long run, this legislation is going to cost us money without earning any new. Money that our government doesn't have.

The real insanity in this is that they are planning on running this health care legislation in addition to Medicaid. So, we already have a system in place that is running throughout all 50 states. This system is funded by both state and federal money, and in many states already is contracting with private insurances to provide managed care for it's participants. Why, in the name of all that is logical and reasonable, would we not look at reforming the Medicaid system, and allow the option for people to purchase policies through that? This very thing is, in fact, done in some states already as low-income people have the option of purchasing private insurance contracted by the state. Running a "health insurance exchange" -- which is not in itself a bad idea -- through each state, with federal law protecting the right to make it portable and limit premiums, just might actually work. Not only that, but it might help to fund Medicaid.
To run this public option from Washington creates the need to pay for:

Addition Federal Staff
Office Space to House Said Staff
Travel Expenses of Said Staff
Multiple Accountability Committees (not paid a salary, but requiring travel fees etc)
Administrative Costs with surveys and research on effectiveness
Staff for handling the actual public option (accountants, doctors, customer service, etc).

Then there most certainly have to be some type of liaisons at the state level.

Which leads me to another reason I know that this health care reform won't work.

It never works to fix something from the top down, and no big national social program has ever been truly effective. If our politicians are going to put forward legislation that is costing the US billions of dollars, it is reasonable to demand that there be evidence that 1) It is the most efficient way to solve the problem 2) that the proposed legislation has a chance of working

Consider social security... this is the same government that brought you this mess. Is there any evidence to believe they will do any better with a national health care option? For significantly less money, easier accountability, and solid health care plans, then there is much more hope that something can be designed on a state level. Countries that have had successful Universal Health Care programs have been countries that are much smaller than the US. Bureaucracy feeds on itself. Our federal government, because of it's size, will do nothing but create a bureaucratic mess with this. Switzerland doesn't create that mess because it's federal government is smaller than many of our state governments. Just the accountability portions of the legislation, alone, was hundreds of pages. It's really not rational to believe that any federal plan is not going to create a bureaucratic mess.

Unfortunately, our state governments are increasingly becoming mere puppet governments for the federal. I learned, recently, that 80% of our state budget is federally mandated and cannot be changed by our state legislature. Now, there is a law that people should be rallying to change. How can we have a voice in our government, when we, the people paying the state taxes, can't influence how that money is spent?

When I consider the quality of service offered through our current social programs, I don't believe for a minute that the public option that the national government is going to offer is going to be any better than Medicaid. I believe that because there is no evidence that it will be better. Ultimately, people with resources will purchase private insurance, and only people with no option will choose the public option, and the discrepancy between the care provided to the rich and poor will either be the same (at greater cost to each taxpayer because we're paying for both programs), or, possibly, worse. And, we're going to feel really stupid since we're already paying for that with Medicaid!

Anytime the government moves a program from the state and creates it on a federal level, then it has defied the concept of "We the people" as the people no longer have a viable voice in our own government. Washington is too big and too far away. I know that the White House is holding Town Hall Meetings, sending out communications and taking suggestions. That is all well and good. However, on a practical level, your voice is simply much more likely to be heard by your local state representative, who's hearing from maybe hundreds of people, than by the White House, where one of hundreds of aides is hearing from, probably 10,000 every hour. It will never make it to the right people, even if your letter is actually read by someone who's voice has finished changing and is able to grow a beard. And, having spent a fair amount of time contacting legislators' offices this past summer, I can tell you that I almost always had to ASK to talk to a grown up. But that's a different issue.

So, these are the reasons I believe that this health care reform will not work. I don't believe the sky is falling, and am hopeful that things can be changed (in part because of the 18 month survey period, and also because there is a clause in the legislation allowing for the development of state wide health care exchanges). Stay tuned for the "Christian" response to the US health care crisis...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Most Boring Reading in America Today: "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009"

After getting incredibly tired of receiving emails and Facebook postings about how my life is going to come to an end if the health care legislation currently before the House passes, I realized that I needed to look into the issue and decide if all the apocalyptic rhetoric was founded. So, yesterday I spent the day reading the 1000+ pages of the legislation. This is not as impressive as it sounds, because it's not 1000 full pages. Most of the pages have, maybe, a paragraph of information. In fact, if they submitted this legislation to a high school English teacher, they would most certainly be busted for using large margins and large fonts to increase the size. On the flip side, it was hardly compelling reading. In fact, I now have a new definition for boring reading: any book, article or essay that invokes a feeling similar to the one which one feels as he or she reads the health care legislation.

I am going to write three blog entries based upon my reading. This first one, a second one detailing the reasons why I believe this health care plan will fail, and one on what I believe to be the Christian response to this legislation (which, no does not involve nominating Sarah Palin for the next presidential election).

