Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm a contestant in the greatest reality game of all!

My remaining favorites for reality shows are as follows (again, click on the link for more info):

The Amazing Race.This may be my favorite reality show of all time. It began in 2001 and is currently in its 17th season. 

The typical format of the game features eleven teams of two or four people each who compete with each other to race around the world for a grand prize of $1,000,000. The eleven teams that feature on the show come from a wide mix of ages, races and orientations. There are siblings, couples, parent and child, friends and colleagues. The show also focuses on the emotions and stress that the relationship comes under during the competition. 

Competing teams in the competition use a variety of transportation and travel modes for their travel within and through countries, including trucks, bicycles, taxis, trains, buses, boats, planes, hot air balloons, helicopters, etc. The race usually begins in a US city. 

Teams receive clues in each leg of the race that leads them to perform a task or directs them to the next destination. Challenges are related sometimes to the country or culture they visit and good knowledge of local customs, places and vital details provide the difference between winning and losing. The last team to arrive at a given leg of the competition is sent away. Elimination of teams progresses through until there are only three teams left; in the final leg the team that arrives first at the destination ends up with a purse of $1 Million.

The Amazing Race will test any marriage or relationship-it will either draw you closer or expose weaknesses. I've thought that maybe my daughter, Sarah, and I could enter TAR since she is in great shape and I'm in fairly good shape as well. But, on second thought, we'd probably be at each other's throats. In the Amazing Race, if you have poor communication skills, that's one of the first things to throw a wrench in your performance. Renee and I are avid fans because we like seeing the rest of the world and the ways that Americans handle themselves in other countries and cultures. 

Question: What show is about to make it's big return to television on Dec. 12. It starts off like this: "The stunts you are about to see were all designed and supervised by trained professionals. They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime!"
We're talking FEAR FACTOR, hosted by Joe Rogan (who else could do this show justice?).
The normal format involves three men and three women, or four teams of two people with a pre-existing relationship, who had to complete three professional stunts to win $50,000.

If a contestant/team is too scared to attempt a stunt, fails to complete a stunt, or (in some cases) has the worst performance on a stunt, they are eliminated from the competition.

If only one contestant/team successfully completes the first or the second stunt, they automatically win $25,000, and the other contestants eliminated in the stunt along with the winner of the stunt return for the next stunt to compete for the remaining $25,000. 

Fear Factor is all about conquering your fears of heights, water, speed, falling, scaling down a Las Vegas hotel, creepy crawling things, cow's intestines, everything you thought was inedible can become a shake that you have to down as quickly as possible, etc.

I love this show. It's a total gross-out, but NO, I would never want to be a contestant on FF. I think I would attempt most of the stunts, but I would bail when it came to drinking a milkshake of cow's intestines and other such gross stuff!

The Apprentice is a truly "American" reality television show hosted by real estate magnate, businessman and television personality Donald Trump and created by Survivor's Mark Burnett.

Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview", the show stars sixteen to eighteen business people competing in an elimination-style competition for a one-year, $250,000 starting contract of running one of business magnate Trump's companies. The show typically ends with Trump eliminating one of the contestants with the words, "You're Fired".

The show first aired in January 2004 and has run for eleven seasons, with the seventh, eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth seasons featuring celebrities competing for charity.

I love the Apprentice and it's fun watching the various teams compete to create ad campaigns and sell various products. This show celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit which has helped make the U.S. so strong as an innovator of new businesses.

CMT's Next Country Superstar. Each episode will be one hour-long episode. Contestants, mainly undiscovered singer-songwriters in the country genre compete while living together in a Nashville mansion. 

Celebrity guests guide them each week and on each episode, one finalist is eliminated with the viewing audience voting to determine who will win the title. 

I happen to have acquired a taste for country music in recent years so for me, this is a fun outing each week, and I trying to figure out early on if I can pick the next CMT Superstar. On the first season's outing, I did pick the winner, Matt Mason. For me, it was so obvious. One other thing about CMT's Next Country Superstar--it's not as commercial and jaded as American Idol or the X-Factor. There's something "grounded" and "down-to-earth" about this show, and it's not full of all the phony hype and commercialized glamor that other shows like AI and X-Factor display to the nth degree.

