Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I love this time of year in spite of all the rabid consumerism (which I get caught up in too) and the endless silly arguments about whether this should be a non-religious holiday to celebrate winter, or whatever anyone wants to celebrate other than the birth of Christ. I'm actually not sure why anyone would want to celebrate winter as I hate cold weather and snow, unless I'm sledding or skiing (which I've actually never done, but it sounds like fun).

No, I love this time of year because I'm reminded again that God sent His son into this world to live among us, teach us a better way to live, and to eventually die on a cross in our place for the sins we committed in rejecting Him in the first place. I think Bill Mallonee said it as well as can be said in his song "On to Bethlehem":

"God wrapped Himself in human skin for those who want to touch and God let them drive the nails in for those of us who know way too much."

We had made our decision back in the Garden that we thought we knew better than God and before anyone thinks they would have made a different decision examine the decisions you have made in your own life. I likely would have given in a lot quicker than Adam and Eve did. But even in light of this rejection, in fact because of it, God continued to pursue us to the point of becoming a man and dying on a cross. That still blows me away.

So as we celebrate Christmas by opening presents, visiting with friends & family, and eating way more than we should, I hope you take the time to read the Christmas story and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas and God Bless.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Some thoughts on the economy

I was saddened to hear the other day that the steel mill in the town I grew up in was being "temporarily" idled due to the current economic conditions. I grew up in Granite City, IL, a small steel town in southern Illinois. When I was a kid, a very large number of people in Granite City, a town with a population of only about 30,000, were employed by the steel mill. My grandfather worked as an electrician at the plant for over 40 years and his father, my great grandfather, had also worked there his entire career. While the plant has been scaled back in recent years, it still employed a lot of people in town and provided significant tax revenue to the city. The impact of this shutdown will have a devastating impact on a city already in decline.



This just brings how bad this economy really is close to home for me. While I don't think things will get anywhere near as bad as they were in the Depression, I don't see any signs of improvement in the near future. I've never been much of an alarmist, but the unemployment numbers released by the Labor Department on Friday were scary, now approaching 7%. As I hear from more and more of my friends and family that have been laid off, I am very grateful to have a job.



Unfortunately, the people in the government that helped get us into this mess are the ones that are still in power. While they are all promising to fix things, the only thing I see them doing is handing out more money to the other people who helped get us into this mess by making poor business decisions, the large corporations and their executives. And just exactly where is the government getting the money to do this? Well, there are only 3 sources: raising taxes, borrowing form foreign countries, or printing more money. Raising taxes only further hurts the American people by taking money out of their pockets and hurts small business by increasing their costs, which gets passed along to consumers. Borrowing from foreign nations only further increases our national debt, which our children will eventually have to pay back. And printing more money further devalues the dollar, causing inflation.



While there is not much we can do as individuals to improve the economy, I would encourage all of us that are able to lend a helping hand where we can. Even if it's just in small ways, it can make a big difference in someones life. As we approach the Christmas season, let us not get too focused on all the busyness of the holidays, but instead let us focus on what we can do for others. God gave us the most incredible gift ever given when He gave his son. I pray that we would reflect that gift as we give to others.

God Bless.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday for a variety of reasons and this year is no different. As I normally do, I took the entire week off from work and have had time to just enjoy my family and reflect on all the things I have to be thankful for, and there are many. I realize the economy is in bad shape and there are many things going wrong in our country and around the world, but God's grace and mercy are always present in good times and bad. So with that in mind here are just a few of the things I am thankful for.

First, I thank God for the precious gift of my salvation and that I, a hopeless sinner, can have a personal relationship with the God of the universe. Though I certainly did nothing to deserve it.

I am extremely thankful for my wonderful and beautiful wife. She is my best friend and soul mate and has been my greatest supporter over the years. She has put up with my impulsiveness and endless rambling about politics, work, and sports for over 15 years now. I am thankful that she is now healthy again after a difficult year and praise God for bringing us through it and making us even closer than we were before. I am thankful for her wonderful and silly sense of humor and her tenderness and compassion for others.

