Friday, January 30, 2009

Cuts to State Budget

I know this will probably come across as mean spirited, like my mortgage post of yesteryear. But this needs to be said.

I am thrilled that the state legislature is making serious budget cuts to eliminate deficit spending. This is how budgets work. You take your income and balance your expenditures against that. If something is too expensive, you cut it down. If road improvements are more important than, for example, emergency dental welfare, then you make it fit into your budget. I think the tough decisions the state legislature is making is EXACTLY what this state needs.

Janet Napolitano did us no favors by incorporating all these programs. And yes, I do include all-day kindergarten in that mix. It has not boosted the scores of our children. They are not reading any better than the children were eight years ago; science and math scores have not improved. Truly, all-day kindergarten is simply a way for the state to have more influence over our children. It was sold to us as a way to get our children to a higher learning level, and yet it has not succeeded. Should we keep funding it?

Let me ask you, if you had a pay cut where would make budget cuts? Wouldn't it be in the areas which are least productive and most draining? Certainly!

"But," you say, "what about all those families who can't afford after school programs?" I don't know. What did people do when all-day kindergarten didn't exist? I'm sure they did something.

The danger with social programs is that once a person gets used to it, they are less inclined to do without it. Add that to the entitlement factor (my kids deserve all-day kindergarten!), and you have a real mess when the economy take a nose-dive.

The reality is that everyone has less money. Period. People don't seem to realize that this economic downturn has consequence for everyone. How can we expect our children to learn lessons about personal responsibility and consequences if we ourselves are unwilling to accept the reality of this worldwide economic crisis?

We have an opportunity here to learn how to do with less. God has not promised us economic security. He has promised that we who belong to Him will not be forsaken. As in the words of James, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Now, that's a program I'll get behind.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Adios Mr. President

I will miss George W. Bush. I know, how very unpopular of me.

In any case, he was the exact right man for the War on Terror. He pursued those terrorists without worrying about public opinion, which is exactly what he should have done. We are a safer nation because of him. We have stricter security measures because of him. More people in the world are FREE because he had the guts to go in and route out terrorists. History will get this right and he will be recognized as one of the most influential presidents of this country.

He also cut taxes, which for me has been huge.

I was not a fan of all his policies. I'm more of a hardliner on immigration and spending than he was. But I can forgive him that because he never changed. I was under no illusions about his stance on immigration when he was elected. He never changed his mind. He never wavered. He never took a poll to determine whether or not a policy is a good idea. I don't fault him that. I hope I am as consistent.

Furthermore, no matter what shots the media took, he stayed above it. Never engaging their crassness, whether it was about his style or his intellect. As much as I abhor the media, I love President Bush for being strong enough to handle them.

I think he was surrounded by wise people, he made great choices for his cabinet (with the possible exception of Colin Powel and Henry Paulson.) He chose excellent men for the Supreme Court. He broke new ground with the appointments of Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales. He is brave. He is fun. He loves his family.

So, I will miss President Bush. I will miss his humor, his resolve, and his integrity.

Poetry Thursday: Psalm 118

Appropriately, I read this on Tuesday. It was a bit of a down day for me, as you can imagine. You know, reading through Leviticus is tough. I mean, all those regulations, and all those sacrifices...really made me think about how deprave we are as humans. How capable of evil and filth we are. And it's only through Jesus Christ that we can be called Holy. It is only through his sacrifice that we can put off our sinfulness and become who God has designed us to be. So, the whole thing really had me melancholy.

Oh, that's not the reason you thought I was down on Tuesday? Well, yes, also the inauguration of Obama had me down. And it's not that I'm still sore about the election, but the extreme jubilation of his followers really irks me. It's like he walks on water. It's as if Obama will save them from their troubles. Anyways, it all got me down.

Imagine my joy when I turned to Psalm 118 that night. I had a fresh outlook. To bad I read it at 9:30 at night; I could have used this much earlier in the day. And it is also my answer to the issue of extreme jubilation over one man. It's something I plan to keep in mind for the next four years, at least.

Excerpts from Psalm 118

1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
5) In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.
6) The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
7) The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
8) It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
9) It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
13) I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
14) The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
15) Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!"
17) I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18) The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19) Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20) This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.
21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
22) The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
23) the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is not an easy thing for me to say, much less to live out. I know, and can still be overjoyed, that what God has done is rightly done. Who am I to question the ways of the Lord?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Poetry Thursday

I think it's a good idea to get into poetry. Not so into it, but enough to appreciate it. I want to read more poetry. The discipline poetry takes to create is noteworthy. A poet must take a thought and fit it into stanzas, using only the most appropriate words. Yes, it takes some imagination in order to understand it. But why is that dreaded? We need to exercise our minds. So, in that order, I hereby declare Thursdays Poetry Days.

To start it off, here is a poem by my grandfather, Ron Durham. This Christmas season has been rather sad for me since he recently departed earth for Heaven. He was an artist, a poet, a writer. You can imagine why I miss him so much. This is for your enjoyment.

To a Cockroach
(Or, Bug Me to Live)

Ah, thou cockroach, you endure
Far beyond my overtures
For you to be exterminated,
And myself emancipated
From the gran ubiquity
Of your creep-and-carwlity.
You resist all tech-damnation
You’d survive e’en radiation
From wars that do mere mortals in.
So tempted, I, to hate like sin
Your shuddery longevity
That points to some eternity –
Until I realize your drive,
Against all odds, to stay alive
Is like the very verve I need
To stand against the word and deed
That tempts me to despair of heart.
Live on, thou bug, and life impart!
– Ron Durham, date unknown

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

I bake our family's bread. It saves us money and I really loved homemade baked goods. Me and girls are pretty crazy about it. Thankfully I have some of those Debbie Meyer's Bread Bags which keep the bread very well. Anyways, it's not an original recipe; it's from the bag of King Arthur Flour. My special touch is to add Vital Wheat Gluten.

Here it goes:

Classic 100% Whole What Bread
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 1 packet of active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tsp of Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 cup honey, molasses or maple syrup [I use honey.]
3 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup dried nonfat milk
1 1/4 tsp salt

Mixing: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer of food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough" or "manual.") Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though no necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 30 to 60 minutes, or until it's crowned about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking: Bake the bread in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190 degrees at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and cool it on a rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. Yields 1 loaf.