Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Best Children's Books

Inspired by Hugh Hewitt's request yesterday for the best novels to read over again, Sistersophist has started a thread on the best children's books. She is updating it frequently (by genre, no less) so be sure to check back often.

Her post got me thinking about some of my personal favorite books for children. From the beginning, Mommypundit and I have made it a practice to read aloud to our daughters. It's a great way to have quality family time together. Our daughters really get into the books and love to talk about what's going to happen next.

We're about to start "The Horse and His Boy", the third installment in the Chronciles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Lewis is one of my favorite writers to begin with. The Narnia books are by far some of his most enjoyable books. We've already read "The Magician's Nephew" and "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" (which I had read a couple of times before I had kids).

I also love Dr. Seuss. Just about anything he wrote is worth sharing with children. Of course, some of his books can be a little challenging to read out loud (he had a wonderful way with language). But that makes it all the more fun.

Another favorite in our household is the Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne. They are sweet and funny and worth reading over and over again.

But my favorite children's book of all time is one that I was introduced to by a college friend long before I dreamed of having children of my own: The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. I can't read it all the way through without tearing up at the end. It is a truly wonderful book.

Update on Declaration of Independence Ban

James Jewell over at The Rooftop Blog has a very thoughtful post today on the controversy surrounding the California school district that has tried to ban references to God as well as using the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents in teaching history. James has taken the time to analyze exactly what motivates those who wish to eradicate references to God from public life. It's well worth reading.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Great Modern Novels

Hugh Hewitt has asked if there are any great modern novels that are worth reading more than once. I can think of only a few books that I can recommend reading more than once and they are all by C. S. Lewis (today is his birthday). They are The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia (full disclosure: I'm reading the entire Chronicles to our daughters and we've only made it through the first two volumes but we're going to read the rest of them). Hugh has recommended The Lord of the Rings. I've had a lot of recommendations for that as well as This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. I'll be interested to see what other bloggers recommend.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Getting Ready for Christmas

Tonight, Mommypundit and I sat down with our daughters to watch some of our favorite animated Christmas specials. My favorite by far is one that has been around for almost 40 years - A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the most remarkable facts about this special is that it was a show that almost didn't get made. It would go on to win both an Emmy and Peabody award and become a classic.

One of the show's highlights is it's jazz soundtrack featuring compositions by legendary pianist Vince Guaraldi. Walk into a store during the Christmas season and you're likely to hear such tracks as "Christmas Time is Here", "O Christmas Tree", or the song also known as the Peanuts Theme, "Linus and Lucy".

But the reason that this special stands out from the crowd of so many other specials that have aired in the last 40 years is its message.

Charlie Brown is depressed and discouraged by the commercialism that is so prevalent during Christmas. He becomes so exasperated at one point that he asks "Isn't there anyone who knows the real meaning of Christmas?" It is Linus who provides the answer by quoting Luke 2:8-14:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Let us never forget the real reason that we celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ignoring History

If Mommypundit and I hadn't been homeschooling our kids before, we wouldn't have hesitated to pull them out of government schools if our school district had tried to do something like this:


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.
Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."
"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words "under God" struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation.


Liberals are always quick to proclaim the virtue of separation of church and state. They believe that the church or any reference to Christianity has no place in public education much less public life. If our history is sanitized from any reference to God then we will be no different than Nazi Germany - where they even "sanitized" the church.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Everywhere I turn these days it seems that the true meaning of Thanksgiving continues to be distorted. The greatest distortions appear to be occurring in our schools where politically correct school systems are afraid to reveal that there were religious motives behind the first Thanksgiving or that we should be pausing to thank God for the blessings we enjoy today. Mommypundit has an excellent post on one school system in Maryland that is attempting to rewrite the history of Thanksgiving.

Michelle Malkin underscores the problem perfectly in a column published today:

Once an unabashedly pious land, we have been transformed into a nation of historically clueless ingrates -- embarrassed about our heritage, afraid of offending all newcomers, and more committed to inculcating a sense of entitlement over a culture of gratitude.

