Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feeling proud

Karen's old laptop crashed about 2 years ago. It's hard drive had a total, unrecoverable meltdown and hasn't breathed since. I managed to purchase and install a new, much bigger one last night. Word from the home front is that the machine is not only breathing again, but working beautifully now. For a man whose understanding of things technical is, what's the right, this is a pretty great moment.

His Love Endures Forever

As many of you know, my family has had a rough year. Apparently, we needed to cap it off with something, so when we found out that Karen had two ovarian cysts, and that one of them might be malignant, I thought "Well, that fits with the general trend of the rest of this year." Which is pretty pessimistic. As we waited for results, someone told me "Everything will be all right." Outwardly, I agreed. Inwardly, I thought, "How do you know that? What if it's cancer and my wife dies? I hardly think that will be okay." Well, we found out yesterday afternoon that it is almost certainly not malignant, though Karen is scheduled for surgery to remove them both on 12/31 (Happy New Year!). Still, we are praising God for giving us the best possible outcome in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, I've been preparing to preach my last sermon of the year on Psalm 136, whose theme is "His Love Endures Forever." It has seemed to me hat is a tough truth to keep in mind. If Karen's test had come back positive for ovarian cancer, would I have believed it? The simple answer is "I don't know." I know that I'm exceptionally glad that the test came back the way it did. A part of me also knows that it would still be true that God's love for us is still there whether or not I believed it true at that point. And it seems to me that faith in Christ is made of such moments of trusting Him even if... even if my wife had cancer, even if I suddenly became a single dad with four kids, even if I had no answers to why this had happened. Because God's love for us doesn't consist, like we sometimes want it to, in always giving us what we want while smoothing every difficulty, but in giving us what he divinely, sovereignly, and yes, lovingly chooses for us.

And so, while today we praise God for his mercy and grace, I also remind myself that when the dark days come again, God is still gracious and merciful even then.

Politics: The 2nd Oldest Profession

In a continuing thought on yesterday's post, I'd say that, in some ways, you have to have a little bit of perverse admiration for Sens. Landrieu and Nelson. I mean, buying votes in Louisiana has a history which goes back to at least Huey "the Kingfish" Long, and Sen. Landrieu's $300 million price tag for supporting Obamacare is certainly doing her part to uphold that noble tradition. I mean, it used to be that a politician could be had for a lot less, like admission to a private school for one's children, season tickets for a suite at the hometown stadium, or some such. I guess inflation has now come to Louisiana politicians too. And Ben Nelson, I mean, what can I say? Just last week, he was saying that he was pro-life, that he would not vote for a bill that provides federal subsidies to abortion and "My vote cannot be bought." I guess that's Cornhusker for "My vote can't be bought for anything less than the low nine digits."

Which brings to mine something Ronald Reagan said about politics being the 2nd oldest profession and it bearing a close resemblance to the first...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Uphold the Constitution? What Constitution

In their heedless rush to get something, anything which they can label "health care reform" through Congress before the 2010 election season makes such questions utterly irrelevant, it's perhaps wise that someone make the observation that it's entirely possible the bill in question won't survive judicial review. Among the myriad reasons for this are two biggies:
  • The individual mandate: Congress is requiring citizens to purchase a privately sold product, under penalty of fine and/or imprisonment, namely a health insurance policy. States can do this, but it is far from clear that the federal government has such a power, even under the broadest reading of the Interstate Commerce Clause, since interstate commerce in health insurance is actually prohibited by the bill.
  • Equal Protection: Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana got the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, respectively, in exchange for their votes for the bill. Landrieu got $300 million in special favors for Louisiana. Meanwhile, Nebraska will get all of its future bills for Medicaid expansion paid for by the rest of us in perpetuity. Somehow, the idea of "equal protection" never entered this Congress' mind, did it? Under the Constitution, citizens of one state cannot be exempted from costs imposed on other states. We are still a nation of laws, and not of men, at least last time I checked.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grade Inflation

WARNING: This is a political post. If you don't like politics or my take on them, you may want to just skip it. If not, read on.