For now, I will be content with the greatest reality show of all--living life as a child of God. There are days when it's full of surprises. There are days when it's full of pain and uncertainty. There are days when it's a mystery and I don't know what's up or down, but at least I know the One who has created me has everything under control. I know what the rules are, since they've been set down in God's Word and they are unchanging as is God Himself. That becomes my anchor in this game of life. 

The future unfolds before me daily and it's full of unknowns, but the Good News is that in this game, I am not alone and God is at work to assure that I come through as a winner. I'm not always good at games...but this is one game where I will prevail, thanks to Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of my faith. He will bring me victoriously across the finish line of LIFE. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confessions of a Reality Show Junkie

I confess. I am a reality show junkie. What does that mean? It means that I'd rather watch someone climb Mt. Everest than do it myself. I'd rather watch Laird Hamilton surf down a 30-ft wave at Waimea Bay than be out there myself. Are you kidding me? That would be suicidal! I guess that means I would rather live life vicariously. Yes and no. I like to watch others push themselves to the limit and it amazes me at their athleticism and ability to do whatever it is that they are doing. But I'm content to sit and watch them on my flat-screen TV. Having said that, there are a few reality shows that I would consider signing-up as a contestant--you'll find out which ones as I go through my list. Don't think for a second that I am a total "couch potato."

Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded.

Here are my favorite reality shows. I've also linked to their respective websites so you can check them out with photos and videos from recent episodes. Who knows, you might get hooked on one of these reality shows. You could be addicted to things far worse. Since my list includes 9 shows, I'll continue this post on Thursday.
Survivor. This is the granddaddy of all reality shows. Survivor  premiered on May 31, 2000 on CBS. It is hosted by veteran television personality, reporter and one-time game show emcee Jeff Probst who has one of the best jobs in the world. 
Survivor maroons a group of strangers (as one or more tribes) in a desolate locale, where they must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves, while competing in challenges to earn either a reward, or an immunity from expulsion from the game in the next of the successive votes for elimination. While much rarer than elimination by vote, medical conditions, such as injury or infection, have eliminated several contestants. The last two or three survivors face a jury composed of the last seven, eight, or nine players voted off. That jury interrogates the final few, and then votes for the winner of the game, the title of Sole Survivor and a million dollar prize.
 I've seen almost seen almost every one of the 23 seasons of Survivor. I don't think I could ever be on Survivor because I'd probably be voted off early on. But you never know, maybe I would be a stealth contestant "under the radar." 

Ozzy Lusth and Benjamin "Coach" Wade
At my physical exam 3 wks ago, my doctor said I was in excellent shape but  my cholesterol level would be better if I lost just five more pounds. Survivor is an excellent way to burn off some calories--you're usually guaranteed of losing 10-30 lbs. of weight depending on how long you "survive."

In the current season, my favorite is Ozzy who is a Survivor-veteran from Venice, California. Ozzy's game changer this season has been to voluntarily allow himself to be voted off twice, and sent packing to Redemption Island. If Ozzy doesn't win Survivor South Pacific, he could play Jesus in an upcoming Christian film.
Expedition Impossible aired this past summer to tepid ratings. Why it didn't catch on with the viewing audience is a puzzle to me. Renee and I thought it was a unique and interesting reality series. Produced by Survivor's Mark Burnett, Expedition Impossible followed thirteen teams of three competitors as they "solved problems while racing across deserts, over mountains and through rivers" across the nation of Morocco. 
Team "No Limits": Erik, Ike and Jeff
One of the most fascinating teams was "No Limits" with friends Erik, Jeff and Ike. What made this team unique is Erik who became blind at an early age and has climbed Mt. Everest. Jeff serves as Erik's "eyes in the field." Ike is a combat engineer officer in the military, earning two Bronze Star Medals and a Purple Heart. "No Limits" came in second and crowned the Gypsies from San Diego, the winners of Expedition Impossible. All the other 12 teams kept measuring themselves against the team with the blind guy and they always came up short. Erik truly is an inspiration and you realize that even with eyesight, we often put such needless limits on ourselves. I doubt that there will be a second season of Expedition Impossible, but if there were, I'd do it.