Linda Chavez also has a few words for politically correct school sytems that want to distort the meaning of Thanksgiving.

And pastor Mark D. Roberts provides us with a detailed history of Thanksgiving in his series this Week of Thanksgiving.

Update: James Jewell at the Rooftop Blog has some thoughts to share on the holiday.

Update #2: LaShawn Barber shares her thoughts about Thanksgiving.

Update #3: Hugh Hewitt has posted the text of George Washington's first Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Enjoying Fellowship with God

I have a friend who is a Captain in the Naval Reserves. He's currently on a short-term mission trip with Mercy Ships. He regularly sends us e-mail updates on what's happening on the ship. This passage from a recent e-mail caught my attention:

On the Ship- Work continues in No.2 Hatch as the Tween Deck, steel plate is removed and new plate installed. Personally, I spent the week working on the Lifeboats (between rain squalls). As I sat splicing rope and singing to myself, I realized something. That God was really giving me the opportunity to enjoy Him. I know some would say that my talents and gifts are not being fully used as the Third Officer, but as I see the young Dutch Chief Mate running all over the ship, I was glad that it was her and not me, As most of you know, one of my goals for this trip is to hear from God. And if I was the Chief Mate, I would be too busy to hear.

As I splice rope, I have the opportunity to really enjoy fellowship with God. Splicing, like many things that God gives us to do as our job/ profession can either be done quickly with many short-cuts or be done in a proper and correct manner, that requires more time, and perhaps less concentration. God impressed upon me to take the time and do it right and allow him into my work. Last night teaching at our Community Meeting, the Lord brought it home again concerning fellowship with Him. It was on "Simple Faith".

Simple Faith from Mark 12:29-31 Hear God, Love God, Love the people God places in our path and to love ourselves because God loves us. Many time I know that we make life so complicated, that we no longer have time for the things that truly matters...God, Spouse, Family, Friends, Co-Workers and ourselves... instead we involve ourselves in total distraction our work, play or relaxation.

This e-mail reminded Mommypundit of Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century monk who is perhaps best known for the book Practicing the Presence of God. Although I had heard of him, I had never taken the time to read his writings. While reading about him, I ran across this quote which I found particularly challenging:

"I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him."

Pastor Mark Roberts expands on this further in a sermon he has just posted on his blog. (Hat tip: Sidesspot)

Promoting a Culture of Life

LaShawn Barber has posted on the latest developments in the battle to reduce the number of abortions in this country:

WASHINGTON - Congress made it a little easier for hospitals, insurers and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions. A provision in a $388 billion spending bill passed by the House and Senate on Saturday would block any of the measure's money from going to federal, state or local agencies that act against health care providers and insurers because they don't provide abortions, make abortion referrals or cover them.

"This policy simply states that health care entities should not be forced to provide elective abortions, a practice to which a majority of health care providers object and which they will not perform as a matter of conscience," said Rep. David Weldon, R-Fla., a doctor who sponsored the language.

Weldon said his measure was simply a refinement of decades-old restrictions against federal aid for most abortions. "This provision is meant to protect health care entities from discrimination because they choose not to provide abortion services," he said. (Source)

This is definitely a step in the right direction. As I have said before, Roe vs. Wade is still the law of the land. While pro-lifers would like to see the case overturned it's not going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, we need to continue to focus on measures such as this one that will limit the number of abortions performed each year.

LaShawn also links to an excellent article providing a biblical basis for why abortion is wrong.

Make sure to also read LaShawn's post on how the liberal media will try to portray this as a bad move.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lasting Friendships

Pastor, author, and blogger Tod Bolsinger has been posting a series over the past several days on the importance of fellowship within the body of Christ. The following passage from a recent post in this series stood out for me as I reflected on the friends that I am blessed to have:

When was the last time that you had a long, deep conversation of "big" talk? Y'know, when was the last time that you sat down and opened your mind and your soul and experienced Jesus speaking to you through the voice of a friend? If it was recently, I'll bet that it occurred a) because you are in a small group that has been meeting for a long time, or b) because you were talking to an "old friend" whom you have known for a long time, or c) you were in dire straights. (Desperation and trial often make us cut to the chase and get to the heart of a matter.)