I fully admit that I did not understand everything in the bill, as they, being politicians, used as much legalise as possible. However, I was able to understand the bulk of what I read. I also fully admit that I am not an expert at politics, civics, or predicting the future. I am, however, a fairly intelligent person who is able to read and comprehend. I have a solid faith in God's promise to meet my needs, and a belief that our country has made stupid decisions in the past and survived, so at this point don't believe that this here legislation marks the end of it all. Even if it does, I'm not very nonplussed by all this because my citizenship is actually elsewhere, and I'm just serving here until I can get there. I'm aware that He's coming back for me, and it will all be very good then.

I decided to read the legislation because I simply will not base my thinking on reading articles that are written by people who profit from creating panic and fear in the American public. The reality of the press is that the more sensational they make things, the higher the ratings and money. This is especially true of cable television media. I believe that each person is able to think on their own and does not need someone to filter and spin the legislation. And, if we don't, as engaged citizens, actually understand and discuss the legislation, but instead just make blanket statements about all universal health care plans, then we are failing to not only be salt and light, but we are forgoing our opportunity to shape society. There is going to be change in health care. The national push for it in our democracy is too great for nothing to happen. All the polls I've read had indicated that over 85% of all Americans believe something needs to change. If all we do is dig in our heals and refuse to dialogue about the change, then we will end up with no say in the matter. Like it or not, conservatives are the minority right now, and currently have a most disagreeable reputation (thanks to the likes of people such as Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and Glen Beck). The more we react rather than engage, the less likely we are to have an effect. If however, we behave intelligently, find good candidates and stop ranting, then we have a chance to positively effect our country.

First and foremost, what is the general plan? New health care regulations are the start, and I will only detail a few. I'll say from the start, that this section of the bill, in my opinion, is good. The insurance industry needs regulation and over sight. I don't see how it can happen unless it's does on a federal level. Some of the regulations are as follows: Private Insurance companies will not be able to refuse to renew coverage on a person who has been diagnosed with a medical issue. Insurance companies will not be able to charge exorbitant amounts to people in higher risk pools. They will, however, be allowed to charge higher premiums. Also, people will have the option to "carry" their policies with them when they leave a job by paying into a pool that is not just based within their own company. When a person is denied a claim, the appeal process through the company will be the same appeal process that is used at every other insurance company.

As things stand right now, if someone loses their job, they lose their insurance. I know for our family, that is the most difficult issue we face if my husband is laid off in November. We both have chronic conditions, and if something doesn't change, I'm certain that I will NOT be able to get any decent health care coverage. This is a common problem. I know a family where the husband left his job as he was called to serve in Iraq. They lost their private insurance, and went onto the military's plan. When his service ended, they lost the insurance. In the meantime, their son was diagnosed with a condition that Anthem illogically considered a very high risk. Because of that diagnosis, they were unable to get insurance for their family without paying over $800 a month, in conjunction with what the employer was paying. This is the type of situation that not only punishes a family for doing something they had to do, but holds people back from leaving a larger company to start their own business.

Another fallacy about the legislation that I cannot understand is how people keep referring to this as a "single payer system". What I read was not a single payer system. Forced to somewhat change its structure, private insurance would continue. Instead, there would be options from which a person can choose to purchase, either individually or in conjunction with their employer, into a plan. The difference would be that there would be a public option -- a government run health insurance plan-- that people could also chose to purchase. There is about 200 pages of legislation limiting the scope of the plan, providing oversight and accountability to keep it competitive, if not quite as comprehensive, with private insurance. Considering the overwhelming success of such government systems as say, Social Security, I don't see much concern for the popularity of this plan causing the private insurances to be pushed out of business. And, that hasn't been the case in other nations where both a public and private insurance exist. I'm not saying I agree with this plan, but, again, if there is to be dialogue, people need to understand and speak realistically about what the legislation is.

Another point that has been misrepresented is end of life issues. I have read in multiple articles and listened to multiple talk-show people (who do greatly entertain me when I'm at the Y), that this plan will be coercive to people at the end of life. The myth is that there will be mandatory counseling sessions every 5 years after a certain age, and every couple years if one is in certain risk categories. Again, this simply not true. What is true is that the public option will pay for a patient to see their doctor to discuss end-of-life care (like: Do I want to go to hospice? Should I have a living will? What are my nursing home options?). Under the public option a person may visit their primary care physician up to 1 time every 5 years, unless a patient is at higher risk for needing those services, in which case they may consult every 2 years. There is no wording that makes that mandatory. Anyone who thinks this concept is new, is just simply wrong. Patients have been consulting with doctors for years on these issues, and all this legislation does is guarantee that the public option will pay for one of those consultations. My current insurance pays for a pap smear once a year. The gynecological police do not show up at my house and force me to and have a pelvic exam if I miss. That's a good thing, because gynecological police would be very scary. If I choose not to go, then I, unwisely, choose not to go. Patients across America are routinely discussing end-of-life-issues with their physicians even as I write (okay, maybe not right now because of the time of day I'm writing....), whether someone is coerced into hospice or any other situation will completely depend upon the integrity of the doctor.