There were some challenging obstacles, but I think I could do most of them. Also, the chance to see so many facets of a country like Morocco would make it all worthwhile.

America Ninja Warrior. Here's the opening to this show which airs on the G4 Network (I can hear some of you saying, "G4 Network?? What's that?" which goes to show that you are not a "gamer." Neither am I, but I still know where G4 is on my satellite system): "Japan's ultimate test of speed, strength, and stamina has finally come to America. Now the nation's toughest athletes battle in a series of grueling physical challenges. Only ten will survive and head to Japan to face the legendary Mt. Midoryama. Who has what it takes to become the first...American Ninja Warrior?"
The tryouts are held at Venice Beach, CA. where entrants are tested for strength, speed, endurance, and agility. It's an open competition and anyone can tryout. You have olympic athletes, K-1 fighters, gymnasts, physical therapists, IT engineers, soldiers, etc. competing for a chance at the world's ultimate obstacle course.
Renee and I love this show. These guys push their bodies to the limit, and what you discover is that it's not about muscle but rather overall fitness and mental toughness. Guaranteed I wouldn't even make it through the first obstacle. This is one reality show where youth prevails every time!

MasterChef hosted by Gordon Ramsey along with two other judges: Joe Bastianich and Chef Graham Elliot. Each judge takes a taste of the dish and gives his opinion before voting a "yes" or a "no." At least two "yes" votes are required to earn a white apron to be in the competition. A few years ago, if you would've told me that I could get hooked on a cooking show, I would've said "No way." But Renee and I really enjoyed this show which features a softer, gentler Gordon Ramsey. Some of the challenges are grueling, especially with amount of time given to prepare the dish. Too much stress and pressure for me, but fun to watch.
The contestants who advanced out of the preliminary round next compete in two challenges. In the first, contestants complete a certain task, to the specification of the chefs, such as cutting and dicing onions or slicing apples. The chefs who are not eliminated while performing the task immediately proceed to an "invention test". A theme is given to the remaining contestants, who have thirty minutes to create and cook a dish relevant to this theme. The contestants can cook with any ingredient they want, as long as the theme is prevalent in the dish. Once the dishes are cooked, they are all presented to the judges for tasting —presentation, taste and the prevalence of the theme ingredient is considered.
In the Mystery Box challenge, contestants receive a number of ingredients of which they are to make a dish of their choice. The contestants are allowed to use any number of the ingredients they wish, and are free to leave any ingredients out. Once the dishes are finished, the judges choose three of the dishes to taste. The winner receives an advantage in the following elimination challenge.
I'll continue this post on Thursday with the remainder of my favorite reality shows--including an "oldie but goodie" which is making a comeback this December. Care to guess? You'll find out on Thursday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving tale: The Death of Common Sense in Morristown, NJ

Let me begin my Thanksgiving post with another example of the "Death of Common Sense." This appeared in yesterday's William McGurn's Wall Street Journal column:
This Thursday, in a parish hall not far from the New Jersey town green where George Washington once made his winter headquarters, as many as 300 people will gather for their Thanksgiving meal. Some will be homeless, some will be mentally ill, some will be old, and some will be folks and families who have just hit a hard patch. For all of them, Morristown's Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center is one of the few blessings they can count on.
In many ways, this soup kitchen illustrates Tocqueville's point about the American genius for voluntary association. Having started out in a local Episcopal church, it has grown into a network that links restaurants, corporate sponsors and community groups with volunteers from nearly three dozen church congregations, including this reporter's. The result is a hot meal to anyone who comes to the door each noon, no questions asked.
This the men and women of the Community Soup Kitchen have provided for 26 years, not once missing a day. 
Now comes a challenge greater than any snowstorm or power outage. Earlier this year, the Morristown Division of Health ruled that henceforth the soup kitchen would be considered a "retail" food establishment under New Jersey law.
From that single word far-reaching consequences have flowed. In a column for a local blog, Ray Friant, a volunteer from the Morristown United Methodist Church, called the rule "crazy." 
Most obvious is the higher cost: at least $150,000 more a year. To meet this increase, the kitchen is asking each participating church to up its own contribution. Some congregations don't have the money. For those that do, it will mean less for some other need.
Much of this cost results from a new prohibition on people donating food they've prepared at home. For those on the giving end, often this was the only way they could participate, so eliminating their contributions means eliminating volunteers. For those on the receiving end, it means no more homemade meat loaf, lasagna, cakes and so forth.
All, of course, in the name of food safety. Still, one suspects that when a co-worker brings a tin of Christmas cookies to a friend inside Morristown's Division of Health, those cookies are not forbidden because they do not come wrapped from a supermarket or approved restaurant. Yet this is precisely the restriction these officials have imposed on men, women and children whose only hope for a home-baked cookie might be at the
soup kitchen.
How can the soup kitchen be considered retail when there is no monetary exchange? When is it a free service? Maybe the real issue is that the people preparing the food are not union members. How soon will it be before we have to have government inspectors going through our kitchens looking for e.coli bacteria and making sure that you are using latex gloves.