And in a) and b) above you were able to go deep and talk honestly precisely because you spent a good long, slow time developing the relationship over time, through small talk. I learned in college (I was a speech communication major) that "small talk leads to big talk." Simple, short, caring conversations that slowly and appropriately go deeper and deeper, with increasing but not sudden or forced depth in intimacy develop the kinds of lasting friendships that truly enrich our lives. We need to grow closer slowly, over time. And that takes "the hang."

The Spiritual Discipline of proximity is about spending ample amounts of time near certain people, over a backgammon board, across a tennis court, on a bicycle, while running, over dinner, while stirring a cup of coffee, or in our church's case on our patio after services and at our all-church mid week dinner and education event called Big Wednesday.

Once we have spent a lot of time in small talk, then the big talk follows.

I just got back from Richmond where I had the chance to spend time with several of my closest friends. Two of them had come on the trip with our family. Two others live in Richmond and we try to hook up every time I'm in town. Another is currently serving as a missionary in Chile but happened to be in town with his wife this past weekend.

As I reflect on each of these friendships, these are all people that I had intentionally practicing the spiritual discipline of proximity with over the years. In each case, these were guys I met for breakfast with every week. Over time (and since we are all guys it took some time) we would deepen our relationship with each other in Christ to the point that we could feel comfortable discussing whatever we were struggling with at any given time. It's still that way today even though I don't get to see some of them very often.

My grandfather often said that if a man have five people in his life that he could call his close friends then he was truly blessed. I now understand what he meant. But in order to achieve that blessing it requires us to be willing to invest time in getting to know each other. In other words, we need to spend time just "hanging out".

Monday, November 15, 2004

Thoughts on The Great Commission

The Great Commission - Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

If there is a single passage of Scripture that would serve as a "mission statement" for Christians then the case could be made that Matthew 28:16-20 is it. It is the passage that most Christians would cite as the passage that explains our primary purpose here on earth. It is also a passage that is probably one of the most easily misunderstood.

I've observed many churches that focus their ministry on reaching non-Christians. The predominant theme running through most of the sermons is the Gospel. In other words, the focus is on salvation instead of discipleship.

Mark D. Roberts, a pastor and blogger, has posted a sermon entitled "Sent to a People Beyond Ourselves" that analyzed this passage and presented some applications for the church today. A couple of points he makes really stood out as I read it. He focuses on the phrase "Go and make disciples" in verse 19. He asks whether we need to "get up and go somewhere"? His answer:

"Thus, not only do we not have to go elsewhere to fulfill the Great Commission, but in fact our primary mission is here, right on our doorstep, right across the street, right in our schools, neighborhoods, and offices. "

Opportunities to share Christ are all around us: co-workers, neighbors, friends, family members, and anyone else we encounter through the course of daily living. That is not to say that going out is not important and there certainly is a place for sending out missions workers into the world. But we should not be focused on ministering to the world at large that we miss opportunities much closer to home.

Roberts then turns his attention to another key part of verse 19: make disciples.

Notice, Jesus didn't say, "Make believers," though believing in him is an essential part of discipleship. Nor did Jesus say, "Get people to clean up their lives," though genuine disciples become more holy as they grow in Christ. Jesus didn't say, "Get people to go to church," though faithful participation in the community of Jesus is absolutely crucial to discipleship. Rather, Jesus said, "Make disciples." To paraphrase, this means, "Make people who enter into an intentional, intimate relationship with me and with my other disciples, in which they put their trust in me as Savior, in which they submit their life to me as Lord, in which they allow me to teach them both how to live and how to serve me in the world."

So our mission in this community is not merely to make converts, but to make genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.

I am persuaded that this is what is missing from most of what passes for evangelism in the church today. We have become too focused on salvation and have not focused on discipleship.

I was discussing this topic with my former pastor this weekend who observed that when you have a church that is focused primarily on salvation (and often on increasing the number of people coming to church) that the believers in the congregation tire of hearing a salvation message over and over again. As a result, they become frustrated because they are not growing deeper in their relationship with Christ.