Abortion is another thing that has been grossly misrepresented as well, both for sides of the abortion debate. Some people are saying it will limit funding for abortion. Not True. Some are saying it will increase funding. Again, not really true, although maybe a tiny bit true. The legislation does not mandate coverage of abortion. In fact, the writing specifically covers the right of private insurance NOT to cover abortion. In the case of the public option, it offers that abortion will only be covered in cases of rape and incest or life endangerment, which is how it is currently funded under Medicaid.

One final point that people have overlooked as well is this: There is an 18 month research period before any changes become final. Thus, if people will engage in dialogue (again, not rant: engage), then there is the opportunity to make changes in this system to come up with something that will actually work. Keeping in mind that if people behave themselves, congress could look very different in 18 months.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

She's Taken Over the Living Room!

We've now entered what we hope to be our last round of serial casting with our youngest daughter, Nappy. Born with a muscle/joint disorder called arthrogryposis, Nappy came to us with legs that were locked at 90-100 degree angles. They are now locked at about 40-degree angles and we're hoping after this round that they will have nearly normal flexibility. Previously, we've casted one leg at a time, however, time is marching on and she's getting older. We decided to do both legs at once. This means 5-7 weeks of her wearing two full-leg casts. Very limited mobility to say the least.

I decided right off the bat that our house would have to go. However, somehow that didn't happen. I decided that, too, when Swim Girl was in a body cast after hip surgery. Even when glorified by additions and basement finishing, a cape cod is anything but friendly to the mobility impaired. Somehow the economy has not agreed with me, so here we are, once again, with a child in too much cast, and a house with 4 staircases. In light of that, we moved Nappy's bed down to the living room, as well as her clothing, her special drawer full of treasures, and to cap it all off, her toothbrush and tooth-brushing cup.

How has she dealt with this all?

"You got me a new bedroom!"

"No, Nappy. This is just the living room with your bed against the wall. It's only your bedroom at night."

"Right. Okay, everyone out of the living room because it's my bedroom and I need time to myself."

Sigh. That went on the first day. Then there was the desk controversy. She decided that our piano bench was actually perfect to be her "desk" when sitting on her bed.

"You can do that when no one needs it for the piano." I told her. That was a mistake.

The following afternoon Green Bottle Boy wanted to play the piano. First he stood as he played, which, of course, didn't work. Let me take a moment here to interject that as a parent who has 5 kids studying piano, I was so glad that he finally realized that it doesn't work to play the piano standing up. For years I've had to specify to my children that you have to sit in order to play the piano. They have never believed me. So, this was a great victory for me, but then Nappy interrupted it all.

"You don't need the bench," She told GBB, "Just stand. This is my desk."

"Nappy," I said, "He needs the bench."

"Mom! He's just playing the piano. He doesn't NEEEEEED the bench. He just wants the bench. I need it to be my desk."

She lost and I won. However, then she was on to her next thing. Entertainment. Her current schedule is "Cinderella" in the morning, and then "Elmo" in the afternoon. I told her we would relax our television rules while she was in her casts, and some friends nicely lent us a little DVD player she can watch from her bed. That takes several hours out of the day. She's also been playing with her toys, sometimes on the floor, sometimes on her bed and sometimes at the kitchen table. Apparently, though it's getting old.

"Mom," she told me yesterday, "I just don't have a lot of toys that I love."

"You have plenty of toys." I responded.

"Not that I love...." she looked pained. "I think there's a solution. I saw a store when we were in the car. It said "Toys R Us". It's a store that sells toys. If you take me there then I will find lots of toys that I can love."

There are advantages and disadvantages to a child teaching themselves how to read when they are 5 years old! Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy did this, too, when he was 3. It was when he was 5 that we were driving through Gary, Indiana and he innocently asked us, "What's a showgirl?" Their world just gets much bigger once they can read.

So I explained to her that just because she read it, we weren't going there. The last thing I need is more toys in this house!

All in all, she's handling it well. I'm tired, and I'm not looking forward to all the appointments. I am, however looking forward to her walking!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Homeless in Cincinnati

The number of homeless in Cincinnati has been on the rise, as it has nationwide, and council members and county commissions are, apparently, quite put-out by it all.