During his recent Oprah interview, President Obama was asked how he would grade his presidency thus far. He responded that he would rate himself "a good, solid, B+." Now a savvy pol would have said something along the lines of "It's really too early to judge my presidency, I've only been in for a year. It takes time to see the effects of decisions a president makes" or better, "That's really for the historians and the American people to decide." Instead, we got the view that things are almost as good as they could be with him at the helm. This manages to simultaneously convey an attitude of astonishing arrogance and utter cluelessness. Let's review a few relevant facts from the past year, shall we:
  • The unemployment rate when Obama took office was 7.6%, with the real unemployment rate somewhere around 8%. Today, the unemployment rate is 10.2% with a real unemployment rate of around 16% (real unemployment includes those who are still unemployed but whose unemployment benefits have ceased).
  • We passed a $787 billion "stimulus" package which has failed to stimulate anything other than the growth of government employee salaries and the size of union coffers.
  • The deficit has grown from under $400 billion under the heretofore plofligate President Bush to $1.4 trillion today (and in less than 12 months too!). At the present rate of spending, and assuming health care "reform" is passed, Obama will add $12 trillion to the national debt in the next 8 years. To put that in perspective, this is a number that amounts to approximately 80% of annual US GDP and 15% of the total value of all assets in the entire United States (which is roughly $85 trillion). When you consider the existing unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid amount to $65 trillion, it seems clear to me that the Obama agenda will push us very close to national insolvency.
  • Since Obama has come into office, he has managed to bow to the Saudi King, the Japanese emperor, and the Chinese rulers, get chummy with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, support President Zelaya of Honduras when he tried to unconstitutionally remain in power, double-cross the Czechs and Poles on missile defense, and take the Afghan war from a quasi-colonial policing operation to a state where it generates more casualties in a year than it did in all six years of Bush's war there. On the foreign policy front, in sum, the world has grown more dangerous and we have alienated allies and cozied up to enemies in exchange for nothing tangible.
  • His popularity has declined from 64% approval/25% disapproval on January 20th to 49% approval/47% disapproval. Now all presidents decline in popularity, but this is the fastest decline in history.
  • He is pushing for the Pelosi/Reid health care "reform" to pass even though it will add trillions of dollars to our national debt, require punitive levels of job-killing taxation, and leave approximately 23 million people uninsured at the end of the day. And they are trying to pass it despite 61% disapproval of the bill by regular Americans.
If this is what a "good, solid, B+" effort looks like, I'd hate to see a D-.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Karen's test

My dw has been struggling with intense lower back pain for the past several weeks. We're pretty sure that she has a kidney stone, but on the last trip to the doctor, he didn't do any real diagnostic tests because she wasn't at that moment, having any pain. Well, it came back pretty strongly on Thursday and Friday, so wonder of wonders, she actually got scheduled for a CT this morning. The test went well, even though the tech was a pretty creepy lookin' dude, but we won't know results till Monday. Please hold her up as between our Sunday morning activities and this funeral, I won't be around much the next couple days.

UPDATE: It's not a kidney stone. It's a 6 cm (about 2") ovarian cyst. We have an OB appt. on Thursday (12/17) at 2 p.m. for an ultrasound and, presumably, discussion about the treatment pathway. Meanwhile, Karen is managing the pain with Vicodin.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Matthew's Begats

As you know, I've been teaching through the book of Ruth this past month. I finished up this last Sunday, and as you also know if you are familiar with the book, it ends with a genealogy. Now I confess, I used to be like most Bible readers, who come to the Bible's genealogies, if at all, as a cure for insomnia. But in teaching through Ruth, I came to see them in fresh perspective. I realized that they are all in there for a purpose-to demonstrate to us God's sovereignty over history and to show us that God is working through people, both good and evil, and through human decisions, both good and evil, to accomplish his sovereign good purposes. After all, the genealogy at the end of Ruth begins with Perez, one of the twin sons born to Tamar out of her seduction of her father-in-law Judah. This is hardly a moral example to us, yet God still worked, bringing good out of great sinfulness.

Moreover, since Ruth is all about the preservation of family, it's appropriate that it ends with a record of the family line. Something else that jumped out at me was the fact that there was no way Ruth and Boaz could know that they were literally, the two most important people in the universe in their day. Unless Ruth somehow made it back from Moab and married Boaz (who was apparently a bachelor!), the family line that brings Jesus into the world would die out. No Ruth and Boaz = No King David = No Jesus. It was such a close-run thing, and yet God was there, sovereignly working. What larger purposes, I wonder, is God using each of us in this generation to accomplish?