Roberts then moves on to this application for the church:

We cannot make disciples in this community unless we are living as a community of disciples, loving one another, bearing one another's burdens, teaching each other, forgiving each other, worshipping together. There is no discipleship without genuine community. And, in our day, there's no effective evangelism without genuine community. Our neighbors, those to whom we have been sent, won't believe the good news about Jesus unless they see this good news fleshed out in our fellowship together. Then, if they accept this good news and become believers, they won't live as disciples unless they can join a community of disciples.

This reflects what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

The power of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in how we live our lives. If we are truly living our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, perfect strangers should be able to see a difference in us. My wife often tells me of the story of the kid who said that if Jesus was living in him He would be "sticking out all over". I remember once in college sitting in one the main areas of campus talking with a friend of mine when someone I did not know came up to me and asked if I was a Christian. I said that I was. He said "I could see it in your eyes". The church should be all about developing a community of disciples who will have Jesus "sticking out all over".

Too often the church falls into the trap of believing that there is a need for more ministries or programs to draw people into the church. What we really need to focus on building the community of disciples, intentionally being involved in each others lives, to hold others accountable so that we can "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

ADDENDUM: I was discussing this idea with a friend of mine this morning who believes that the majority of churches overemphasize discipleship and do not emphasize evangelism enough. I believe that each church is going to have different needs and be at a different place. We both agreed that the important thing is for churches to be able to strike the right balance between discipleship and evangelism, and like seeking balance in our own lives, it's a constant process.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Catching Up

Mommypundit and I have been out of town this weekend at a parenting conference. A lot of good information was shared that we're still trying to absorb. Once I can get my thoughts together I'll post on it. In the meantime, check out this port from LaShawn Barber entitled Worlds Collide on the Moral Divide.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Specter Kerfuffle Update

Mark Sides has weighed in on the Specter debate with a very thoughtful post that is a must read for anyone who believes abortion should be outlawed. As Mark reminds us, there is a lot of work Christians can still do even though Roe vs. Wade has not yet been overturned.

Also, Rick Brady at Stones Cry Out has assembled a list of bloggers who have posted on the Specter debate. Here is my original post that Rick was kind enough to include in his list.

David Limbaugh also reminds us to keep the debate civil among conservatives. As he says in the final paragraph of this post:

Democrats have usurped the president's judicial appointment power, and it's time to take it back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pulling the Plug on TennCare

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit notes that Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that he is pulling the plug on TennCare, the state's expanded Medicaid program to cover the poor, disabled, and uninsured.

Since it's inception, TennCare has served as a perfect example of why goverment-run health insurance is such a lousy idea. Although it initially was targeted to cover those unable to afford their own health insurance the plan now covers nearly a quarter of all Tennesseans.

As this physician's post points out, one of the fundamental problems with government health insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid is that the amounts paid to physicians are insufficient to cover their costs. As a results, doctors are reluctant to treat patients with coverage through a plan such as TennCare because they will lose a substantial amount of money. That forces patients to be treated at state-run clinics and university hospitals that are required to provide care regardless of the patient's ability to pay for it. As a result, that puts a greater financial burden on the state.

The other unintended consequence of TennCare is it gave employers a way to shift the burden of paying healthcare costs of employees with costly medical bills to the state rather than having them covered under their own group insurance policies.

Not long ago I worked as an insurance agent selling health insurance in Tennessee. The premium for any group health insurance program is based in large part on the overall health of the employees. It's not uncommon for employers with employees that have expensive, chronic illnesses to look for other coverage besides their own group policy to limit their insurance premiums. TennCare simply offered Tennessee employers the opportunity to shift the burden back to the state. As a result, TennCare became a huge financial black hole for the state.

I believe Governor Bredesen is making a courageous move to pull the plug on this program. Whether he decides to replace TennCare with a more fiscally sound program remains to be seen. However, the demise of TennCare should serve as a warning to politicians who have been endorsing the idea of government-run health insurance. Tennessee's failed experiment should show them the costs are too great even for the government to handle.