“It’s clearly unacceptable for it to be used this way,” Pepper (Hamilton County Commissioner) told The Enquirer [in reference to the homeless sleeping at the courthouse] . “The building needs to be clean and safe and perceived that way.”


Not: "It's clearly unacceptable for it to be this way. These are people, fellow human beings, and need to be shown a better way to live."

Not: "It's clearly unacceptable for it to be this way. These are my fellow human beings and are, obviously, the ones suffering in the most challenging ways due to the current economic conditions."

Not: "It's clearly unacceptable for it to be this way. Obviously we need to be seeking new ways to help these people live in a healthy manner."

Nope. He just doesn't want to trip over them.

However, he's a step behind Council member Jeff Berding. While I'm far from an expert on homelessness, I had to laugh at the obvious stupidity of a recent motion initiated by this amusing council member.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Cincinnati panhandlers would have to pay a fee to register, pay earnings tax on their collections and toss their hand-written “Please Help” signs under a plan to be proposed next month.

Saying panhandling is as much of a business as, say, selling hot dogs, Councilman Jeff Berding is working on a plan he says will help make the city more appealing to residents and tourists. The plan also would require panhandlers, including those who walk up to people and those who sit holding their signs, to carry a standard sign issued by the city. That sign would say how much money the city has approved for agencies that help homeless people – more than $11 million this year, Berding said."

Now, I could use this opportunity to point out that it must be true that Democrats always think taxes solve problems. But I won't make that joke.

Berding, who has probably offended hot dog and water vendors around the city, claims that this will force the homeless to access the legitimate services that the city offers, however, I think we all know what it will do. It will push the homeless out of the city and then Pepper and Berding will no longer need to deal with them.

I'm not advocating a pitying attitude toward the homeless that enables them to continue to live in an unhealthy manner and place other citizens at various risks. However, how in the world are you going to get a 60+ year old mentally ill substance abuser to actually register with the county, obtain a license.... what, are they supposed to file self-employment tax too? Where do they keep their paperwork? I'm sure the police and courts are going to love all the additional work, as will the social workers who have to try to walk them through the process of getting a license. The 2% tax won't even pay for the costs of trying to administer this idea.

Recently a list was created that listed the 10 worst cities in which to be homeless. These cities are known for having the cruelest policies towards homelessness (which, to be noted, doesn't decrease homelessness). Cincinnati didn't make that list. Give it time, though.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Flies, Flies Everywhere, and Nary a Bite of Chicken to Eat

Our Suburban farm is growing. Our sunflowers are now towering over our heads, we've become zucchini and cucumber gluttons, and our corn is germinating even as I type. Our ducks and chickens now have free range of our backyard, meaning the garage door is always closed so they don't poop in there, and I am awakened each dawn to the sound of maniacal duck laughter. Ahhh. Farm life. There is a catch, though.

Flies! Agh! They are just terrible. I think that there is a colony of about 20,00 flies that has set up in our yard and that perhaps their collective intelligence is evolving. At first, I just sent Green Bottle Boy out there with a fly swatter. That entertained him for hours and killed hundreds of flies. Then he went to camp and all hell broke lose. Or should I say the flies began to multiple like rabbits? They were everywhere, especially in our duck pen. I cleaned out our duck pen, sprayed the entire area and hung fly strips around it like garlic hung to ward off vampires. So, did the flies die? No. They moved. I swear, they just up and moved their operation to my garden. Well, I can't spray there, so I hung up fly strips. They moved again. This time to my neighbor's garage. In response, we bought them a house warming gift: fly spray. I think they were appreciative. I'm trying to force the flies back to the woods, but haven't had much luck. They love poop, and, well, with 6 chickens, 7 ducks and 2 dogs, we have a lot of that around here.

Our dogs, though, have been an interesting problem. Last week we let them out, accidentally, while the ducks were out. Hydro ran down the steps and immediately began barking. My dog translator tells me he was saying, "Hey! Mom, Dad, the ducks are out! Hey! Mom! Dad! The ducks are out!" Sammy, our Border Collie, went into full sprint when she saw them out, and then stopped, only to bark at Hydro. I swear, she was barking, "Stupid! Shut your mouth and chase! Stupid! Shut your mouth and chase!" We brought the dogs inside and disaster was averted. Sammy looked at Hydro with great annoyance and disgust for the rest of the day. In dog world, Hydro became the equivalent of the child who raises their hand in class and says, "Teacher! You forgot to assign us homework!"

Earlier this week I decided that all the animals needed to live at peace with each other and the dogs would just have to learn to share the yard with the birds as the birds are simply too big to keep in a coop. We brought the dogs out on lead, so we could catch them and control them if need be.