I am grateful to God for the gift of our 3 precious children. It still amazes me to watch them grow more and more each year and to witness them becoming the person God created them to be. They are each unique individuals with their own talents, tastes, and passions and I look forward to see where God is taking them in their lives. It's interesting how God teaches us about ourselves through our children.

I am thankful for my church and the community of believers that we worship with. They are an incredible source of strength to me and my family. Our small group bible study in particular has been a place where we have cried and laughed together over the years and I appreciate their prayers and encouragement.

I am grateful for my parents and grandparents from whom I have gained much wisdom. I am also grateful for my wife's parents and grandparents who have always made me feel like I was a part of their family since day one.

I am thankful for my job, my house, my health and that even when we have struggled financially, we have always had food on the table and a roof over our heads. I am thankful I live in a country where I am free to worship and live how I choose. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel both in the US and internationally.

Finally, I am thankful that God continues to work on my heart beyond just my salvation and that He continues to help me grow as a person, husband, and father. I am thankful that the work He began in me He will see through to completion and that He is not done with me yet. I am thankful for God's grace when I stumble into sin or even when I charge in head first. His grace continues to overwhelm me everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving and may God's grace overwhelm you today as you reflect on all that you are thankful for.

God Bless.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random Thoughts Since the Election

I've been too busy to post anything over the last 2 weeks, so here are some of the things that have been on my mind since my last post. It's somewhat random, but that's how my mind works sometimes.

The results of the election have finally sunk in. It's taken awhile, but I think I've come to accept the fact that our country is going to make a big leap to the left over the next few years and there is very little I can do about it. I've actually taken a break from politics for the most part since the election, but I think I'm now ready to get back into the fray.

I find it interesting that the economy has continued to decline since the election. I was actually expecting a little bit of a rebound once the election was decided, regardless of who won. I guess Wall Street isn't jumping on the "hope" bandwagon just yet. I wonder how quickly others will jump off once they realize they aren't likely to get a tax cut, but instead see government spending continue to go out of control. With an unchecked liberal Congress and President, you better hold on to your wallets. Although the Republicans haven't been any better in recent years.

I also wonder which industry will be the next to go begging for a hand out from the government once the US auto industry gets theirs. You know they won't be the last.

I've also been thinking a lot about my responsibility as a Christian to help the poor. I've posted on this topic several times as it is a very important issue to me and it continues to weigh heavy on my heart. With all the suffering around the world, people dying of starvation and preventable disease, children being sold into slavery, etc., it just seems like there is more that we in this country can do. Even with the difficult economic situation we are in, we are still better off than the majority of the world. How many of us live in an 6x6 shack with mud floors and don't have access to clean water?

Organizations like Compassion and Food for the Hungry are great places to start, but I can't help but feel like there is more I'd like to do. I continue to pray that God would reveal to me how I can be more involved and how I can encourage others to get involved.

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving next week as well. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for and this has always been one of my favorite holidays. I get the joy of spending time with family and reflecting on all that God has blessed me with, but none of the stress of Christmas shopping, endless holiday parties, etc. As I usually do, I'm taking the entire week off and am looking forward to some quiet time to reflect on the last year. Don't get me wrong I love Christmas as well and my wife and I really try to make an effort to focus on the real reason we celebrate, but Thanksgiving is just a more peaceful time for me and because my job is rather high stress, I look forward to it every year.

This year has gone by way too fast and there have been many great times and some very difficult times. But God has really infused me with a new joy this year that I've not had in a long time. In spite of some very difficult circumstances, I can truly say that God is good and faithful.

I warned you that it was kind of random, but this is how most days are for me, a dozen things going through my mind at the same time. So today you get a glimpse inside my head. (Scary!) Hopefully, my next post will be a little more focused and I'll try to stay on one topic.

