Saturday, November 25, 2006

Good idea Sen. Kennedy!

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA, yesterday said his priority during the new Congressional session next year will be to require employers to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, and to increase the minimum levels of service required to earn such a wage.

“In exchange for higher pay,” said Sen. Kennedy, D-MA, “my bill would require that minimum-wage workers increase their service to their employers and customers to some federally-mandated minimum levels.”

Although precise service standards are still under development, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions distributed the following working draft of proposed minimum service levels for the retail industry.

In retail establishments, to avoid a federal prison sentence, a minimum-wage worker shall…

– offer the customer a sincere, cheerful greeting, rather than a surly grunt, head jerk, or annoyed glance,
– hang up the cell phone immediately upon encountering the customer,
– look the customer in the eye, say “Thank You” and “You’re welcome”, instead of “Uh-huh”,
– enunciate consonants to help the customer distinguish individual words from the verbal flow,
– learn English well enough to comprehend customer questions, and intelligibly answer them,
– pull trousers up over hipbones and wear belt, suspenders or other garment securing device,
– conceal all employee undergarments from customer view,
– wear clean, pressed shirt, tucked in and buttoned up,
– find out what you sell, what it can do, how to use it and how to answer questions about it,
– remove extraneous metal objects that dangle from pierced lips, tongues and eyebrows,
– before shift, groom hair using comb or brush [Note: pillow is not a hair-grooming implement],
– secure hair, including purchased or rented hair, to prevent food contamination,
– cover tattoos rated PG-13 or higher,
– smoke behind the store, near the Dumpster, instead of by the front door,
– clean up and stock the restroom each time after using it,
– stop ogling the customer’s teenage children,
– scan products at least as fast as the customer places them on the conveyor belt,
– learn the physical properties and tolerance standards of plastic bags and avoid violating them,
– stop talking about when your shift is over.

...from Scrappleface

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

As I sit here stuffed full of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing and having some quiet time after family time, I have started thinking about for what I am truly thankful. There are alot of things on the list and I'm sure that most who read this would say similar things for which they are thankful. My family comes to mind first. My wife, kids, dogs and extended family are somewhere at the top of the list. (After this week, karaoke will never be the same!) As I sit in my living room surrounded by all my "stuff", I think about how God has blessed me with material things. We are not wealthy by some's standards but we, as most in the United States, lack for very little. God has also given me and all of my family good health and good friends. Most of our friends, but not all, come from our church and are something I do not take for granted. They are up high on my thankful list.

I have also been blessed to travel to some other countries. In trips to Mexico, Israel and Germany I have gotten the chance to see how differently some people live and what is interesting is how the amount of "stuff" one has is not in proportion to one's happiness. We all pray for God's blessings on our lives but what does that really mean? When we pray for God's blessings are we praying for"stuff"? I wonder what would happen if we prayed for contentment? That could be a dangerous prayer! That might result in losing some of our "stuff"! I say that because some of the most contented people I have ever met always had the least amount of "stuff". Some of the happiest people on the planet are living in houses made out of spare pallets with tin and tarps for roofs in the interior of Mexico. I cannot wait to go back to visit some friends in Reynosa. I learned so much from them about what it really means to be happy.

I hear what you are saying. "Money can't buy happiness but I'd like to try it for awhile!" I know what you mean and sometimes I feel the same way but if I were to be completely honest I know deep down that money and "stuff" can just get in the way of true happiness and contentment. So, am I saying that if you have money you can't be happy? Absolutely not. Nor is there anything wrong in any way with having money or even having alot of money. It is just not the source of one's happiness.

I remember being in Mexico and seeing the incredible poverty there and thinking to myself, "Why not me?". Why did God choose to put me in a time and place that I have everything that I have? Why was I not put in the condition of being utterly destitute as some have been? As you can imagine I do not have answers to those questions. What mortal man could have any claim to the sovereignty of God? The Bible says rightly that His ways are higher than our ways and I know I will not completely understand until I see Him in Heaven but I cannot help but wonder.