Hydro's reaction was to pee on the duck pool. Of course.

Sammy, however, saw all the birds, whimpered and ran back up the deck to the door. She refused to come down.

"She knows she wants to eat them," My insightful husband noted, "So she won't come out."

Wow. Preemptive guilt. I wish I had that.

I dragged her down into the grass, and told her to 'hurry'. That works with Hydro as he was trained to pee on command. It doesn't work with Sammy. She just looks at you with a look that usually only a home schooled child could give. That look that says, "I just don't pee on command. I'm not like a school kid. There are no communal bathroom breaks in my day."

So we stood there, Sammy and I, in the grass, as Sammy cried. I dragged her deeper into the yard. She began to drool. I undid the leash and slowly she slunk back to the deck.

The next day, she was out and someone let out the chickens. Before we could stop her she chased them into the corner of the yard. Then a funny thing happened. She didn't take a bite. She simply chased them and jumped around, in a sort of primal chicken dance. It was at this point I realized that she didn't want to eat the chickens, she simply wanted to mess with their brains.

I love my dog.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy (Sort of) 4Th of July

Usually, I like the 4th of July. Our family has a slew of holidays and birthdays running from October through the end of May, and I get incredibly bogged down in celebrations. Then there's a break, and we have the 4th of July. There's not a set of expectations with this holiday unless you count hot dogs and sparklers, and the possibility of a fireworks display, so there's little planning on my part. We simply get a day off to celebrate our incredible freedom. Increasingly, though, I have a harder time celebrating something that is so precious, and treated in a manner so disrespectfully.

I'm thankful for the people who have protected my freedom, but at the same time, I'm angered by the unncessary use of our military around the world, as political leaders deem imperialistic dalliances as the defense of freedom. I'm angered by the loss of life by our soliders and innocent civilians as we fight a war that we cannot even agree as to what would define the end, and that could very well produce a government just as evil as the one overthrown.

I'm thankful for my comfortable home, nice paved streets and the ease in which I can live out my life. Yet I'm totally embarassed by our national trash output, greedy use of resources, and, especially people's defense of our gluttonous lifestyles. I'm even more embarassed when I hear people speak of those things as "God's blessings" on us, without even questioning if it's truly God's blessing or just a national movement to take advantage of those less fortunate.

I'm thankful for my freedom of speech, and yet embarassed that my fellow citizens use that speech to promote pornography, stupidity and cirular thinking. I'm also embarassed when my fellow believers choose to use that freedom to spread hate or American Civic Religion rather than the love of Christ.

I'm thankful that even during a recession my fellow citizens still have access to food, shelter and education. I'm embarassed and frustrated that many of them still don't understand the need for solid local government and services and the need to take care of each other.

I'm thankful for the freedom of religion that allows me to write and read the writings of Christians from around the world. I am completely embarrassed to be a part of a movement, though, that abuses that freedom by profiting from it by marketing cheap romance novels, knock-off fiction, and bumper stickers as ridiculous as Christian Pirate Bumper Stickers.

I'm thankful for the Americans that have come before and fought against the injustices of their day and worked to make this nation more Godly. I'm embarrassed by the people who have glossed over the tremendous sins of our history and tried to manipulate us into a theocracy that fits their needs.

Perhaps there will once again come a time when I can fully enjoy the 4Th of July. Until then, I'll remind myself of the good that can come from our country, and the ways that God has redeemed the sins of our past. May He continue to heal our land.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You Know Your State Is In Trouble When.....

Ohio, like many other states, is currently facing a budget crisis. I sincerely hope that other states have leadership that can handle their budget crisis in a just and thoughtful manner. Ohio doesn't, and it's very sad. I love my state. We have several nice cities, two large amusement parks, beautiful farm land (and I'm not referring to my back yard) , historic sites that include the underground railroad and Native American landmarks as well as European settlers history. I think that the Hocking Hills section of the state must be one of the most beautiful parts of the United States!

Which is part of why I am so sad that Ted Strickland, our Governor, obviously looks upon his role as Governor as stepping stone to greater things rather than looking at his role as Governor as a chance to serve the people who elected him. Even while this budget is causing panic and distress around the state, he has the audacity to post on his facebook page about his lovely morning spent "with Joe Biden, touring a solar factory and talking about how we can work together to revive manufacturing in Ohio."

So, the state is in a complete mess and Strickland's priority is to schmooze with the Vice President, for no other apparent reason than to schmooze. Anyone knows if you actually want to get something done, then you don't bother with the Vice President. He's just the trophy wife to the real thing. I'm sure they had a lovely morning talking about all the things they could "get done", somehow, someway.