Our new Attorney General

Today, President Bush has nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Michelle Malkin has posted this suggesting that Gonzales' nomination is not good news for conservatives. She also links to this column from Robert Novak. I'm more inclined to agree with the guys over at Powerline. I think this is a smart choice.

I believe that by nominating Gonzales to be Attorney General, President Bush is effectively removing him from the pool of candidates for the Supreme Court. I also think that Gonzales will be confirmed easily and this will ensure a smooth transition over at Justice.

On a related note, Lorie Byrd makes a great point in this post over at Polipundit. The Republican party continues to demonstrate that they are the party of opportunity by promoting qualified individuals, regardless of race, into positions of power.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Should Arlen Specter be dumped?

The hot topic of discussion in the center-right blogosphere has been whether Senator Arlen Specter should be denied chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which would be rightly his under current Senate rules) because of comments he made about pro-life judicial nominees. David Limbaugh makes some good points in this post that are worth reading. Hugh Hewitt has been one of the few bloggers to come out and support Senator Specter remaining the chairman. His posts are here, here, here, and here. Two other bloggers I have tremendous respect for, Stones Cry Out and The Dawn Treader have also come out in support of keeping Senator Specter as the chairman.

I am staunchly pro-life. I would be absolutely overjoyed to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade and end legalized abortion. The truth is that it's not going to happen anytime soon. The makeup of the Court is not such that they are willing to overturn Roe. The best that pro-lifers can hope for is the continued limiting of the number of abortions performed each year. The President summed up the current state of affairs with regards to abortion during the third Presidential debate:

I think it's important to promote a culture of life. I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters. I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life. I understand there's great differences on this issue of abortion, but I believe reasonable people can come together and put good law in place that will help reduce the number of abortions.

Our President understands the reality of the abortion debate. At this point, the political and legal reality is that Roe vs. Wade, for better or worse, is still the law of the land. However, that does not mean that we cannot endeavor to limit the number of abortions performed as much as possible.

It's also important to remember that President Bush will have an opportunity to reshape this court during his second term in office. Justice Rehnquist's health is now questionable. Justice O'Connor is rumored to be ready to retire. Justice Stevens may also choose to retire. That makes three possible openings including the Chief Justice's position where President Bush will have the opportunity to nominate replacements. In other words, President Bush may have an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court for years to come.

In the rush to try to dump Specter, conservatives are forgetting that they are not in the majority. Pro-lifers have also been quick to jump on the dump Specter bandwagon, too. But pro-lifers are not in the majority, either. There are a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate are neither conservative nor pro-life. But their votes are just as important.

For the first time in recent history, Republicans hold a sizeable majority in the Senate. But in order for them to be able to make any significant legislative accomplishments they will still have to recruit a handful of Democrats (in addition to keeping their own caucus in line) in order to avoid filibusters.

I would certainly prefer to have someone other than Senator Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. I can think of a number of other Senators who would be a better choice. However, the damage that would be done by dumping Senator Specter would be far greater than any benefit that would be gained by replacing him. I believe in the end that Senator Specter will work with President Bush and continue to support his nominees, especially if this exchange with Judy Woodruff on Inside Politics yesterday isn't simply spin:

WOODRUFF: Have you heard from, in the storm of criticism and we know now they are actively gearing up to block your move to become chairman, are you able to have a conversation with some of these folks who are really upset with you still?

SPECTER: Sure. I've had a lot of conversations and when I point out to them what the facts are the going gets easier. When I point out to them that I've never had a litmus test, that I voted for Chief Justice Rehnquist to confirm him and that's long after he wrote against Roe v. Wade, that I voted to confirm Justice Scalia and Justice O'Connor and Justice Kennedy and I almost lost my seat, I led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas and I almost lost my seat as a result of it in the United States Senate. And every one of President Bush's nominees I have supported in the committee and on the floor. Listen, Judy, those are the facts. It so happens that I'm pro choice. The only pro choice Republican on the committee. But I don't make the decisions. I've supported pro life nominees because it is the function of the president to put up qualified people and a senator to support people who are qualified.
(Emphasis mine)

The Senator understands his role of "advise and consent" as outlined by the Constitution. I believe that our President can be trusted to nominate qualified judges and it's up to the Senate to make sure they are confirmed.

