Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Civil Discourse on Healthcare Reform

I have posted a couple of notes on Facebook that reflect my belief that Christians are called to a high standard of integrity in discussion and debate of divisive issues - Health Care Reform being the current issue - and my disgust at at the propaganda and disregard of the truth that characterizes much of the current debate.

A few of my own observations on Health Care Reform...
  1. Any definitive statement on what is or is not included in the bill is pure conjecture at this point. When Congress recessed, there were a number of bills and proposals in various stages of the process, but as of now, there is no voteable bill in either house.
  2. I do not believe that there is any question that some form of reform is needed. There are parts of our system that are the best in the world, but there are also millions of working Americans who cannot afford to fully access the system. (Not to mention the millions of God's other children within our borders that are somehow undeserving of access to basic health care)
  3. I'm probably not the most politically astute observer, but this is an issue that should transcend partisan politics. It seems to me that President Obama, in trying to get something done while he still has/had the momentum that comes with being newly elected has attempted to get something done too quickly to be the quality reform that is needed; it also seems to me that much of the conservative opposition stems more from the motivation of derailing Obama's presidency than from actual disagreement on the issues.
  4. President Obama outlined eight principles for health care reform in his FY 2010 Budget overview. I can't find much among these to disagree with....
  • Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government.
  • Protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs.
  • Guarantee choice of doctors and health plans.
  • Invest in prevention and wellness.
  • Improve patient safety and quality care.
  • Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans.
  • Maintain coverage when you change or lose your job.
  • End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Of course, the devil is in the details, and when the details are being defined by congress the resulting sausage may not be edible to anyone. But if the prevailing shouting continues to obscure the details, we will never know.

Below are the links to the sites mentioned earlier...I hope they provide some clarity.
“A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform” from The New York Times, published August 9, 2009.
This regularly-updated site from the Kaiser Family Foundation compares the different reform proposals on the table. is devoted to nonpartisan myth-busting and truth-telling.
A summary of’s research into several of the arguments surrounding health-care reform, published July 14, 2009.
8 Myths about Health Care Reform from the AARP Magazine, published July/August 2009.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

D Day

Thank You.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Reposted from Memorial Day, 2006 - A speech given by my grandfather at a Memorial Day service in Cameron, WVa, on Memorial Day in 1953.

Mr. Chairman, Beloved and respected defenders of our America in the struggles of the past and in the present bloody war. Ladies and gentlemen - It is not necessary that I explain the object of our service today. Its purpose is engrafted on your memory as one of our most cherished privileges. The privilege of a free people, scattering the tokens of undying love upon the graves of those who made the supreme sacrifice and honoring the memories of those whose bodies are in the embrace of mother earth in foreign lands or sleeping in the bosom of the mighty deep.

And although it is not possible to erase from our memories the terrible realities of war, yet we can raise our hearts in thanksgiving and appreciation. And as we bow our heads in honor of our brave boys and girls, we feel at the same time the tenderest sentiment of a great sorrow. And the gladness of a greatful heart.

We mourn and yet we rejoice. We uncover our heads as a token of true solemnity, and yet we bless the courage of these defenders of the Grandest Nation on earth America.

Who can point to a more noble purpose than to meet as we meet today?

And as I look over this audience I see the same true spirit outlined in your countenance as they manifest in their service. I see the same sentiment of loyalty. I see in the flush of the cheek your willingness to do and to dare in defence of the flag we love.

We are all endowed with the same loyalty to our government, the same determination to protect it and the same courage to defend it. As a people we are grand in government, grand in prosperity, and grand in achievement. Alone we stand upon the foundation of our greatness. But it is not enough that we proclaim our greatness. There is more for all of us to do. And as we meet together on this Memorial Day, let us renew our devotion to our government and so educate our people that our American form of government will never decay.

May we ever appreciate the heritage bequeathed to us on the altar of sacrifice. And may we realize the sacredness of that loyalty which binds us together up on the plain of equal rights. We know our greatness and let us, by a just and righteous conduct, cherish it.

The strength of true greatness depends upon the basic principles of honesty and justice. It was these principles that won for us the glorious independence of this nation. It was these that governed the makers of our constitution, and it is these same principles which must govern our future acts if we would maintain the proud position we hold among other nations. Only five remain who fought in the civil war. They range in age from 105 to 110 years. But later, thirty-five years ago there went forth from their homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents in Flanders fields and in the Valley of the Argonne.

They lived in dugouts. They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They were cold, weary and homesick, no one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and the depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought and died on those European battle fields.