I often wonder if liberals insist on regulations and social programs because they lack the common sense and integrity that makes those regulations unnecessary for the rest of us. 
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."    - C.S. Lewis
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - attributed to Ronald Reagan
  • I am thankful for my family, for my health, for a home that's warm and has electricity and clean water. 
  • I'm thankful for friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.
  • I'm thankful to live in America, and I'm thankful for God's goodness and mercy. 
  • I'm thankful that God found me and saved me. 
  • I'm thankful that He revealed Himself to me through His Son, Jesus the Messiah.
  • I'm thankful for God's daily provision and for presence in my life. 
  • I'm thankful that He has been faithful to me throughout all my years.

Take time this Thanksgiving to let others know that you are thankful. Get specific. Thanksgiving Day should be more than a time to pig-out on good food--Take some time to reflect on how God has blessed you and provided for you. Then, let those around you know that you are thankful!! 

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
Psalm 107:1
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Death of Common Sense: Europe bans claim that water can prevent dehydration

If you've ever run in a 10-k race or marathon, you know that hydrating is really important. That's why they have water stations at various stages of the race. We've also been told that you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day, right?

I've been talking about the "Death of CommonSense" and you can file this one under Ripley's Believe It Or Not cause I'm not making this up.

While Greece and Italy are about to flush the EU down the toilet, here's what the EU is really concerned about. This story ran in yesterday's London Telegraph: The European Union which consists of 27 countries has BANNED a statement that water can prevent hydration. Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration.

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact. Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large. “The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. “If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.” 

The British NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day. The Department for Health disputed the wisdom of the new law. A spokesman said: “Of course water hydrates. While we support the EU in preventing false claims about products, we need to exercise common sense as far as possible."

This is not the first time that the EU has issued a stupid ruling which defies "common sense." In 2008, rules banning bent bananas and curved cucumbers were scrapped after causing international ridicule. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

OSHA: The Death of Common Sense and Then Some...

Imagine for a moment that someone with a great reputation like Mother Theresa comes into your community and wants to renovate several dilapidated buildings to house the homeless. In effect, get the homeless off the street and help turn their lives around. Wouldn't you think that your city would pull out all the stops to help make this happen?

Well, if you're New York City, and if the person that came to town was Mother Theresa, you'd be WRONG!

Phillip Howard in his book, "The Death of Common Sense" talks of a charitable fund run by the organization with which Mother Theresa was involved. They bought a number of dilapidated structures from the city of New York and sought to renovate them for the homeless. However, when it came time to open them, the city decided that the three-story structures required the installation of elevators at $100,000 per building. The charity did not have the funds to install the elevators and so the homeless were denied clean, warm housing in the interests of not forcing them to endure the evils of walking up a flight of stairs.

In "The Death of Common Sense," Howard talks at length of one firm which has now accepted the fines levied by OSHA as an expense of doing business since it is not humanly possible to comply with all of the requirements. In order to protect its workers, it instead implemented a "Safety First" campaign of its own imploring common sense while OSHA inspectors chose to concentrate on tape measures showing banisters to be installed at 44" from the floor rather than the 48" required by law.