God Bless.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results

Well, I guess the American people made their decision. I am extremely disappointed and concerned, but from a purely historic standpoint, it is an amazing thing that an African American would be elected president, considering the civil rights movement was only 40 years ago. From that perspective, I am proud that we have come so far as a nation to so overwhelmingly elect an African American. I do hope that his election provides hope to people of all races that they can achieve their dreams no matter the obstacles. I only wish that the first African American president would have been a conservative.

Obama has promised to be a "uniter". I can only hope this is true as he has never been a "uniter" before in either the Illinois State Senate of the US Senate. I can only hope that he will moderate some of his positions and will be willing to listen to and work with those of us that disagree with his vision for the country. However, with a majority in the House and Senate, I'm not holding my breath. I hope the American people are prepared for a large shift to the left in this country because that's what is coming.

I do hope that I'm wrong and that Obama is an extremely successful president who is able to turn the economy around, protect us from terrorism, and provide strong leadership to move us forward as a nation. In the end my faith and hope are not in our president or any government leaders anyway, but in Christ. I believe God is sovereign and has placed Obama in this position for a purpose, even though I may not understand that purpose; and it is now our duty to pray for him and ask God to give him wisdom. I pray that he will put his trust in God above all else and look to Him for guidance. It is also our duty, however, to stand up and make our voice heard. It is imperative that we not let our ideals be shoved into the background and marginalized any further than they already have been. Just because we lost this election, we cannot give up fighting for our beliefs.

Tonight the American people got what they asked for. Now I only hope we can all live with it. May God have mercy on us.

God Bless.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A few thoughts the day before the election

It's been awhile since I have posted anything. Not because I haven't had anything to say, I've just been so incredibly busy with other things. But, with the election tomorrow, I felt it was time to make a little time. I am very concerned with what I believe is going to happen tomorrow. As those of you who have read my blog before know I am a McCain supporter. Not so much because I love McCain, but more because I'm afraid of the direction Obama wants to take the country.

(To be quite honest, I'm not sure who I really would like to see be president. I wasn't particularly thrilled with any of the options from either party in the primaries. This country is in such a financial and moral mess, I'm not sure anyone can fix it at this point. And president Bush sure hasn't been the conservative leader we thought he was going to be. His bailout plan was just the latest evidence that he is not a conservative. By the way, McCain's support of the bailout concerns me as well.)

However, while I think that McCain's economic plan has some flaws, I'm willing to live with those flaws compared to Obama's plan, which I am fairly certain will only make matter worse. The money is simply not available to do all that he wants to do, unless he raises taxes or drives us further into debt. He has been very upfront about his socialist leanings, though he doesn't use that term. I don't know about you, but I really don't want the government involved in every aspect of my life and I certainly don't think it's the government's responsibility to redistribute my money that I have worked very hard for to others that they deem are more worthy. I believe that it is my responsibility as a steward of what God has blessed me with to give to those people and causes that He leads me to give, not the Federal government. If I fail in that mandate, I have to answer to God. The first century church is the perfect model. They did not give money to some governmental authority to give to the poor. They gave directly to those that were in need.

So the American people have a fundamental choice to make on Tuesday. Do we want to further move our nation in a socialist direction or uphold the economic principals of our Founding Fathers and what made this nation an economic power in the world? I know the economy is a mess at the moment, but it will rebound if we hold steady and don't panic. Now is not the time to abandon ship and completely change the structure of our economy.

I would encourage everyone who supports Obama to please think about the type of country you want to live in. If you really think socialism is the way to go, then by all means vote your conscience and we'll have to agree to disagree. If Obama is elected, then I suppose those of us who disagree with him will have to live with it and find a way to make our voices heard at a local level. I just hope we can live with the consequences.

God Bless.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reflecting on the last 37 years...