Then again in world war two the call came for defenders of our sacred rights, and your boys and mine answered that call with the same undaunted courage and the same unquenchable spirit that characterized the brave lads of 76, of the Spanish American war, and the boys of world war one - They went forth, met and conquered the enemy in the skys over Europe, in the mud of Italy, in the jungled islands of the Pacific, and in the frozen north land. And today our brave boys are fighting in the jungles of Korea against the most barbarous and uncivilized enemy we can imagine.

Why do young men postpone the day of marriage, print the last long lingering kiss on the lips of a loved one and rush into war with its uncertain future? Why do fathers and mothers bid their boys and girls a fond goodbye and send them forth to the many battle fronts? I am sure they did it for a principle.

There has never been an upward movement in the history of the world for the liberation of the people of the earth that has not been achieved by the shedding of precious blood. Mans forward march from lower to higher ideals is written on the roadways of history in foot prints of blood. And today the souls of men and women are being tried all because the power seeking dictators of the world would regiment and enslave the peoples of the entire world. And turn their God ordained libery into slavery.

Religious liberty, domestic security, social welfare, and political independence are all thrown into the balance. And our boys have cast their lives in the scales to maintain these blessings. These blessings can only be enjoyed so long as we have proper regard for a divine being. God is on the ocean, on the desert, on the isles of the sea and in the frigid north land. As well as in the U.S. For the nations and kingdoms that will not serve Thee shall perish. Yea these nations shall be utterly wasted. Isa 60:12

We make the sacrifice because we love our country and her institutions. And when our eyes behold that emblem of our national existence, we feel as though we could clasp its folds in our dearest embrace, and kiss each star that bedecks its field of blue. Flag of our fathers. Flag of our Washington, our Lincoln, our Douglas, our Grant. Flag of our brave men in their present conflict. As we see it floating on the wind of Heaven we feel and know what it represents.

We stand before you in awe and admiration while in our hearts we thank God that you still float over us the emblem of liberty and freedom - God bless America.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

From the Depths of My Soul

From the depths of my soul I cry out.
Lord can you hear me? Have mercy O God!
From the depths of my soul I cry out.
In the midst of the sea I cry out.
Save me! The water is over my head.
In the midst of the sea I cry out.
There is a time to mourn, There is a time to weep.
There is a time for sorrow when deep calls to deep.
In my moments of grief I cry out.
Have you forgotten me? Where are you Lord?
In my moments of grief I cry out.
From the depths of my soul I cry out:
Still I will praise you, Lord!
....Randy Gill

Dennis Rine and I grew up together; his parents and my parents are friends; his daughter Micah and my daughter Lauren were the same age and knew each other from years at Camp Tahkodah. I cannnot even imagine the pain and grief that he and Terri are experiencing right now. I am helpless to do anything but pray. And so my prayer is for Dennis and Terri, for their son Casey, for Floyd and Patty, for Penny and Tim and their families; my words fail me but my spirit groans within me; my prayer is for the Pate family, and my prayer is for Thomas; my prayer is for all of their friends who are grieving and heartbroken; and my prayer is for all of the heartbroken and hopeless people in this world.

From the depths of my soul I cry out, Have mercy, O God! Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Britain's Got Talent Judges Do It Again

You may or may not have heard of Paul Potts, but in 2007 he won the Britain's Got Talent contest. The judges initially treated him with a bit of disdain when he walked onto the stage, but when he began singing...

This year Susan Boyle has had a similar experience...You might think that the judges would have learned, but then you also might think that we would learn from our own bad judgments...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Under the Passover Moon

The following excerpt from the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of the Jesus can Transform Your Faith appeared in today's Daily Heartlight.

The full moon of Passover stared down at Jesus, its light filtering through the shivering leaves of the olive trees, their branches trembling in the early April breeze. Despite the evening chill, sweat glistened on his forehead. Still praying, he stood and then peered into the darkness, listening to a distant murmur of voices. One of his own talmidim, Judas, was approaching. Trailing him was a mob of soldiers, snaking up the hill.

Under a nearby tree, Peter, James, and John were lying in a heap. Twice, Jesus had pleaded with them to stay awake, asking them to keep vigil with him on this, the most difficult night of his life. Yet there they were, wrapped in their heavy woolen talits, mouths agape and snoring softly, oblivious of the approaching threat ...
They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him (Mark 14:32-40 NASB).

Whenever I think back to this scene from Gethsemane, I can't help but wonder about Jesus' narcoleptic disciples. How could they have fallen asleep when their beloved rabbi had implored them to stay awake and remain alert? How could they have nodded off when the climax of salvation history was about to take place? I couldn't imagine a satisfactory answer, and this was just one of many questions that filled my head whenever I thought back to that fateful week.