There are tales of OSHA determining that bricks are a hazardous substance -- not because someone might hit you over the head with one, but because if one is sawed in half, the dust particles might be inhaled.

OSHA imposes an incredible paperwork burden on U.S. business. In 1994, seven of the top ten most frequent OSHA citations were related to paperwork. OSHA has perfected the government “make-work” scheme—generate a paper blizzard of regulations and then fine businesses for not complying.

OSHA had cited small businesses for neglecting to consider as "hazardous" such substances as sand, gravel, dishwashing liquid, liquid paper, water, and oxygen. A small businessman in Florida, for example, was cited for failing to place a "Do Not Drink" warning on a bottle of dishwashing liquid. And an Indiana contractor was "astonished" when he learned that he was to receive a citation for falling to list a common household window cleaner on his MSDS.

Here are a few examples of stupid OSHA regulations:
  • Plastic gas cans can be used on manufacturing work sites, but not on construction sites, even if they have been approved by local fire marshals.
  • OSHA only allows for radiation signs with purple letters on a yellow background, while the Department of Transportation calls for black on yellow.
  • OSHA requires that work-site first-aid kits be approved by a physician.
  • Dentists estimate that OSHA regulations add $10. to the teeth cleaning bill and $15-17 to the typical cavity filling. 
  • Brad Arft, director of training for Gold Cross Ambulance Service in Appleton, Wisconsin, notes that while these and other new requirements may not add to response or treatment time, they do "add time to start patient care when the potential exists for exposure" to blood and other body fluids. And again, a record of every washing of hands and changing of rubber gloves must be kept for 30 years after the employee has left the company. Failure to comply with that and other standards could result in a fine of up to $70,000, while any employee who violates the rules for a fourth time is subject to automatic dismissal.
The Denver Business Journal estimates that businesses spend $33 billion yearly to comply with OSHA safety standards. 

OSHA is another example of a government that is out of control where one size fits all and the government trying to protect us from any kind of risk, even if it makes it harder for businesses to stay in business.  
OSHA is punishing employer’s verses creating common sense policies that promote prevention.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Death of Common Sense or "You Can't Fix Stupid School Administrators"

It would be great if we had a "common sense" app that we could download from the app store. If that were the case, it might spare  some supposedly bright, educated, smart people from doing so many stupid things. 

Under the heading, "You can't fix stupid," some of the dumbest things are being done by teachers and school administrators. You don't believe me? 

Consider this:
Some schools like Freedom Elementary in Cheyenne, Wyoming have banned tag. Broward County, Florida banned running at recess (to guard against kids falling down). 
  • Little Leagues forbid sliding into base.
  • Some towns ban sledding.
  • High diving boards are history, and it's only a matter of time before all diving boards disappear.
  • Soccer and touch football have been banned in Wichita, San Jose, Beaverton, Ore, and Rancho Santa Fe, CA. 
  • Contact sports were banned at Charles Pinckney Elementary School earlier this year in Charleston, SC because kids suffered dislocated fingers and broken arms from playing touch football and soccer.
    This book is written by a feminist
    who believes we are harming our
    young men by refusing to allow
    them to be boys.
  • Many schools have banned dodge ball, according to Donna Thompson of the National Program for Playground Safety. Schools in Maine, NY, Virginia, Maryland and Texas have banned dodge ball because it is warlike, unfair and exclusionary. Do see what's happening? Just by the language these administrators and school board use, they reveal their political correctness. Since when is dodge ball exclusionary or warlike? Is it their job to raise a generation of pacifists who refuse to fight or defend their country? Who set these people up as judge and jury over what kids can do? 
Do you see what is at work here? I call it the "feminization of our children." By that I mean, most of these contact sports favor boys and they allow boys to be boys. But what we are doing is stifling boys from doing what is normal and natural, playing dodge ball, soccer, touch football. No wonder we have a problem with childhood obesity. We are forbidden almost any activity because they "might get hurt." Our teachers and administrators in their infinite wisdom want to eliminate all risk and they want to penalize our boys from being boys and behaving like boys.

