Christmas Flash Mob

Flash Mobs are a pretty cool thing made possible, or at least much easier, by the internet. If you’re not familiar with the idea of a flash mob, it’s basically a bunch of people who plan a performance of some time in a public place and spring it on the unsuspecting folks who happen to be there. For a couple other neat examples, check out the Grand Central Freeze, the Sound of Music Dance or this one at OSU featuring Brutus Buckeye and Gordon Gee.
I think it might be fun to be a part of one someday, but this one looks like it would be lots of fun. I love the Hallelujah chorus simply as a piece of music, but seeing the message of Christ and his supremacy proclaimed in this mall food court is awesome.

Mt. St. Helens

From NPR’s picture show blog:

The destroyed site around Mount St. Helens was declared a monument and virtually closed to the public for the past three decades. And some interesting ecological developments came of it: life not only returned but also exploded, new forms of flora and fauna flourished, and rainbow trout somehow returned to waters — and grew in size.

Today marks 30 years since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Since that time, the area has mostly been closed off to man, yet the creation has returned. (see the entire amazing slide show here)
How do men claim that there is no creator?

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Psalm 19:1-3

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Health Savings Accounts and the Current Debate – A Letter to NPR

I listen to NPR news on the way to and from work each day. Morning Edition this morning ran a story this morning about folks with the ‘gold plated’ health plans, the kind that some in congres want to tax. The story was more of a human interest piece than news as it looked at two families out of the mainstream, or at least I assume they are. There was no analysis of how far their plans are outside of the mainstream, just the telling of their story.
I’ve been disappointed in the reporting on health care in that in every news story, the talk goes to premium payments and copays. It seems the assumption is that this is how health care works and how we pay for it. Our Health Savings Account takes a different approach. We have no copays but pay full price up to a max adn then insurance pays beyond that. I’m disappointed to hear the reporting always framed in terms of the typical copay paradigm, which I believe contributes to higher costs. Our HSA is much more cost effective for us than the PPO also offered, saving us thousands each year for the same care. I wrote the following letter to Morning Edition to express my disappointment in the one sided reporting.

I’ve been listening to the health care stories both on NPR and elsewhere and wonder why I haven’t heard stories of folks with plans other than standard plans with premium payments and co-pays. I have yet to hear of folks with HSA plans, which I have and has served my family and others in my company very well.
The lawyer today who pays $30K for his health care each year made me smile. The total cost of the premiums for my HSA are about $14,600 for my family of 5 (my employer pays about $11K of that). The terms of the HSA allow me to contribute pre-tax dollars to an account to pay for medical expenses, which I do each paycheck. I pay full price for everything out of that account until my deductible is met, after which everything is covered 100%. Our family deductible is $4K meaning that our max health care expense per year is $18,600, period.
Compare that with the PPO also offered by my employer. Premiums alone for my family are $18,500 (again, my employer pays about $11K) and every visit or prescription incurs a copay of some kind, easily adding thousands of dollars per year. As you can see, the difference between the PPO premiums and the HSA premiums is almost equal to my HSA deductible, meaning my out of pocket is the same either way BEFORE I go to the doctor even once. Even if I paid 100% out of my pocket, the HSA is a no brainer.
With the HSA, my health care expenses are capped, with the traditional PPO they are not. I could easily double my costs if I have several major events in a single year.
The downside is that a major event in the beginning of the year when the HSA account is low means coming up with the money from somewhere else until the funds area available. The shock of paying full price is a bit much at first, but it exposes you to the true cost of care which is good. Also, if we have a very healthy year, anything left in our HSA account is ours to keep. It functions as a retirement account, and withdrawals are subject to similar rules.
I’m concerned about what will happen to my HSA plan under these new government initiatives. Mr. Obama says I can keep my plan, however I’m not yet convinced that it will still be offered. I’ve heard nothing on the impact to HSAs under the plans currently proposed.
I wish more folks were aware of this option and understood it’s benefits and I’d like to hear it reported on NPR.

Doctor Looses License Over Successful Procedure

This story is not for the faint of heart.
The patient was instructed to arrive early, which she did. The staff got things underway in anticipation of the doctor’s arrival. But he was called to another patient for an emergency and arrived hours late. The procedure was already begun and the staff carried it to it’s completion:

The Department of Health said [Dr.] Renelique was scheduled to perform an abortion on a teenager who was 23 weeks pregnant in 2006. Sycloria Williams had been given drugs in advance to dilate her cervix.
According to the complaint, she gave birth at a Hialeah clinic after waiting hours for Renelique to arrive. The complaint said one of the clinic owners put the baby in a bag that was thrown away.