Anyway, in the spirit of Christmas and these thoughts on genealogies, I give you the best musical rendering ever (and perhaps the only one!) of Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. Enjoy, remembering that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17):

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Love and prayers

My good friends Josh and Angela lost their little baby today in a tragic miscarriage. If you are reading this, say a prayer for them along with their other kids, two of whom are old enough to understand what is going on.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Samson redux

I spent yesterday helping a friend replace the flooring in his dining room. They bought the house about a year ago, and the person they bought it from was fairly obsessive about making sure everything was over-constructed. At any rate, Mr. OCD put down a variety of that attached pad Berber style carpet that normally retails for about $1-$2 per square foot. Moreover, just to make sure that nothing happened to keep this treasured product from coming up, he glued it down with some variety of contact cement. Approximately 4 hours later, my buddy and I finally had the last scraps of the pad scraped off of the floor and some new foam underlayment put down for his new maple laminate floor. I went home from laying the laminate at 12:30 a.m. We had a lot of trimming to do-4 door openings, 3 floor outlets, a floor vent and part of a chimney to go around plus it has been a few years since I laid any laminate, so it took a while to get back the knack. The important thing is, we did finish the job.

The problem is that I am sore beyond belief today. I don't remember being so sore when I put in the laminate for our attic bedroom at our house in Iowa. My knees and the heels of my hands are very tender and I'm keeping ibuprofen in my system at regular intervals. Worse, when I posted about my condition on my Facebook status this morning, one of my oldest friends had the temerity to suggest that I was experiencing the vagaries of something she referred to as "middle age." I am not amused. Personally, I've decided that gray hair or not, I'm not middle-aged until I'm 50 at least, and maybe not even then.

If that doesn't work, then I've got a fall-back theory: As all of you know, I recently got my hair cut off, and based on my study of the Scriptures, I'm pretty sure that has something to do with it. After all, read this:
...she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. - Judges 16:19b
See? Middle-aged? Meh. I just got a haircut, and haircuts produce weakness. Once my hair grows back out, I'll be back to knocking over pagan temples again. Or at least, that's the theory I'm going with.

Post-Deer Season Wrap-up

Well, it's official: The shotgun deer season ended and I got a fat goose egg. I saw a lot of deer (though most were way out of range) and missed the one good shot opportunity I had on the last day. But this is no time for self-pity. I still got to enjoy being in the woods and seeing the sun come up through the trees. I got to watch foxes and coyotes on the hunt, owls ghosting through the trees, squirrels busily burying nuts for the winter, and wild turkeys fly up to roost at night and down in the morning, yelping all the way. I got to do all of this despite thinking that I might not even have a place to go this year, so the fact that I got to hunt at all was a blessing in itself.

On top of that, I got news from Iowa on Saturday that my old friend and former deer slaying partner has finally shot his first antlered buck. He had already shot a doe that morning and had his gun jam when it was time to shoot at a buck a little later. So he was very excited to get another opportunity to shoot this buck that evening. Congrats, old friend, on a very nice deer!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hello...Hello...Is this thing on?

If there's anyone still reading this, let me say thanks and sorry for the lack of posts lately. The combination of deer season, Thanksgiving, and taking some vacation have added up to not much activity in the past couple weeks. I'll try to do a little better now that I'm going to be in the office 4 days this week.

Anyway, here's a quick and dirty update on my activities of late:
  • The first deer season was unsuccessful. I took a marginal shot and missed a good buck and passed on a marginal buck though I had a good shot.
  • I helped a buddy and his son-in-law butcher a deer. It was the son-in-law's first time, and he was excited about the opportunity to eat fresh, organic, hormone free wild game. It doesn't get any more "free range" than this... (Which makes me wonder why the eco-folks and the hunters, who are both fans of natural foods and wildlife conservation, usually aren't friends).
  • I've grown a goatee and my face is now racing my head to see which grows longest fastest. I'm betting on the beard, though I'd be willing to take wagers the other direction if I get any offers.
  • I completely over-ate at Thanksgiving, as per usual and now must re-commit myself to aerobics and tracking my calories.
  • The family time at Thanksgiving was great and very relaxing. I had deep conversation around the turkey fryer and time to tickle my nephew, hug my grandma, and ponder the reasons why my children wake up at least one hour earlier when we put them to bed an hour later than normal.
  • I'm doing marriage counseling with a few couples now and enjoying it. Lives are changing and marriages are improving. It's very rewarding when things go well.
  • I've got one chapter left to preach in the book of Ruth and an outline to finish for the secretary, so I better hop to it!