I recall on more than one occasion observing a young couple with their first or second child. They were overprotective and probably would agree with all bans in place in schools regarding recess, dodge ball, tag, etc. Why? Because they don't want their little Johnny to get hurt. So they see it as their responsibility to protect him from anything that would cause him pain. However, just the opposite is taking place. When little Johnny hits his head on the coffee table, he looks at Mommy and Daddy. He is going to take his cue from them and their "over-reaction." When he sees them jump up and get all concerned over his having bumped his head, he realizes that he needs to reward this "over-reaction" with crocodile tears. Cue the tears!

However, I've observed other children who, when they hit their head on the coffee table, looked at Mommy and Daddy and saw that they were not overly concerned. Mommy smiled and said, "It's ok,'ll be fine." Then Johnny realizes that it's no big deal and not worth the effort of shedding any crocodile tears. Why? Because he's taking his cues from Mommy and Daddy. They're not in a panic and why should he? This is akin to what we see going on in our public schools. This over-reaction is not helpful to the psyche or the future well-being of our children. We are raising a generation of whiners and babies who cry at the slightest provocation or scratch, and that's how they've been raised and educated. We're raising young girls to cry out "sexual harassment" if a boy gives her a little kiss on the cheek on Valentine's Day.

Please indulge me a few more examples of stupidity on the part of our government school teachers & administrators:
  • Stephen Fogelman from Branson, Mississippi, who is in the 3rd grade, was suspended from school for kissing a classmate on the cheek. School officials saw this as sexual harassment and suspended the boy for 1-day. Stephen was chasing a girl when the incident occurred. His parents have stated that he doesn't even know what sexual harassment means and didn't know that he was doing anything wrong.
Just how little tolerance is zero tolerance? 
  • A Staten Island fourth-grader was reprimanded and almost suspended yesterday when the principal spotted him playing with a Lego policeman and a 2-inch long toy gun during lunch. Under the city's no-tolerance policy regarding guns in schools, PS 52 Principal Evelyn Matroianni brought 9-year-old Patrick Timoney to her office and called his mother to say the boy might be suspended for carrying the miniature toy gun to school, pending the approval of the Dept. of Education's security administrator. 
  • A New Jersey school's zero-tolerance policy went into effect after a 7-year old student drew a gun. He didn't literally pull a gun--rather, he drew a picture of himself and another student "David" and the drawing showed him holding a gun. But that was enough for Kyle McDevitt to earn suspension from Dennis Township Primary School. Kyle apparently gave the drawing to David on the bus, and David's parents alerted the school. Kyle's mother said she wasn't worried because Kyle says he had drawn a water pistol-not a real gun. Kyle's mother wonders if they school administrators are abusing the zero tolerance law when a boy can no longer draw a picture of a gun?
  • Terry Wilson thinks Spokane Public School administrators may have jumped the gun when it comes to her 8-yr old son. The 3rd grader, along with 2 other boys, was suspended from Bemiss Elementary School for bringing GI Joe action figures which he carried in his pocket. The guns which were carried by the action figures are from 1-3 inches long--half the size of a pencil. "I don't think any child would look at it and be threatened," said the boy's mother. But the school district is standing by its zero-tolerance policy on weapons. Bemiss Principal Lorna Spear says, "We've been very clear with our students and school, you don't need anything that's going to make kids feel unsafe."
I think I would be more afraid of a principal like Lorna Spear than a third-grader with a GI Joe action figure. Ms. Spear doesn't care that she is doing more to harm these little 3rd grade boys with her over-reaction and heavy-handedness than anything they might be doing with their GI Joe action figures.

These are the adults who are charged with teaching and training our children and in far too many cases, they are dangerous. They are educating our children to be afraid of everything, even drawings and GI Joe action figures. They are educating kids to cry "sexual harassment" if a boy gives a girl an innocent kiss. These people who have been charged with the education of our children are scary and dangerous! They are doing more harm to our children than any game of dodge ball, or tag, or stick figure drawing of a water pistol. 