In Honor of my beloved State of Ohio, I comprised a list to equip every citizen with red flags that they can use to know when it is time to SPEAK UP:

You know your state is in trouble when....

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor gives speeches on modernizing education then releases a proposed budget that slashes all funding to state libraries at 50%, only days before it is to be approved.

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor gives speeches on how our students should be performing better than students in countries such as Finland, and that education is the key to economic growth but doesn't bother to see that a big part of Finland's success is a strong library system.

You know your state is in trouble when you can't fully access the Governor's proposed budget until he deems it's necessary.

You know your state is in trouble when you phone all your legislators and Governor and can't find a grown up to talk to. (yes, this is true. They are all 'aides' and 'interns').

You know your state is in trouble when Your Governor has no problem posing for a "READ" poster for displays at your library to encourage reading, and then turns around and slashes funding for libraries 50%, after systematically decreasing (with help from his predecessor) the funding over 40% in the past 5 years.

You know your state is in trouble when the same "READ" poster reveals that your Governor gets his intellectual stimulation from reading James Michener novels.

You know your state is in trouble when your Governor does not see that free access to information is a foundation of a successful democracy and that slashing funding in such a irresponsible way is an attack on the civil rights of EVERY Ohioan.

Stop and think. Exactly why is he so blase about Ohioans having free access to information? Either he is really really ignorant, or he is very very devious. Either way, we are in trouble.

Call Governor Strickland and Voice your Concern over the proposed budget slashes! 614-466-3555

Don't forget to remind him that his re-election is coming up! It's what he really cares about anyway.

Call these members of the Ohio legislature as they are members of the Conference Committee that is currently going over the proposed budget:

Vernon Sykes
Phone: 614- 466-3100
Fax: 614-719-6944
Jay Goyal
Phone: 614-466-5802
Fax: 614-719-3973
Ron Amstutz
Phone: 614-466-1474
Fax: 614-719-0003


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Library: The Great Equalizer (Until a Misguided Governor Kills It)

If I live to be 100 years old, I'll never have the time to gain wisdom enough to figure out how politicians can so consistently lose sight of the big picture. Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio, has proposed a budget (merely several days before the fiscal year ends) where he slashed library funding by over 50% in an obvious attempt to do away with Public Libraries.

I say this is an obvious attempt because certainly Mr. Strickland knows that libraries are depending upon that funding, that for some libraries that is the sole funding available to them. In addition to that, Mr. Strickland purposely proposed this slash days before it would be enacted knowing full well that the libraries would then have no time to recover or develop any plan of action.

Apparently Mr. Strickland, who likes to believe himself a champion of education reform, believes that only people with money should have access to books. Without a local library then anyone without a car is not able to obtain books, magazines, newspapers, or have access to a computer. Without money to purchase said items, then a person's only option is the library. Libraries need to exist and they need to be LOCAL. Therefore, there needs to be many of them in order for them to provide the access to information necessary to preserving our democracy!

I have to ask, why would Ted Strickland want to restrict access to information?

Mr. Strickland is not a reformer of education, and he is certainly not modernizing anything. He's trying to revert Ohio back to an old-school form of education that is contained within classroom walls and centers around biased textbooks. Just months ago, he pointed out that we were lagging behind other nations in our test results, and that the nations testing better than us had economies that were growing at a faster rate than ours. Guess what they have that Governor Strickland thinks we don't need? FULLY FUNDED LIBRARIES!

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the fact that libraries serve as community centers for teens and pre-teens after school. When the libraries close, thousands of kids around the state will have no safe place to go. Mr. Strickland has not thought about the fact that most baby boomers looking for jobs go to the library for help with online applications, even to apply for unemployment benefits. He hasn't thought about the literacy support that the library gives to schools.

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the costs of making such dramatic cuts. He has not thought about the price tag that will come when teens and pre-teens have no place to go after school, when teachers need to start purchasing materials no longer available for free from the library, when businesses are not able to develop solid business plans because they can't research them through the library, when people can't access unemployment benefits, tax papers, or social service applications. Mr. Strickland has not thought about the cost to the state when THOUSANDS of library workers across the state are laid off and begin to access unemployment, food stamps and medicaid.

Mr. Strickland has not thought about the long term costs in terms of lost literacy. He has not thought about the writing that will never happen because research will become too expensive. The children who will never become fluent readers because neither their parents nor their school can possibly purchase nearly enough books for them to practice their reading. The students who will not be able to take the GRE because they don't even know where to get help since their library is closed. Students who will not be able to research colleges. Investigative reporters who won't -- oh wait. I'm sure Strickland doesn't want any investigative reporters checking on anything.