To my fellow conservatives and pro-lifers who disagree with me, let me just suggest that you go and read Hugh Hewitt's excellent book "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends On It". This election was not simply about short-term additions to a growing Republican majority. It was about putting this country on the right path for the long run. We must be willing to be patient and make steady progress towards our goals.

Dumping Senator Specter might satisfy pro-lifers who do not think he can be trusted to support conservative judges. But the backlash (particularly among red state Democratic Senators as well as moderate and liberal Republicans) may be so great that the President's judicial nominees do not get confirmed.

We have a President who understands the opportunity before him to not only reshape the Supreme Court but the entire federal judiciary. Republicans have the opportunity to change the rules so that every nominee can get an up or down vote in the Senate and to make substantial headway in reforming the nomination process.

A wise pastor told me once that you should choose carefully the hills you are willing to die on. In other words, you have to choose carefully the battles that you are willing to fight. Whether Senator Specter becomes chairman of the Judiciary committee to me is not one of those battles. There is too much at stake.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Seeking Balance

A few years ago, I subscribed to a wonderful magazine (now defunct, unfortunately) called Life@Work Journal. The magazine was a Christian publication geared towards believers in the marketplace. Each issue would focus on a particular subject. One of the most memorable issues was the issue on balance.

In an article entitled "Juggling Life" (Life@Work Journal, November/December 2000), authors Thomas Addington and Steven Graves contend that we operate on an incorrect definition of balance based on ranking priorities of God, family, church, work and leisure. They contend that "balance is the ability to continually recognize and juggle the multidimensional assignments and opportunities of life". When we feel overwhelmed or stressed out because there isn't enough time to do everything on our "to do list" it's because our life is out of balance.

They go on to explain that balance is not a static issue. In other words, it is something we have to constantly strive towards. We also cannot do it alone as we each have blind spots that prevent us from seeing the total picture. As a result, we need accountability from family, friends, business associates, fellow church members, and others to help us see where we are out of balance.

They also contend that each individual has five multidimensions of life: family, community, church, work, and self. Each of these dimensions competes for our attention and energy. These are the balls that we have to juggle. Within each of these dimensions are assignments and opportunities.

An assignment is "something that we have no control over or that we cannot say no to without violating a Scriptural command or principle". For example, I am a father and husband. I'm also the breadwinner for my family. As a believer, I also must be involved in a church. These are all assignments that I have been given. Assignments are not necessarily the same for every person.
Opportunities, on the other hand, are optional items. They are things that I can choose to do or not to do. Sometimes an opportunity can help someone fufill an assignment. For example, if I go to a parenting conference it should help me be a better father. However, an opportunity can become a problem if it interferes with my ability to fufill my assignments. A good example would be spending so much time watching football on television that it takes away time I should be spending with my family. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I don't spend much time watching sports anymore is because it takes too much time away from my wife and children.

When my wife and I were first married we moved to suburban Chicago. While we were there I got involved in a golf league with some of the guys at work. At least every other Saturday (and sometimes more often) I would be off playing golf with the guys at work and leaving my wife at home alone. Although it was a great opportunity, my marriage suffered because I was not devoting time to my wife and our marriage the way that I should have.

Juggling assignments and opportunities is not easy. It requires constantly evaluating where time and energy are being spent. It also takes a willingness to sacrifice my own desires in order to meet the needs of my family.

My wife once did this in a very practical way by taking Post-It notes and putting up on the closet doors everything she was doing. She started by putting every one of those notes on the left side of the doors. Then she would move the notes over to the right that represented the opportunities she was involved in. Once she was finished she realized she was involved in far too many opportunities and it was interfering with her assignments as a wife and mother. After praying over those opportunities for a number of days she decided to make some changes.