Finally, these are the same individuals who will not give a student an aspirin without written parental consent, but will turn around and refuse to notify parents of a student's decision to have an abortion. How crazy is that? Which is more serious? Dispensing aspirin or an abortion. In the minds of educators, it's the aspirin. The death of common sense.

Next post: The Death of Common Sense, pt. 2: How NY city regulations and bureaucrats have kept people like Mother Theresa from helping others.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices

Son of Hamas which reads like a spy novel, is a courageous and insightful memoir of a young man who witnessed firsthand the darkest side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the founding leader of Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, responsible for countless suicide bombings and other deadly attacks against Israel, witnessed things no one should ever 
before their 21st birthday: Poverty, abuse
of power, torture and death.
Son of Hamas is an amazing psychological profile of this young man's experiences and the choices he makes. It is politically, psychologically and spiritually powerful. The most chilling sentence in the whole book is when he states that a moderate Muslim is actually more dangerous than a fundamentalist, however, because he appears to be harmless, and you can never tell when he has taken the next step toward the top. Most suicide bombers began as moderates.

Yousef bought into radical Islam and saw Israel and the Jews as his enemy. He recounts the facts surrounding one of many suicide bombings: 
On Wed., April 13, 1994--twenty-one-year-old Amar Salah Diab Amarna entered the Hadera bus station between Haifa and Tel Aviv in central Israel. He carried a bag containing hardware and over four pounds of homemade acetone peroxide explosive. At 9:30, he boarded the bus to Tel Aviv. Ten minutes later, as the bus was pulling out of the station, he placed the bag on the floor and detonated it. The shrapnel ripped through the passengers on the bus, killing six and wounding thirty. A second pipe bomb exploded at the scene just as rescue workers arrived. This was the "second in a series of five attacks" in revenge for Hebron, a Hamas pamphlet later announced. I was proud of Hamas, and I saw the attacks as a huge victory against the Israeli occupation. At fifteen years of age, I saw everything in stark black and white. There were good guys and bad guys. And the bad guys deserved everything they got. 
Israeli prison in Megiddo
It was not until his own imprisonment for the purchase of illegal weapons that his eyes were opened to the fact that Palestinians were torturing other Palestinians in prison if they did not comply with their ideals and deadly goals. 
He writes: Time dragged on. Suspicion grew. Every day there was screaming, every night, torture. Hamas was torturing its own people! As much as I wanted to, I simply could no find a way to justify that!.....One mornng at four-o'clock, a guy ran through the section, scrambled up and over the perimeter fence, and in twenty seconds was outside the camp, his cloths and his flesh shredded by the razor wire. An Israeli tower guard swung his machine gun around and took aim.
 "Don't shoot!" the guy screamed. "Don't shoot! I'm not trying to escape. I'm trying to get away from them!" And he pointed to the Hamas leaders who glared out at him through the fence….Was this Hamas? Was this Islam? So who was my enemy now? 
Mosab Yousef is recruited into the Shin-Bet (the Israeli intelligence organization), and becoming the agency's most valuable asset in preventing terrorist attacks and bringing terrorist leaders to justice. For ten years, Mosab lived a double life, seen as a leader of Hamas by all but a few, all the while passing information to the Israeli intelligence.

Once out of prison, Mosab unexpectedly found himself invited to a Bible study, and out of curiosity, he went. As he began studying the Gospels and reading his own copy of the New Testament, he realized that Jesus Christ had the only real solution.

He says, “I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful! I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope. Then I read this: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45). That's it! I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before had I heard anything like this, but I knew that this was the message I had been searching for all my life.” 
He continues: “Five years earlier, I would have read the words of Jesus and thought, What an idiot! And thrown away the Bible. But my experiences with my crazy butcher neighbor, the family members and religious leaders who beat me when my father was in prison, and my own time at Megiddo had all combined to prepare me for the power and beauty of this truth. All I could think in response was, "Wow! What wisdom this man had!"
In the end, Mosab realizes that "it no longer mattered who my friends or who my enemies were; I was supposed to love them all." He sees that the true enemy of both Jews and Muslims -- and everyone else -- is sin. The solution to the conflict in the Middle East is neither religious nor political, and peace will not come through violence.
Mosab has received enormous media coverage -- Haaretz, Ynet News, CNN, Fox, NBC, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Forbes, among many others, but sad to say, most of the reporting has glossed over the spiritual aspect of his journey.