How do I know that he has not thought about these things? Because after days of calling him and people in his administration, I finally was able to talk to a living breathing grown up, not a 20 year-old intern. I asked these specific questions, and he could provide no specific answers.

This has not been thought out and researched. Strickland has determined that he doesn't need libraries, so neither does the state of Ohio.

Several summers ago, as I was dropping Lawyer/Social Advocate Boy off at a class downtown, my other children saw a man standing on a street corner. He was holding a sign that said: PL 426 ENEMY OF THE POOR.

It caused quite a stir in the backseat because my children were very offended by the sign.

"No one should be an enemy of the poor!"

"Ya, I'm mean, they could be poor too one day!"

I listened to them banter back and forth in righteous indignation, and it wasn't long before I realized that they misunderstood the sign. Rather than thinking that the man was protesting a public law, they thought that he was standing there identifying himself as "The Enemy of the Poor."

Ohh... they were so wrong. That man wasn't the enemy of the poor. Ted Strickland is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Attack of the Killer Computers!

Just when you thought it was safe to be in your own home, you learn that a silent new killer has entered. Not carbon dioxide. Not carcinogens. Not your feisty little dog.

Studies are now showing that your computer is currently 7 times more likely to attack you than it was 13 years ago. I know that it looks innocent, but, really, it's just trying to look that way. Certainly, you've felt as though someone, something, was standing behind you just waiting for the right moment? Now you know!

And with the increase of laptops, the danger can only grow.

Since we don't have enough studies in America, new studies are being done daily on this new menace. The latest notes that between 1994 and 2006 some 78,000 people were treated in hospitals for computer related injuries. What's even more shocking is that computers are attacking now at an increased rate of 732% .

Obviously, the intent to harm is growing daily, and something must be done about this.

Enter Dr. Laura Mackenzie, of Nationwide Children's Hospital. She states, "Future research on acute computer-related injuries is needed as this ubiquitous product becomes more intertwined in our everyday lives."

She's a doctor, so can't possibly be wrong about this. And, she's a doctor who works for an insurance company, so she doesn't have a vested interest in seeing less people attacked by their computers.

I agree. I mean the increase could have nothing to do with 1) the increase in the number of personal computers and 2) the vast amounts of cords that hang out the back of a computer causing people to trip or pull the computer onto their heads or 3) the nature of humans to set their laptops on precarious ledges believing that they would never fall off.

We need to study this issue. Maybe there is stimulus money available.

In an effort to protect our nation's children from this hideous monster (and to help Dr. MacKenzie keep Nationwide's premiums down on their homeowner's insurance), I would like to propose this plan to keep our children safe:

1) Have your child wear a helmet at all times. All times. Even in the bath. Don't forget bed at night. You never know when a computer can fall on you.

2) Teach your child how to approach your computer. Many people fail at this one. They think that you should approach from the side and stick out your hand for your computer to smell. This is simply a fallacy. That is likely to tell your computer that you have aggressive intent. Instead, let your computer come to you. And never, never make eye contact with your computer. If that happens teach your child to continue staring until the computer looks away.

3) If you leave your children alone at home, make sure that they understand to never open the door when a strange computer is knocking. Explain to them that all computers look similar and that one at the door is not related to the one on your desk, even if he claims he is.

4) Consider purchasing a locking device for your computer.

5) Consider purchasing a locking device for your child.

6) Remember: Computers and Guns Don't Mix. At best your child might kill your computer with his gun and then you've got a homicide on your hands. At worst, your computer might.... unthinkable.

7) Keep all alcoholic beverages away from your computer. Saucy computers are even more dangerous than sober ones. However, you might want to consider offering it a cup of wine in the evening, as a sort of peace offering.

8) Know and be willing to recognize the signs of drug usage in your computer. Is it slow? Does it get jammed up easily? If you don't happen to have Windows XP and this is happening consider random drug testing.

9) Know your computer. The best way to fight computer aggression is to have a good healthy relationship. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself just what sites the computer really wants to visit? And, how does your computer feel about "Net Nanny"? Would you want someone monitoring you all the time? And, all those boring emails -- your computer has to read those too! Consider a date night, or include it in family game night. Computers have feelings too, you know.

10) Don't ever give your computer the keys to the car. This only empowers them and gives them a sense of control that they can't handle. Plus, they probably aren't covered by your insurance.

By following these simple steps, I believe that you can protect yourself and your family from this ever increasing threat.