The bottom line is this: in order to keep our lives in balance we must first grasp what assignments God has given us. Then each activity we are involved in needs to be examined closely. We should be asking ourselves whether the opportunities we are pursuing are interfering with our assignments. If an opportunity is keeping us from completing our assignments then it's an opportunity we don't need to pursue.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

What Evangelicals Want

Rooftop Blog has an excellent post on what exactly evangelicals are looking for from this election. This is an excellent summary of the issues we face as a nation. (Hat tip: Let's Try Freedom)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Now that the Election is over

The election is now over. Senator John Kerry, in a tremendous example of leadership for his party, has conceded the election to President Bush. We have been spared the anxiety and anguish that the 2000 election brought and can now move forward as a nation.

However, just because President Bush has won (in addition to Republican majorities being strengthened in the House and Senate) does not mean that our work is finished. In fact, it has just begun.

Kevin Triplett, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress, said in a speech last week that voters have a duty to hold their representatives accountable. Voters have to ensure that their representatives reflect their values and keep their promises.

I believe one of the reasons that Democrat Rick Boucher has been so successful in masquerading as a moderate is that voters have not held him accountable. Seven votes against the partial-birth abortion ban do no reflect Southwest Virginia values. Voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq and then voting against funding for the troops (including troops from his own district) does not reflect Southwest Virginia values.

The Ninth District of Virginia voted overwhelmingly to support President Bush's re-election bid by a margin of 59.50% to 39.37%. We are a conservative district. It is up to us as voters to hold our representatives accountable so that they represent the values of our district.

But our job does not end there. As Christians, we have a more important job ahead of us. We must train our children and ourselves in biblical worldview thinking. We must win the culture for Christ. We can't do the job if we don't train ourselves and our children to get it done.

This is the mission that God has given us:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20 (emphasis mine)

Let's go to it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election night update

Mommypundit and I are over at the gathering for our friend Kevin Triplett tonight who lost his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher for Virginia's Ninth District. Kevin very graciously conceded to the Congressman earlier this evening. He does not know what the future holds but God certainly knows what He has in store for the Triplett family. Kevin has at least made it clear that he plans to stay here.

When the votes are all counted, Congressman Boucher will have won again by a large margin but by the narrowest margin (at least for him) in recent memory.

There are some that will ask whether all the effort was worth it. I believe it was. I've believed from the beginning that it was possible for Kevin to win. I don't regret one minute I've spent volunteering for the campaign. It's been an exciting time and I'm glad that I had the chance to share this experience with my family.

Now our prayers are focused on the other races still to be decided. We'll continue to update through the night as results come in.

Election 2004 update

Daddypundit just called from our polling place where he is handing out sample ballots and asked me to post.

Turnout is now about 52% as of 3:00, but we expect that to be much greater as people finish work for the day and come out to vote.

Also worth noting--the Democrats left at noon, so our crew has been there handing out sample ballots all alone.


Just got back from voting

Mommypundit and I took the kids down to our precinct and just voted. There was a steady flow of people going in to vote but no long waits. It took us about 10 minutes total to cast our votes for President Bush and Kevin Triplett for Congress. The interesting thing I heard while I was there was that as of 10am when we arrived approximately 700 voters out of a total of 2300 in the precinct had already voted. I spoke with a friend of mine who is working the polls for the local Republican Party and they expect 60-70% turnout. Since Virginia is considered to be safely in Bush's column, the heavy turnout may be due to the Congressional race. Hopefully this is a good sign for Kevin Triplett.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Some final thoughts before Election Day

A few final thoughts as we approach Election Day:

This election presents two presidential candidates who have stark differences. Voters will have to decide whether freedom is still worth fighting for.

The Mainstream Media can fairly be characterized as biased (hat tip: Instapundit). Their willingness to slant coverage in favor of John Kerry, to the point of distorting the truth, has kept him competitive in this race. If the media had applied the same amount of scrutiny to John Kerry's record, particularly his military service (which Kerry made a centerpiece of his campaign) he would be nowhere close to competitive in this election (Hat tip: Powerline). Here's another perspective on this issue.