Because of the tardiness of the doctor, the baby was born alive, but quick thinking staff members finished the procedure by simply throwing the baby away.
But the doctor was disciplined, and now lost his license over it.
Had the doctor been on time, everything would have ended the same.
Wasn’t the desired result a non-pregnant girl and a dead baby? Isn’t that what was achieved? Why does it matter that this baby was actually alive for a few moments outside the mother? What changed about it?
Every day hundreds, probably thousands, of babies get thrown in the trash, only they are killed before we get to see that they are babies. Why is it barbaric to throw a baby in the trash only if it’s actually breathed air? *
The inconsistency in this issue is amazing to me. Cause a pregnant woman to miscarry in an accident and you’re a murderer. If she comes to you and asks you to do it in a nice clean office, then you’re a doctor. But mess it up, and let the baby be born alive, but correct your mistake, well, now you’re a murderer again.
I can only hope that this will show some how barbaric the pro-abortion position is. If even a few stop and think “What in the world are we doing?”, then maybe this little one won’t have died in vain.
HT: Daniel & Thinklings
* I’ll grant what one commenter at the Thinklings said. It’s a cold person who can look at a live baby, holding it in your arms, and then throw it away.

Good News for Parents of Teens

You may have heard of a study last month on the effectiveness of abstinence pledges. it was widely reported on, this article in the Washington Post covers the gist of the reporting:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

That’s what was heard over and over. Abstinence programs don’t work, we were told, why are we doing them?

As a Christian parent of one teen age girl and two others approaching puberty at light speed, I had two reactions.

First was a sigh of resignation of the state of the world we live in. Teen sex is a fact of life, almost celebrated in TV & movies. It stinks, but you’ve gotta live somewhere and Mars isn’t open for business yet.

Second was to carry on with what I had already been doing, namely a full on assault against the world’s full court press on my girls’ values. I have taught them that waiting is God’s way, it’s the best way and that all around them their friends and the media will be acting otherwise. The odds may be stacked against me, but there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to sit by and let it happen. It’s inevitable, the studies say, but I follow a God who says otherwise.

Imagine my (lack of) surprise when yesterday I read a Wall Street Journal opinion piece debunking the reporting on this study:

[T]he only way the study’s author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers

In other words, the study compared conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage with conservative, religious teens inclined toward waiting until marriage who had actually taken a pledge to do so and found no difference between the groups.

Well, duh.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, health editor for U.S. News & World Report, examined the results and found “virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general — a fact that many media reports have missed cold.” And there’s more:

What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:

– These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

– These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

– These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

– When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 — compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

– And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste — amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

So teen parents rejoice, it turns out that God knows what He’s talking about after all.

HT: Brant Hansen

Rethinking Legal Definitions of Marriage

Scott posted this on his Facebook page a couple of days ago. It’s a pretty thought provoking take on the passing of California’s ban on same sex marriages and well worth 6 minutes or so of your time. California isn’t the first state to pass this, Ohio did a few years ago (which I voted for) and many other states have as well. For some reason California’s passage is getting more attention than I remember other states votes getting. Maybe it’s because if any state would vote against it it would be California.
As I said, I voted for the Ohio amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I stand by that assertion, though not necessarily that vote anymore. I’m not entirely sure, frankly.
I am sure of what God says marriage to be in scripture. Man and Woman. Nowhere does God indicate that folks of the same sex should get married. All examples of marriage in scripture are of men and women. God treats that relationship as special and has given married folks something special, sex, that they and only they are to enjoy. God has said that sex is not for unmarried people and it is not for people of the same sex. There’s really no way around that in scripture. So the clear implication, if not explicit instruction, is that marriage is a man-woman thing.
It is certainly within the rights of a people, be it a state or nation, to pass laws defining terms and legal entities. We can define marriage to be whatever we want it to be, but whatever we say has no bearing on what God says. Does the state have an interest in defining marriage? I suppose it does, but the extent that its interests align with Gods is mostly coincidence. By promoting placing that authority in the state, what statement is the Christian making? When the state’s interest no longer aligns with God’s, and in fact interferes and stands in the way of Godly marriages (as opposed to simple allowing marriages that God would not), what then will the Christian do? After all, we’ve already validated the state’s authority in this matter.
Is it wrong to vote for or promote these measures? No, but neither is it wrong to oppose them. God’s definitive opinion is not changed or harmed either way.
Were if to come up for vote again, I’m not so sure I’d vote for it now. What are your thoughts?

Real Change

Dan at Cerulean Sanctum as a thought provoking post on the election. Go read it for an interesting take on how the Obama victory was a victory for truth, just not the truth that most white Christians were focused on. He’s dead on there.
But I want to focus on these nuggets:

The Republican Party has done next to nothing for born-again Christians…
…yet we continue to mindlessly suck at its teat.
… the devotion to the GOP continues to not only bite us but show us as not all that dedicated to our principles.
… We look like sheep in the end. And not the Lord’s sheep, but GOP sheep. Baa on all of us. It’s the old case of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