I'm sure I'm not the only person that does this, but every year around my birthday I like to reflect back on my life. You know, the typical where have I been, what have I done to make a difference in this world, where am I headed type stuff. This year has been no different. I turned 37 last Friday and just really can't believe that I'm actually 37. I truly don't know where the last 20 years have gone? I can't believe I've been married for 15 years to the most wonderful woman in the world, who truly is my best friend and soulmate. Still not sure what I did to deserve her. I'm also amazed that I have 3 absolutely wonderful children, the oldest of which will be 13 in January. Thirteen? Are you kidding me? There is no way that I feel old enough to have a teenager. It feels like just yesterday that I was in college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and now I have responsibility for 3 children, a mortgage, car payments, and a job where people actually come to me for my advice on business issues. Sometimes it all just feels like a dream and I'm going to wake up and be back in high school again.

Time really does fly by the older you get. In the last several months, however, I've really been trying to focus on enjoying every moment, especially with my wife and kids. This is something I have always struggled with in the past, always worrying about what's next on the agenda. I'm now realizing that before I know it my kids will be off to college and starting their own life and I don't want to regret how I spent my time as they were growing up. I was really struck this summer with how much they have already grown up. In July, I took my oldest 2 kids to Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois. Cornerstone is a big 4-day Christian music and arts festival held every year in the middle of Illinois farmland. It's an amazing event that I've been going to since I was in college, but this is the first time I have taken the kids. Besides all the incredible music, it was amazing to have 4 full days of uniteruppted time with my kids. There were no schedules, no stress, just time to talk about what's going on in their lives. We had some wonderfully deep conversations about big issues and also plenty of just plain silliness and laughing with one another. I got to pray with my oldest daugher (9) as she took her first communion and was really moved by her compasison for those around the world who are suffering in poverty. And I got to watch my son (12) really begin to mature in his relationship with God. It was wonderful to truly delight in my children. I only wished that my wife and youngest daughter could have been there with us. That would have made it perfect.

I've been reminded again and again since then of what a wonderful glimpse of heaven that time was. I believe this is how God intended for us to live, in communion with Him and with one another. Enjoying each and every moment God has given us in this life and not worrying about what may happen tomorrow. Because whatever happens, God will provide. It's also made me really appreciate my children for who God created them to be as individuals created in His image with their own ideas, passions, and talents. They are no longer the little babies I once rocked to sleep at night. They are growing into young men and women. (Perhaps a little faster than I'd like) I am immensly proud of each of them and look forward to watching them continue to grow and mature.

So as I look back over the first 37 years of this journey, I realize that I have been extremely fortunate. I've been able to do and pursue many of the things I love. But as I get older the things I cherish most are my relationship with God and my family. Though the jouney has not always been easy, in fact, sometimes it has been quite difficult, He has truly blessed me. I am looking forward to the next 37 years (or more, hopefully) to see where God will take me. If the first 37 are any indication, the next should be pretty interesting.

God Bless.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The 2nd Presidential Debate

Well, that was disappointing. It sounded more like both candidates typical stump speeches. Nothing really new was disclosed and no real details were provided. I'm still a McCain supporter, basically because I think Obama's economic plan will only further drive the economy into the ground and because of Obama's position on abortion, but McCain did nothing to get me excited to vote for him. In fact, he seemed to drop a rather large bomb by implying that he would put forth a new plan for the government to buy up all the bad mortgages to the tune of $300 billion. The way he presented it was as if this would be in addition to the $700 billion bailout already passed. I thought McCain was the conservative candidate? He sounds more like a socialist to me on this issue.

As I've written in a previous blog, I am totally opposed to the bailout. It was supposed to prevent the economy from tanking, but, as I predicted, the economy tanked anyway. The last thing I wanted to hear was that we could expect more of those types of policies with a McCain administration. I still think McCain is the better choice, but this does concern me.

This election, as with all elections, is critically important to the future of our nation. We are on the edge of an economic disaster, we are in the middle of a war that has been mishandled from the start and have no clear way out, and government spending continues to grow out of control. We need a strong leader and I'm not sure either of these candidates really fits the bill. Perhaps our focus should be on the local and state level. We need people at all levels of government that are willing to tackle these issues from a common sense standpoint.