I remembered previous Palm Sunday services I had attended, where only minutes after the children stream down the aisles, joyously waving palm branches to celebrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the mood shifts, turning solemn as the gospel account of the passion is read.

Why were the crowds in Jerusalem so fickle, adoring Jesus one week and then hating him the next? And why, I wondered, did Jesus choose a Passover Seder to celebrate the last meal of his life?

Fast forward two thousand years, to the fellowship hall of my church, on the afternoon of the Thursday before Easter, known as Maundy Thursday. We are setting up for a Passover Seder. As Gentile amateurs, we are doing our best to recreate the Last Supper, giving ourselves a chance to meditate on its significance. Perfect historical accuracy isn't the point. Our goal is to relive a little of Jesus' final evening with his disciples so that we can better appreciate the Maundy Thursday service.

All afternoon the church kitchen bustles with clattering pans and chitchat as we hurry about our tasks, cutting parsley, boiling eggs, and spooning horseradish onto plates. When we finally sit down, I am famished. The time ticks by as I endure the long Seder liturgy, with just a bite of parsley dipped in salt water and dry, cardboard-like matzah (unleavened bread) smeared with horseradish to tide me over.

When we finally dig into our simple meal of lamb stew, I devour my humble feast! Afterward, I hurriedly help with clean up and then slip into the back of the service, which has already begun. The liturgy is mournful and solemn. The events of the day have taken their toll on me -- the non-stop preparations, beginning the Seder feeling famished, and then overeating to compensate. I feel a crushing lethargy sweep over me. Over the next hour, the sanctuary lights gradually dim to complete darkness. I can barely see through shuttering eyelids. As the service rolls on, I rouse with a start. Did someone call my name? I can almost hear the disappointment in Jesus' voice. "Could you not watch with me just one hour?"

I had always thought the crowds unimaginably fickle. Suddenly, I understood why the disciples found it so hard to stay awake! And they had an even better excuse than I had. Traditional Passover celebrations involved a huge meal plus four cups of wine, and they started at sunset and went well past midnight. What's more, they took place after several days of exhausting travel and preparation. Certainly everybody in Jerusalem would have wanted to crawl straight into bed after their late-night feast. Aware of this perennial problem, the rabbis ruled that a person who dozed lightly could remain a part of the dinner, but anyone who fell sound asleep could not.

Our amateurish attempt at reliving the Last Supper led to other insights on the final hours of Jesus' life. I realized, for instance, why the leaders had plotted to arrest Jesus after the Passover meal. A man so wildly popular couldn't have been arrested in broad daylight. To avoid an uprising, the chief priests had to proceed in secret. So they let Judas lead them to Jesus while he was outside the city. Passover was the perfect choice, because every Jewish family would be
celebrating the feast that started at sundown.

Jesus' arrest and trial proceeded swiftly, occurring during the wee hours, when most of his supporters were in bed. Peter's denials happened as the rooster crowed, around four or five in the morning. According to Mark's Gospel, Jesus' final sentence was handed down at sunrise (Mark 15:1). One has to ask, what group of people were around at the crack of dawn on a major Jewish holiday to shout crucify him? Mostly corrupt priests and Roman soldiers who wanted to kill Jesus.

But there's more. Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning -- the time of the first Temple service of the day! The authorities knew they had to finish their secret trial before the crowds re-entered the city. And indeed, as Jesus was carrying his cross out of town, his supporters reappear, weeping out loud as they see him being led to his death (Luke 23:27). His followers had just learned of the events that had transpired the night before.

Prior to our Passover Seder, I had always thought the crowds unimaginably fickle, cheering Jesus one day and then shouting for his head the next. But Jesus' supporters never changed their minds! How could they have when they were not even present at his arrest or trial? The entire plot unfolded after the Passover festivities, while most people were sound asleep.
(c) 2009 Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Set Forth Your Case

The Covenant Men's book club is currently reading The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. This quote from Clark Pinnock is a simple summary of the topic and caught my attention...

For the Scriptures then, the existence of God is both a historical truth (God acted into history), and an existential truth (God reveals himself to every soul). His existence is both objectively and subjectively evident. It is necessary logically because our assumption of order, design, and rationality rests upon it. It is necessary morally because there is no explanation for the shape of morality apart from it. It is necessary emotionally because the human experience requires an immediate and ultimate environment. It is necessary personally because the exhaustion of all material possibilities still cannot give satisfaction to the heart. The deepest proof for God's existence, apart from history, is just life itself. God has created man in his image, and men cannot elude the implications of this fact. Everywhere their identity pursues them. Ultimately, there is no escape. ... Clark H. Pinnock