Showing posts from December, 2012

Diving off the Fiscal Cliff

Will it hurt?

• If you’re low-income or elderly: No, it won't hurt. If you don’t pay taxes your taxes can’t go up. • If you rely on dividend income. Yes, it's going to hurt. Taxes on dividend income will go up at a much higher proportion than other tax rates. Look out below. • If you’re a full-time student. No pain. The fiscal cliff is not something you’ll be pushed off of….yet. • If you’ve been collecting unemployment for more than 26 weeks. Yes, ouch. Your program just expired. • If you’re employed. Yes, get ready for the bleeding. Higher taxes coming your way. And the payroll tax holiday is officially ending. • If you’re employed by the government. Yes, you too. Those sequestration provisions are set to kick in. Translated into dollars this will mean $1.2 trillion in cuts to budgets over 10 years. • But have no fear—our elected officials will be back at the table in January figuring out how to create “tax-cuts” while somehow paying for the ever-increasing size of government…

2013 The Year of the Tree

I grew up around evergreen trees. I loved their size, texture, smell—even the sticky pitch was fun. As a kid, I’d walk to the nearby forest and spend hours building forts out of fallen limbs. Low branches were used as a boost to climb as high as I dared.

During storms, the winds would whip the treetops and I’d watch them sway back and forth. The rains would pelt them relentlessly too. In the heaviest snow, sometimes a limb would break after being bowed to the limit, but most often the snow would just tumble down in shimmering clusters. What I couldn’t see were the tree roots. Reaching far beneath the topsoil, they were anchored securely deep down.

None of us knows what the New Year will bring—so we need to be like trees. Deeper roots will keep us grounded when the storms arise. Those roots will give us sustenance to remain strong for the year ahead. I hope to deepen my family roots, my friend roots, and my faith roots. 
We can expect some problems in 2013. Yet we don’t have to face t…

American Idol Worship

I began worshiping idols before I could even read. The graven images of toys in the Sears Christmas catalog held me captive. Those toys promised such joy. Gradually toys gave way to a mirror.

During my teens I worshipped two idols simultaneously. And make no mistake; those two idols demanded great sacrifices.
The Appearance Idol held up a warped mirror reflecting a false image of myself. I’d look away feeling awkward and unworthy. The sacrifice of food was offered, sometimes in combination with copious exercise. Of course I made the required sacrifice of money for what I hoped were stylish enough clothes. The promise of happiness awaited me with just the right look. 
Needing encouragement, I bowed down to the Approval Idol. I was given a long list of demands and was forced to compare myself to others. The promise of acceptance seemed just out of my grip.

I finally took a mental sledgehammer and shattered those worthless idols upon their altar. But an empty altar is a lonely place and…

Missing Christmas

There were times when worshipping a Savior seemed unnecessary with so many other fascinating things out there to discover—places to go and people to meet. I didn’t want God making rules for me. I was like King Herod who considered Jesus a threat to his rule in his little kingdom—and like Herod, I totally missed out on Christmas.
Of course I didn't actually "miss" Christmas all those times I enjoyed it in conjunction with lots of other celebrations. Christmas meant gifts for me, time to relax, have fun, while looking ahead to New Year’s Eve—the biggest party of the year. It was like my very own Roman Empire—with lots of gods to worship—and some of those gods really liked to party.
Then there were those years when I missed Christmas as I busily decorated the house, made special meals, bought perfect gifts, and made daily To-Do lists that left me tired and cranky. I was like the Bethlehem innkeeper who had a full house and no extra time or interest to help some poor out-of…

A Child’s World

The entry door is your first clue.The doorknob is so high you need a step stool. Once inside, everything you see is huge. The couch requires pulling and climbing to get on top of the plush cushions. The floor lamp looks like a small tree. Across the room, a massive desk has pencils the size of celery stalks. Everything is supersized. You’ve just entered a child’s world.
This special room “educates” us on how challenging it is for the youngest among us to live in a grown-up world. From climbing steps, to reaching for a light switch, children live in a land built for giants. Perhaps that’s why they can so easily talk about what they want to be when they “grow-up”. Maybe it’s why they can live in a world of make-believe and imagine accomplishing greater-than-possible feats.

Too soon this land of giants becomes manageable—stairs aren’t so steep, nor furniture so huge. But as children grow they also can lose the magic of hope, and the sparkle of possibility. In its place are harder realit…

iWorship my iPhone

Have you people-watched lately? The best places are where they wait—like airports or bus stops. How many are thumbing their phone?Watch people at sporting events, malls, and doctor’s waiting rooms….same thing.
I’ve seen couples sitting side by side, smiling at their phones. Now eye contact is iContact. Never before has it been easier to be connected to the world and disconnected to someone sitting next to you.

Thoughts are shared in tweets. Status updates suffice for phone calls. And iPhones can do it all. It’s convenient too. Siri recommends our travel routes and advises good places to eat. iCal warns about our food intake.No time for a lengthy call?—just text and use an emoticon expressing the right sentiment.

iBelieve we need to keep a balance between our virtual life and the real relationships we share with those around us. While it's never been easier to stay in touch with hundreds of facebook friends and twitter followers, it's also never been easier to lose our real co…

Pearl Harbor Assignment

I don’t remember exactly what my teenage-know-it-all-wise-cracking mouth uttered, but the hurt on my friend’s face immediately told me to stop. It was early December and we’d been assigned to write something about Pearl Harbor. My comment had to do with how assignments like this were stupid. For my friend, it was deeply personal.

Every December 7th her family honored an uncle she’d never met but somehow knew deep in her heart. The stories that were shared around the living room were both gruesome and glorious—if that were possible. From an early age she’d come to respect this man whose uniformed picture was prominently displayed on the nearby bookshelf.

Her uncle and father had grown up in a small town and when World War II had started in Europe her uncle left the mill and had enlisted. Her father, much younger and still living at home, watched his brother ship off for a base stationed in Hawaii. It seemed safe, but he missed his brother terribly.  Then December 7, 1941 changed all …