Hopefully the next debate will be a little more enlightening. McCain needs to strike a knockout punch if he hopes to win in November. He certainly didn't do that tonight and in fact he gave some of us, his supporters, cause for concern.

God Bless.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Bailout, Economy, and other Exciting Issues

Sometimes I don't recognize this country anymore. When did we become a socialist nation? When both Democrats and Republicans in the federal government are willing to back a bill that will "loan" $700 Billion to failing business and buy bad mortgages, we no longer live in a capitalist nation with a free market. I realize that the bill failed the first time around and am glad that there are some people in both parties that refused to vote for it, but we all know that it will eventually pass. Capitalism is not a perfect system by any means, but socialism has proven again and again that it does not work. It's a nice idea that makes people feel good, but in the end it only results in high taxes and government controlled programs that are inefficient and expensive. It not only fails to bring the poor up on the economic scale, but it brings everyone else down. There is no incentive to achieve, because it only means more will be taken from you.

I'm all for programs that help the poor. In fact I believe it is our mandate from God. But we need to help them by providing education and opportunities to get them out of poverty, not just giving them handouts. Or in the case of the mortgage crisis providing loans they cannot afford to pay back for houses they cannot afford. How does this help them? Within a few years the bank has to foreclose on their house and they are then worse off than when they started. They not only no longer have a house, but now their credit is damaged.

Because of the pressure from those on the left, the very poor business decisions of those that gave into that pressure, and those who invested in mortgage backed securities (which appears to be almost everyone in the financial industry) our economy is in complete disarray. I've never been one to push the panic button and I do believe the economy will come back, with or without the bailout, but this situation has gotten very serious and is going to be very ugly for years to come. In the long run I believe we will be worse off with the bailout. The only way to pay for this is to raise taxes or borrow more money from foreign countries, further increasing our national debt. Neither is a great prospect. If we would have just ridden out this storm, the market would have taken a hit in the short run and these companies that were run so poorly would have failed as the market dictated. But in the long run the economy would have come roaring back because these companies would have been weeded out of the mix.

As it turns out the economy is taking a hit anyway and there are apparently no consequences for those who caused this mess, only for those of us who had nothing to with it and are left to pay for it. Now, instead of the economy roaring back, we will be paying for this "loan" for years to come, not only in taxes, but in our 401(K)'s and other investments while the CEO's and corporations at fault will still be around making the same bad decisions and we will go through the cycle all over again at some point. In the meantime the federal government will own more and more private enterprise, slowly and steadily controlling more and more of our lives.

What country is this again?

Welcome to the Socialist United States of America.

God Bless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Compassion International

I had the great privilege on Sunday night to work at the Compassion International booth at the Robbie Seay concert in St. Louis. For those not familiar with this organization, they are a Christian, child sponsorship organization that provides funds to assist children living in extreme poverty around the world. Individuals can sponsor a child for a monthly donation and the money goes to provide food, clothing, education, and other needs of the child and their family. It's a little different than some similar organizations in that you are able to regularly correspond with the child you sponsor and develop a relationship with them. It's an outstanding, reputable, and very well run organization.

My family and I started sponsoring a child living in Columbia in July and it has been a wonderful experience so far. As I've discussed in a previous blog, God has really been causing me to think a lot about the church's role (and my role as a part of the church) in the world, especially as it relates to this issue and other areas of social justice. So when I had the opportunity to volunteer at an event to talk about Compassion and to assist others in sponsoring a child, I jumped at the chance and I'm so glad I did.