John Kerry is a liability to other Democratic candidates (Hat Tip: Captain's Quarters). As a result, Republicans are likely to gain several Senate seats. On a local level, our 22 year incumbent Democractic Congressman Rich Boucher has stayed away from comparisons between his voting record and John Kerry's. He pretends to be a moderate but in truth is just as liberal as Kerry.

Even if President Bush is defeated, I believe he will be remembered as a President who has shown great leadership.

If John Kerry is elected, he will still be my president. Romans 13:1 says:

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."

I believe every Christian should be involved in the political process. We should be examining the candidate's positions on every issue against the truth of God's Word and vote accordingly. If Christians believe that the Bible is true and applicable to their lives then it should apply to all areas of their lives, including how they vote. It is doubtful that you will agree with a candidate on every issue. However, you should, as Charles Colson suggests, "Choose men who love God and are able to govern well."

A Message from President Bush

Tomorrow, Americans will choose who will lead our country during a time of war and economic opportunity. And the choice on Tuesday comes down to a few issues of great consequence. The first choice is the most important, because all our progress depends on our safety.

Since September the 11th, 2001, I have led a relentless campaign against the terrorists. We have strengthened homeland security. We removed terror regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are on the offensive around the world, because the best way to prevent future attacks is to go after the enemy.

My opponent has a different view. Senator Kerry says September the 11th didn't change him much, and his policies make that clear. He says the war on terror is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation." He has proposed what he calls a "global test" that would give foreign governments a veto over American security decisions. And when our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq needed funding for body armor and bullets, Senator Kerry voted against it.

The direction of the war on terror is at stake in the election of 2004. And when you go to the polls on Tuesday, remember this: I will do whatever it takes to defend America and prevail in the war on terror, and I will always support the men and women who do the fighting.
The second choice in this election concerns your family budget. As a candidate, I pledged to lower taxes for families, and I have kept my word. We doubled the child tax credit, reduced the marriage penalty, and dropped the lowest tax bracket to 10 percent. Now working families keep more of their paychecks, and America's economy is growing faster than any other among major industrialized nations.

My opponent voted against all our tax relief for working families. His votes would have squeezed about $2,000 more in taxes from the average middle-class family. Now Senator Kerry is promising to increase federal spending by more than $2.2 trillion. And to pay for all that new spending, he would have to raise taxes on American families. I will keep your taxes low because I know it's not the government's money, it's your family's money.

The third choice in this election involves your quality of life. As President, I signed historic education reforms to bring high standards to the classroom and make schools accountable to parents, and our children are making progress in reading and math. We've strengthened Medicare, created health savings accounts, and expanded community health centers to help more Americans get health care. I'm proposing a series of practical reforms to make health care more affordable and accessible by expanding health savings accounts, allowing association health plans, and protecting patients and doctors from junk and frivolous lawsuits.

My opponent has a different approach. Senator Kerry voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, but he has pledged to weaken the accountability standards. He's voted 10 times against medical liability reform. And now, he's proposing a big-government health care plan that would do nothing about rising health costs, and would cause millions of Americans to lose their private health insurance and end up on government programs.

Finally, this election presents a choice on the values that keep our families strong. I believe marriage is a sacred commitment, and I will always defend it. I will continue to appoint judges who strictly interpret the law. And I will keep working to move this good-hearted nation toward a culture of life.

On these issues, my opponent and I are miles apart. Senator Kerry was part of an out-of-the-mainstream minority that voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. He believes there ought to be a liberal litmus test for judicial appointments. He voted against banning the brutal practice of partial birth abortion. I believe that reasonable people can find common ground on difficult issues, and I will continue reaching out and bringing Americans together to protect our deepest-held values.

All of these choices make this one of the most important elections in our history. These past four years, you have seen how I do my job. Even when you might not agree with me, you know where I stand, what I believe, and what I intend to do. Soon, the decision will be in your hands. And however you decide, I urge you to get out and vote on Tuesday.

Hat tip: The Federalist