This is an amazing autobiography that will give you a real history lesson on what is going on in the Middle East. The story pulls you in and at times you feel like you’re reading a fictional spy novel, but this is the real thing. It’s a fast read and not easy to put down. You’ll never hear a news story about Israel or the Palestinians without thinking of what you’ve read in this book.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taking Offense: The email read: "Please remove me from your distribution list immediately..."

offence US, offense [əˈfɛns]
give offence (to) to cause annoyance or displeasure (to)
take offence to feel injured, humiliated, or offended

The terse email appeared in my inbox. It read: "Please remove this email address from your distribution list immediately." That was it. I could have ignored it but it troubled me because it came from someone who knew me; someone that I had worked with for a couple of years. We had had many long discussions and often were in agreement on many issues. But this email--all it said was "Please remove this email address from your distribution list IMMEDIATELY (caps are mine). Why? Had I offended this friend. What had I written that demanded this response? And here's the sad thing....there is no discussion, no reason given why...just "remove me from your list."

I don't go around looking to offend people, but I know that on occasion I do. Maybe I've offended you as you've read one of my posts? You can only say so much in a post and it's so easy for someone to read something into what you are writing or to misinterpret your thoughts because you are limited to words on a screen. You can't see my face, or immediately ask, "Is this what you are saying? I don't get it? Why would you say that?" 

We live in a day when it seems that some are looking to be offended or take offense. I know of a company here in my town which only allows CNN on the big screen TV in the break room because some, including management, have taken offense to Fox News. How petty. They want to protect the eyes and ears of their employees by only allowing them to watch CNN. Well what if I am offended by CNN? I guess it doesn't matter. Or maybe I need to develop thicker skin so that I don't become so easily offended, even by CNN or Fox News.

I remember when serving as a Pastor, a couple would come up after a church and let me know that this was going to be their last Sunday at our church. Something I had said several weeks earlier had offended them and so they had decided to leave. Isn't that how we do it today? No discussion, no dialogue, no comments on the post, just pick up and leave or cut off the relationship or trash the friendship. End of story.

There are some who make it a full-time job of going through life looking to be offended. These folks are TOTAL-PC. If you are politically-incorrect, they will usually find that you are doing something to offend them--sometimes just knowing that you are a conservative is enough to offend them, or even worse, that you believe in Jesus. That's the real deal-breaker!

When we take offense, we are falling prey to "victimization." There is an entire cottage industry here in the U.S. of "victims" who are offended by racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, rich people, oil companies, black conservatives, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc. It's the new fascism and "taking offense" is intended to shut down discussion and force you to shut your mouth or face the consequences.  

I have a suggestion: As you and I go through this week, take note of whether-or-not you are easily offended. And how do you deal with the offender? Do you let them know about the offense or just decide to 'write them off." 

I believe that "taking offense" can be toxic in the workplace, home, among friends, and in churches. We need to cut each other some "slack" and at least let the offending party know what they've done and how we feel about it. Maybe they're totally clueless and had no idea that what they said or did was hurtful or offensive. 

Finally, if I have offended you, please forgive me. It is never my intent to offend anyone--If you don't agree with me on some post or something I've said or done, leave me a comment. Let's dialogue about it. Who knows, my next post could be written admitting that I was wrong and you graciously helped me to see the error of my way. I will be the first to admit that I see "through the glass dimly, and only know in part." 

Proverbs 17:9 (GW)
9 Whoever forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends. 

Matthew 11:5-6 (ESV)
5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Proverbs 18:17-19 (GW)
17 The first to state his case seems right {until} his neighbor comes to cross-examine him.
18 Flipping a coin ends quarrels and settles {issues} between powerful people.
19 An offended brother is more {resistant} than a strong city, and disputes are like the locked gate of a castle tower.