It was so exciting to see people's hearts moved and to talk with so many people about Compassion and the work they are doing. We ended up signing up 15 people to sponsor a child, which is incredible. But it was also hard to look at all the packets of children that are still waiting to be sponsored. There is just so many people around the world living in such terrible conditions, that it almost overwhelms me to think about it.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend my day and so much of my energy at a job that just feels rather pointless at times. I feel like I could be putting my skills and talents to use doing something more to further God's kingdom and help those in need, but I just don't have the time because my job keeps me so busy. Don't get me wrong, I like my job and have no plans to leave anytime soon, however it's just not where my real passion lies. I do believe God has me where I am for a reason, but I can't help but wonder if the direction God has been stirring my heart lately is leading to something else. It's difficult to be patient and unsure of the future, but God's timing and plan is always perfect.

So for now I will try to be available when other opportunities like this present themselves. Perhaps that's what all this is about anyway, learning to be available when God calls, no matter how big or small the calling seems to be. Perhaps God is more interested in our hearts and our response to Him than anything else. In the end it's really the work of Christ in peoples hearts and lives that makes the difference anyway, not our actions.

God Bless.

If your interested in more information or would like to sponsor a child, please visit Compassion at www.compassion.com.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

God's Provision

I was reminded again today of how merciful God truly is to us. It's amazing how He provides us with what we need even in the small things in life. We were on our way to my son's football game today, which happened to be an away game about 20 miles from our house, when we ran over something on the road and ended up with a flat tire. By God's grace, his coach happened to be in the car behind us and saw what happened. When we pulled over, he pulled over with us. It turned out that at that point the tire was not flat, but had a large screw in it. We decided to head on to the game and get the tire fixed afterward since the hole seemed to be sealed by the screw. However, just in case it went flat on the way we decided it would be best for my son to ride with his coach figuring that if something happened he could still get there in time for warm ups.

This turned out to be the right decision since we got about another mile and the tire went completely flat and we pulled into a Walgreen's parking lot. When I got ready to change the tire I realized that my jack was missing (still not sure what happened to it). Again God provided. My wife went in to see if anyone in Walgreens had a jack we could borrow. While she was inside, a young girl, who had had a flat a few days before, came over and offered for us to use her jack. Shortly after that my wife came out with someone else who also had a jack and offered to help. Between the whole group, we had the tire changed in about 5 minutes and we were on our way to the game. We even ended up getting there 15 minutes before kickoff. Had my son stayed with us he would have missed 45 minutes of his warm up.

After the game we found an auto and tire shop that was open and had the tire fixed in about 20 minutes. I know this was not some earth shattering event in the whole scheme of things and we've certainly dealt with some much bigger issues over the last year, but it was just so evident to all of us to see God's provision every step of the way. I'm reminded as I write this that if God is so faithful in these small things in our lives, how much more so in the larger things.

This certainly doesn't mean that things always turn out the way we would like or that life is not difficult, because it certainly is very difficult at times. Sometimes we wonder why God allows bad or even terrible things to happen to us and often there is no explanation. But God does not promise us that we will never go through hard and painful times, in fact the Bible clearly states that we will, but He has promised that He will always be with us as we go through the dark times of our life. When we go through these times we should remember back to the times when God provided in the past and trust that He will provide for us again. God is always faithful even in the midst of our doubt.

God Bless.

More Thoughts on the Election

The bickering continues. The Left seems determined to destroy Sarah Palin simply because she is a conservative, Christian woman and the Right seems determined to destroy Obama simply because he is a liberal. I don't have a problem with challenging someone on their position on the issues, but when one side starts going after the others' family or simply making stuff up about the other candidate, that just shows they don't have any ideas of their own. A candidate should give you a reason to vote for them, not against someone else.

Remember how the Left loved McCain when he was running against Bush in 2000 because he was a maverick republican. Now the same people state a McCain administration will be another 4 years of failed Bush policies and they suddenly don’t like him anymore. This strict adherence to a political party drives such hypocrisy it’s no wonder nothing ever gets fixed in this country. I just want to see both sides have an honest debate about what they truly believe and present their plan to the nation without all the personal attacks and rhetoric. Then let the American people make a reasoned decision based on that.