Now, maybe someone will give me some stimulus money for solving this problem for America!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Move or Not To Move, That is Always the Question

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of downward mobility, mostly because our family is currently praying about this concept as something God is calling us to. As John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, pointed out: Jesus didn't commute from heaven to earth, he made his home here and became one of us. We need to live where we minister, and as a christian can I justify turning my back on the poorer parts of my city? If I really want to live out a life that is increasingly like Jesus, then I have to seriously ponder why I would want to move out further into the suburbs into houses that are disconnected and sheltered from people's suffering, actually from dealing with the reality of people in general. In my journey to be like Christ, shouldn't I rather stay where I am or move to a neighborhood where suffering and daily relationship challenges my reality everyday? I have to question why I would even consider a larger mortgage that would tie up more of our income rather than a smaller one that would free more money for giving.

People ask us how we can all live in such a "small" house and tell us that it's size justifies a move to a larger house. Yet, somehow, we are thriving in a three bedroom house with a "small yard". My kids have to learn to get along as they share bedrooms. We often find ourselves together as we work on different projects -- is that so bad in the long run? There's only one TV viewing place, one computer station. So, we have to agree and work together. Again, is that so terrible? And, our small yard is big enough to house 6 chickens, 6 ducks, 2 dogs, an enormous garden and still have space to play a game of soccer. If this is too small, then at what point do we say enough is enough?

If my identity is really in Christ, then it shouldn't matter how comfortable I am, how nice my neighborhood is, or even, really, how safe I perceive myself to be. In reality I'm only as stable and safe as God provides.

In addition to all my introspective thinking, I have to wonder why Christians in our country allow themselves, on the whole, to be so disconnected from suffering. Where along the way did we begin to align ourselves with comfort? Was it when political tides turned and the Religious Right became a voice of power? While it might have brought about some positive changes, at what cost did it come? And, in light of recent years, were they really positive changes? It strikes me that so much of the church has sold out to the Religious Right that we missed the boat (and really still are missing the boat) on the environment, inclusion, care for the poor, racial reconciliation and class reconciliation. We've been willing to look past those as moral issues because it is "safer" to cling to one political ideology that wants, more than anything, to protect a way of life that is very dear. It is a far scarier thought to admit that in reality there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" (okay, there are the Blagojevichs but they aren't all in one party!) in politics here, only "judgmentally broken guys" and "enabling broken guys", because if we focus on the real moral issues then we can't polarize politically and things might change in ways that we aren't comfortable with.

It's a much "safer" proposition to believe that we all have rights to our own home, our own space, our own stuff and our own money, and much riskier to admit that if you've really given everything over to Christ, then that includes, our home, space, stuff, money and even our safety. It's a much safer version of reality to believe that we are merely a Christian Nation with just a blemish or two in our history, especially if we're a part of the majority people group that isn't directly hurt by those injuries. It's much safer for us to think, "America = Christian" than it is to question what exactly that means in regards to being a Christian. There's an underlying tension between being American and being a Christian: being an American is about protecting our rights, being a Christian is about being willing to lay down our rights.

Yet, if our adoptions have taught me anything it's that God blesses us in suffering. If all we had done was donate to a program for orphans or took a mission trip to visit disabled orphans, I know that I wouldn't have the relationship with Jesus that I now have. Taking on their suffering and making it my own has been fundamental to me learning to depend upon God, and given me an intimacy with Him where He is willing to show me the things that truly break His heart. You trust your acquaintances with things that bring you joy. You trust your cherished friends with your pain. In joining with Him as He suffers over the broken parts of his creation, I've seen parts of his heart and glory I never knew existed. Just visiting or just donating would have been much safer, physically, financially and emotionally. However, going across the line and throwing my lot in with them, taking their suffering, making it part of my life and making it my suffering, that produced beautiful fruit. Fruit that makes everything else so utterly boring and flavorless in comparison.

So wouldn't the same be implied with downward mobility?

And, instead of fearing the truth, isn't it better to come to peace with the fact that America is just another Babylon? Albeit a beautiful one, certainly my favorite one, and one that is always (hopefully) moving towards true political freedom and justice for all. However, if it's Babylon, no matter how beautiful, it can't even begin to compare with the true Kingdom. If we can see that it is not part of the Kingdom of Jesus, then we can work as salt and light to spread his Kingdom here, not afraid of any changes to our country or our status here. We don't need to assume that every citizen is going to agree with our morality or try to force them to agree with us. We can be free to love with no strings attached and free to seek the common good of all our citizens without trying to make them fit into what we think they should be. We can really labor as workers in the Kingdom, lending our educations, stable families, and health to communities that are struggling to stay afloat. As we work in that way, we can do what Jesus wants us to do which is to love people into the Kingdom.

However, if we simply look to our own desires, our own comfort, then how can we really be sold out to Christ? And, if we are the Body of Christ on earth, then how can God heal our country when we're not willing to live where we are not comfortable?