This has been a great Thanksgiving for me. Mama cooked another incredible feast and the karoake machine is smoking. Lots of football was watched and we even worked in the yard some. As I grow older, family becomes more and more important to me and I am very thankful today for all that I have but especially for the people around me. About a month from now I get to go with my daughter to Nicaragua on a mission trip and I am so excited. I am excited for several reasons but mainly so that she and I both can be reminded about what it means to be truly happy and contented, even joyful! I look forward to meeting some new friends and being able to share some of the material blessings that God has allowed us to have but also to be able to share the Good News about Jesus Christ! I expect it to be a great trip for all involved. Hmmm...I wonder if that might be at least part of the reason why God has put me here...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

I was talking to the school vice-principal last night and he said something that was disturbing to me. He has been in school adminstration for twenty-five years and he said he has noticed in the last few years a serious increase in apathy among students and parents. It has been his experience that neither kids nor parents seem to care about much of anything including getting in trouble or having bad grades. While he did not say it in so many words, I feel like his outlook for the future is not as bright as it used to be. It is a sad commentary on this generation that the only things that concern us have to affect us directly and immediately with no thought for the future or for other people.

I thought about this sad state of affairs and, of course, wondered what could be done about it and also what separates this generation from what critics call "The Greatest Generation" of World War II era. As I researched this I came across a fascinating and hope-giving article about Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham. Corporal Dunham did not live in "The Greatest Generation" nor is he currently in any school history books. You can read his story here but to summarize Corporal Dunham sacrificed the greatest sacrifice in April of 2004 when he was attacked in Iraq with his patrol near the Syrian border. Corporal Dunham received this country's greatest honor, the Medal of Honor, postumously for his bravery and sacrifice and for saving the lives of many other Marines when he hurled himself on top of a hand grenade, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast. He was killed with that last, unselfish act but many were saved and I can tell you that at least one man was extremely grateful for Corporal Dunham's service and duty and sacrifice and not only am I grateful to him, it gives me renewed hope about this generation as a whole.

I have several questions that come to mind as I think about this. Is heroism like Corporal Dunham showed something that is only instilled by the military or can civilians show that kind of bravery as well? Also, how often does something similar happen and we never hear about it because someone was "just doing his duty"? I would love to meet the parents of Corporal Dunham. What did they give him in his youth that made him such an honorable soldier and human being and how can I take those same qualities for myself and disperse them to the ones over whom I have influence? I would love to be able to personally give my heart-felt condolences but also my admiration for them and their son as I know they also sacrificed in a way no parent should have to experience.

I am quite sure that it is not just military men and women who show such bravery. One often hears about people making sacrifices and showing great courage. I also know that there is something special about the men and women in uniform for our country. There is something different about the mindset of soldiers that I can only wish I had. I regret not joining that elite group when I had the chance so that I, too, could serve this great nation but I will always be grateful to the ones who do. Not only in this generation but in generations past I find heroes. My friend Bud served in World War II and his wife will tell amazing stories of his bravery since he is too modest to tell them himself. I have family members and friends who have served and faced death in foreign countries so that I can live in peace and freedom.

Another question that comes up is how to show my appreciation. My flag will continue to wave outside my house on this and every day and its presence is a constant reminder of my freedom and what it took to acquire and keep that freedom. I will be honored to buy a soldier's meal at a restaurant or his groceries at the supermarket. I also felt like it was part of my duty as a grateful American to tell this story but I believe the best way I could show my appreciation is in prayer. James 5:16 says that prayer is powerful and effective and I promise to ask for God's power and blessings on all men and women in the military and their families. Thank you all for what you have done and continue to do for me and all Americans. Your service is not taken for granted!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Repent Halloween!

I have a confession to make. I am sorry. I will never do it again! The confession is: I dressed up for Halloween and went trick-or-treating. I realize that Halloween is a pagan religious festival and that I, as a Christian, should not partake of such festivities. I don't know what I was thinking. I just gave in when my pastor asked me to his house to join him and his family and some other friends to go trick-or-treating in his neighborhood. I caved to the peer pressure even though I know that this was started by the Celts of Ireland in the 19th century to celebrate the dead revisiting the mortal world and that even today there are some people who practice witchcraft on Halloween!