I voted republican for a variety of reasons. The big reason I didn’t seriously consider Obama was his stand on abortion. It’s a deal breaker issue, and rightfully so. If we will not stand up for those with, literally, no voice, who will?
But as I watched the campaign unfold and I saw Obama motivate folks that usually don’t participate, as I saw him speak decisively of hope in tough times (much like Reagan did in 1980) and I watched the McCain campaign focus on why Obama is bad and draw lines in the sand with good on one side and evil (and Obama) on the other, I wondered if I was on the right team.
I’ve never been a partisan cheerleader, but I’ve voted Republican nearly every election. I’ve seen many Christians look down on those who’d pull any other lever than the one with the R next to it. (Frankly, I saw the same in a few Obama supporting Christians this time too.) But the Republicans are not Jesus, in fact, I see a lot of Jesus in the Democrats, maybe more than the Republicans.
Are evangelicals willing to step back and see that their marriage to the Republican party has benefited the party much, much more than the cause of Christ (if it was benefited at all)? Will the supporters of Obama learn that lesson and not plant Christ’s flag next to his?
Dan goes on to say this:

The only “Change We Can Believe In” is Jesus Christ. Neither the Republicans nor Democrats offer real change. Anything or anyone else that gets billed as change is a lie.
If want to to see our land healed, then we do what Jesus Christ told us to do in the Great Commission: We make disciples.
Because a nation right with God only comes about through the transformation of human lives by Jesus Christ. And that happens when you and I do the one thing so few of us care to do.
Politics is easy. It takes very little to put up a sign in our yard announcing our choice in candidates.
Evangelizing the world is much tougher, especially in a post-Christian West that has been inoculated against the Gospel by Christians who talk a good faith but who live it haphazardly. Heart change only comes, though, when Christians stop talking about evangelism and actually start doing it. It’s when our walk matches our talk. When our rhetoric matches the Bible and is lived out before the world, then people might sit up and take notice. We have to stop dedicating so much time to erecting our individual kingdoms and spend more time working with the Lord to build His Kingdom His way.

That is absolutely the truth and truth that I often fail at. Championing your favorite candidate may improve the nation a bit or make it worse. It’s not insignificant, but it will not transform the lives of your neighbors or coworkers. We forget that Jesus’ plan was never to bring salvation through systematic change in governance or organizations. Instead he planned that each of us would have the power to transform lives through our submission, obediance, example and witness.
Obama or McCain can not enhance or hinder that. It is of God, effective regardless of the circumstance or power structure. It worked in Christian hostile Rome, it works in the underground churches of China and it works in the USA.
Do we believe that?

President Obama

As I write this, it seems inevitable – Barack Obama will be our next president (in fact, as I was writing McCain conceded). I have two reactions.
The first is sadness. I haven’t spoken of it here, but I have a lot of respect for John McCain, more than for any candidate I can remember. His life has been characterized by service and he’s clear and consistent in what he stands for, a rare quality in a politician. The presidency is the natural culmination of his career. If anyone deserves to be elected, and no one does, John McCain did. This should have been his year, but he faced the perfect storm of following an unloved president, an economy tanking and facing the most charismatic candidate in years.
But it was McCain’s campaign strategy that did him in, in my view. As a prominent republican said after one of the debates, the campaign didn’t live up to the man. It’s a shame, because if it had, I believe we’d have a different result.
On the other hand, I’m proud of my country at this moment. Not too many generations ago, Barack Obama would have been nothing more than property, today he’s the leader of the nation. It has taken time, but we have come a long ways.
Congratulations Senator, and congratulations America.

Really Unplugged

Well, this past Unplugged Sunday has really taken hold. About 3-4 PM, hurricane Ike rolled into central Ohio bringing hurricane force 75-80 MPH winds that just tore things up. We were without power for about 18 hours and as of this morning still have no internet (I’m typing this on my lunch break at work.) Nothing like what Texas experienced, but the worst hurricane I’ve experienced in Ohio. Thankfuly, the wind came alone, no rain to add insult to injury.
There are still over 150,000 without power here in the Columbus area and it all won’t be back to normal until next week some time. My neighborhood of relatively young trees (12-15 years) still saw many go down, some roofs & gutters were lost as well. We fared just fine, in fact because our patio was on the leeward side of the house, Emily and I spent a little while outside watching the wind. The kids enjoyed two beautiful fall days off school. The Columbus City Schools (not our district) has taken 4 days off this week due to power issues. The state only allows 5 ‘calamity’ days per year, and we haven’t seen any snow yet.
Depending on when things come back on at home, I may be silent for a little while longer. Not that anyone likely noticed …

I Remember

Seven years and the memory starts to fade, but like my parent’s generation and JFK’s assassination, I remember just where I was standing when Tower 1 fell and the world changed.
I was in Big Bear, a supermarket that no longer exists, standing in line buying 1 pound bags of M&Ms for a project at work. The store had brought a TV on a cart up to the check out area and those of us in line watched as the tower came down. I don’t remember any words being spoken, no words were necessary – or adequate.
Before I sat in our morning scheduling meeting and we laughed that some knucklehead had flown his plane into the WTC. We assumed it had been one guy in a Cessna at that time. We were naive.
I spent the rest of the workday trying to stay on task, but in reality hitting refresh on
I spent the night until I couldn’t keep my eyes open watching CNN, waiting for the amazing rescue story that never came.
Seven years later and it wasn’t until I read some other posts that I paused to think about that day. Memories fade, but I’m not sure that this one should.
Where were you? What do you remember?

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