Unfortunately, I think many Americans are more interested in the celebrity gossip and name calling than an actual discussion of the issues. If both candidates and their spokespeople would agree to not engage in this kind of rhetoric and simply stick to the issues, I’m sure the ratings of all the network and cable news shows would decline, but at least we would know what they really believed and then those that voted would be the people that are actually familiar with the issues and have made a reasoned decision.

I’m really disturbed by the fact that many people will vote for Obama simply because he is a great speaker or that many will vote for McCain simply because of his military service and the sacrifice he made for our nation. These are fine qualities to be sure, but not a reason to vote for someone. I love to listen to Obama speak and it would be refreshing to have a president that can put two sentences together. And McCain’s story is amazing and I would be proud to have a man like that as president of the United States. However, we should never vote for someone without truly understanding their position on the issues and unfortunately we just don’t get enough of that.

The hundreds of millions of dollars that are wasted on this kind of campaigning is just sickening. What I would like to see is both candidates travel around the country together engaging in civil debates where people from all sides of the isle are invited to participate. Some could be more formal debates, while others more of a town hall format. Eliminate the personal attach ads and simply produce ads that state the candidates position on issues and their vision for the country. Campaigns could be run on a third of what they are now and that money could instead be better spent on things that would actually help people.

I realize this may just be my idealism talking, but I can’t help for longing for something better than we currently have.

God Bless.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AIG Bailout

Since I work in the insurance industry I’ve been following the recent financial problems of AIG and Lehman very closely. Being in the industry and doing a lot of business with AIG, I completely understand the ripple effect on the economy, and the insurance industry in particular, if AIG would have been allowed to go down. From an economic theory standpoint I understand why the Fed did what they did. However, since when is it the federal government’s responsibility to bail out a company in financial peril due to their management’s incompetence?

I realize it’s been done before, i.e. the S&L’s in the 80’s. But if the government is willing to bailout AIG, why not all the small businesses that go under everyday in this country? The founding fathers are surely rolling over in their graves. It's not as if there was some natural disaster and the government is helping them get back on their feet. Their problems were solely caused by poor management decisions, nothing else. Yes, it would have effected the economy in the short run, but in the long run the market would have adjusted and been in a much stronger position than it is now.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the people on the front lines who could lose their jobs in cost cutting measures because of their management’s inability to understand their own business. But it’s sickening to me that the CEO’s and senior management of these companies will leave with multi-million dollar “golden parachutes.” What exactly are they being rewarded for, running their company into the ground? If we did our jobs that poorly, we would be fired and certainly not receive a bonus on the way out. In addition, now the American taxpayer has to foot the bill to the tune of an $85 billion loan. Do you suppose if AIG becomes profitable and pays back the loan and interest that we’ll see some of those profits? I’m not counting on it.

God Bless.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

World Poverty and the Church

The older I get, the more and more amazed I am at how God works in our lives. This last summer has been, in many ways, a very difficult summer due to some family health issues. Yet at the same time God has been really stirring my heart and causing me to look at my life from a different perspective. I'm finding that things I seldom gave much thought to now move me emotionally in a way the never used to.

God has really softened my heart to the plight of people living in extreme poverty and those suffering through tremendous atrocities like war, terrorism, and genocide and horrendous natural disasters like the recent hurricanes. It's much stronger than just even feeling sympathy for these people; it tends to weight very heavy on my heart. I'm still working through just exactly what it is God is doing and wrestling with why this has become such an emotional issue for me in the last few months, but I'm trying to respond when situations arise that give me the opportunity to do something to help however small it may be.

I feel stronger than I ever have that the church, especially in America, with all the resources that are available to us should be on the forefront of these issues. Yet we often get too wrapped up in our own lives to even give it a second thought. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else so I am not pointing a finger, but something needs to change. If we fail to help those truly in need, we have failed to keep the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus spent most of his ministry healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving people where they were at. I think about what I put my energies into and it's seldom any of those things.