I have to admit it won't be easy giving up Halloween. I am pretty addicted to it. I am sure I will have to have some therapy to get off of it cold turkey. A couple of two day follow-ups and I should be fine. You see, I have been on halloween since I was a little kid. My mother even encouraged it! She, not knowing any better, would dress me up as a monster or a pirate or even a ghost. I know how horrible it sounds but what is the wife of a pastor supposed to know? She even enabled my Halloween habit as I got older by buying me costumes and I even got into her stash a couple of times. I hit rock bottom the night I won $1000 in a costume contest wearing some of my mother's makeup. It is hard to admit this and I would appreciate your patience as I and my family struggle through this difficult time.

I don't want to stop with just Halloween, though. I want to completely rid my system of all evil celebrations including Thanksgiving which is obviously a celebration of the horrible act of stealing the land away from the Native Americans who were here before us. Christmas, also, has become so commercial and pagan that I will not be celebrating it. I refuse to worship any more Christmas trees or snow men! And don't get me started on Easter with it's evil bunnies and cholesterol-spiking eggs! Enough is enough! Just say no, kids, just say no!

Halloween '06

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I told Tipper it had to a bin that global warmin what burned up the a/c in tha dubble-wide!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pure joy

If I could write a letter to the entire world, I wonder what I might say. If I had the opportunity to write something that generations of people all over the world would read, what would be my topic? How would I even start? James had that opportunity when he wrote his book in the Bible. He may have not realized at the time that his letter to some friends would be read by every generation that came after him but with the help of the Spirit of God he wrote some of the most powerful words ever written.

Consider how he starts his book: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverence. Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." That passage is found in James 1, verses two and three. Pure joy in trials? What kind of crack was he on? How do you find joy when things are going wrong?

As I have gotten older I have come to realize that there is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness comes with happy situations. You cannot be truly happy when your life is falling apart and crashing in on you but you can be truly joyful. I would love to tell you how I am truly joyful at all times and how my perseverence is finished and now I am mature and complete. I would love to say that but I would be lying. I'm not quite there yet. In fact, I doubt that my wife would use "mature" anywhere in a description of me! In fact, it is only after all these years that I am letting it sink in that joy is possible and that the knowledge of that is coming with the "trials of many kinds".

As every person who has ever had the title of "Parent" will tell you, it is a difficult job. Trials of many kinds come every day and I know that my job is no harder than any other parent on the planet. Like so many others I have the prefix "Step" in front of my title and that adds a funky twist to being a parent. Sometimes the rules get kind of blurry and the job description can be vague. Add to the mix a biological father and his wife who is now a step-mom and the relationships we all have with each other and my head starts to swim! Sometimes I forget to whom I am related!

Being a parent has taught me alot of things. I have come to appreciate my own parents more as I realize how much I put them through. A couple of years ago, my daughter told me one evening that she had a major project due the next day. She had known about it for awhile but waited until the last minute to say anything. So, with my wallet and a really bad attitude, I took off for the drugstore to buy poster board and markers for this project. What should have been my bedtime turned into a late-night visit to some place open twenty-four hours. As I drove to the store thinking up ways to express my displeasure without Child Protective Services finding out, my cellphone rings. My Dad asks me what I'm doing out so late and when I tell him he starts laughing like a maniac! "What's so funny?", I asked. He said, "Don't you remember how many times you did that to me?" It even made me laugh thinking about being bitten by that piece of irony!

Parenting is an humbling job as well. It has made me realize how selfish I am and how impatient I can be. Maybe that is part of what James is talking about when he says we can be "mature and complete, not lacking anything". If I keep facing these trials then my perseverence will make me more mature and complete and as that happens, James then says in verse twelve that "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial..." The Bible says that God will bless us if we persevere and I believe it. He has already given me so many blessings that I don't deserve including a wonderful wife who is a "good and perfect gift from above" as James also says in verse seventeen.

So I will continue to persevere knowing that when trials come it is an opportunity to be blessed if I respond appropriately. While I still can't say that I look forward to hard times I have a better attitude when they do come. It may not be "pure joy" yet but I'm working on it. I'm going to go say goodnight now to my daughter "Pure" and my son "Joy" and then I will thank God for them! I pray that God will bless me with another day to be there for them. I also hope that when they have kids that they wind up trying to find a twenty-four hour place too!