At Cornerstone Music Festival this year, I was really challenged by this and, at the urging of my oldest daughter, we decided to start sponsoring a child through Compassion International in July and even though it's not much and it's only one child I feel that God will use it and who knows what impact one child could have.

I have also been presented with an opportunity to help support a documentary an acquaintance at my church is making on the subject of world poverty. The name of the project is called "Give a Damn?" and is currently in production. The filmmaker will be traveling through Africa trying to live on a dollar a day, which is the average daily wage in many third world countries. I would encourage everyone to visit their website at www.giveadamndoc.com for more information on this important film and please consider supporting this project.

The church's mission is to spread the gospel. But spreading the gospel is much more than preaching the salvation message. Our mandate is to care for the poor and suffering. God has truly blessed us in America, but we are called to be good stewards of his blessings and do all we can to care for those here and around the world that are in need. I pray that God would continue to work on all of our hearts and never stop challenging us.

God Bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Election

Well, the election is in full swing and I'm tired from staying up too late every night the last few weeks watching the convention coverage for both parties. I was already tired from staying up late watching the Olympics every night and then we went right into the conventions. Part of my problem is that I not only watch the speeches, but I also love all the pre and post speech discussions. I know it drives my wife crazy when I keep flipping from Fox to CNN to MSNBC, but I'm simply fascinated by the political process and love all the debate.

Unfortunately, most of what's going on now is just silly personal attacks between the candidates and no real discussion of issues. This is what turns most people off from politics and is really sad. I am a McCain supporter, but I don't have anything personal against Obama, I just simply disagree with him on many issues. Actually, in many ways, I don't completely disagree with where he wants to go, I just disagree with him on how to get there. There are a few fundamental issues like abortion and higher taxes that would prevent me from voting for him, but I believe that overall his intentions are good and that he really does love this country.

I consider myself an independent conservative with a few liberal leanings, i.e. gun control and the environment. I just can't call myself a republican as I feel they have drifted too far from the idea of small government and really have done nothing about the issue of abortion in this country, which are supposed to be core beliefs of the party. I also have trouble with the so called "Christian Right". I am a Christian and my relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life. But I can't understand how the Christian Right can be so gung-ho for war and care so little about the issue of poverty around the world. Seems backwards to me, but that's a topic for another day.

The thing I like most about McCain is that he isn't and has never been a typical republican. He has always been a maverick and is not afraid to buck the system. This is exactly the kind of person we need in the White House. Let's hope he doesn't change if he gets elected.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My First Blog

Welcome to my blog. This is the first one I’ve ever written and I’m excited to join the blogosphere. I have many interests and look forward to sharing my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics. The topics will likely be all over the map depending on what’s on my mind on any particular day. Some may be deep, serious issues; others may just be mindless or random thoughts.

Here is a little background on me that will give you an idea about my interests. I’m 36 years old and live in the St. Louis, MO area. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 15 years and we have 3 wonderful children. I have a bachelor’s degree in Economics and an MBA. I’ve been in the insurance industry for the last 12 years and am a commercial insurance broker, primarily working with large general commercial contractors.

I’m a Christian and have attended a Presbyterian church for the last 12 years. I was raised in the Assemblies of God, but as I got older I found myself moving away from the doctrine of the AG and toward a reformed theology. I now consider myself a Calvinist for the most part.

I tend to be fairly conservative politically, but consider myself an independent since I don’t completely align with the Republican Party on every issue. I am a total political junkie, much to my wife’s dismay.

I am very interested in social justice and environmental issues and the church’s responsibility in these areas.

I’m a huge sports fan, especially football and any sport my children are involved in. My son plays football, my oldest daughter plays softball, and both of my daughters are involved in gymnastics. I love to play basketball, tennis, hike, run, mountain bike, and train with my kids in their various sports.

I also love travel, music (all kinds), movies, theology, reading, art, history, nutrition, and hanging out with my family. I’m sure there is more, but that’s enough autobiography for now.

I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts and I absolutely love to debate, so please feel free to leave comments.