Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Coming Economic Earthquake by Larry Burkett

President Grover Cleveland once stated "It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens." He stated this when he made a stand against funding an orphanage during a severe economic crisis. President Cleveland said "I will not be a party to stealing money from one group of citizens to give to another group of citizens; no matter what the need or apparent justification. Once the coffers of the federal government are open to the public, there will be not shutting them again."

Now, it seems that the coffers are wide open and everyone seems to be in need of government assistance. But can the U.S. afford it? The book The Coming Economic Earthquake by Larry Burkett gives a good explanation about how the deficit spending in the U.S. is on the road to calamity, with all the government programs, entitlements, and special interest projects. Larry starts with the New Deal and explains how the seeds of overspending started with entitlement programs and the federally regulated bank system. He also gives some real examples with post WWI Germany and Argentina during the late 80's. He goes on to describe the current problems that continue to increase the U.S. debt and what Americans can do.

It is amazing, given this book was written in 1991, how much that Larry Burkett wrote still rings true today. Unfortunately, we have politicians who are either oblivious to the deficit or too concerned about keeping their constituents happy by passing legislation with only their districts special interests in mind.

This book seems like a doom and gloom book, but Larry assures the reader that he hopes that an economic meltdown will not occur. He also assures Christians that God will take care of us, even during hard times. Overall, this book was thought-provoking and eye-opening and makes me wonder why our U.S. government leaders are so oblivious to this major problem.

I will end with this quote from a well-known philosopher who said that socialism will replace capitalism, "A democracy is not a form of government to survive. For it will only succeed until its citizens discover they can vote themselves money from the treasury, then they will bankrupt it." This philosopher is Karl Marx.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Free Health Care For All?!?

The Health Care Reform Act has been proposed and is the current hot topic in the House and Senate. This has been deemed to make health care more affordable with better quality care; a tall order. This sounds like a great program, but should the government get involved with this and who will pay for this? I am not in the health care field but I am familiar with government politics and special interest groups. Will this be the same? I want to just give a few reasons why the government should NOT pass this bill.

Government Waste - Have we ever had a government program that has run efficiently? Most of the time it is caught up in bureaucracy and red tape. These are government run programs that had good intentions at first but tend to get caught up with abuses in the system and extreme inefficiency.

Government Mismanagement - Does President Obama or Congress know how to run the healthcare system?

Government Stealing - Who said this healthcare would be free? President Obama and Congress are trying to find ways to tax the rich. If this is like any other program, the costs of this healthcare reform will be grossly underestimated. I am sure that just taxing the rich will not cover the bill.

Government Force - President Obama said "...if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you..." Not sure if he knew in the Bill (Section 102) that if you make any changes to your policy you must use the Government health care. Another concern is that most employers may drop their company plans and push their employees to use the lower quality government plan to save cost.

Government Use - Another question is that if this Government health care is so good, will President Obama and his family be using it? Will those in Congress be using it? A quick answer may be found by asking them if their children attend public schools.

I would like to say that having free and/or affordable health care would be great, but can we afford to have a wasteful and inefficient government that manipulates and controls a health care system in which the politicians know little about? Please let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

...he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful

I started pruning my trees with little experience or knowledge. The main reason was that I was tired of ducking below the branches when I was walking in my yard. As I was pruning, I got into a conversation with my neighbor about his trees. I notice that his trees were noticeably larger. I was curious to hear what his secret was. He said the key was pruning. He prunes the correct branches to allow growth. So I asked what were the correct branches. He said keep the area around the trunk clean and the "V's" or area where a branch splits to two clean. He said to also thin out the crowd areas on the tree and cut off those branchs that have less growth and leave those branches that are more healthy. That was it. Through all of this, I was reminded of John 15 with the Father in the vineyard who "prunes" so that the branches "will be even more fruitful".

I thought what an interesting parallel about the growth of a Christian versus a tree (or plant). Pruning is a necessaring step in order to maximize growth. So I decided to learn a bit more about how to prune tree and focus on its parallel to the Father in Heaven pruning us or things in our life.

Here are a few notes on pruning a tree:

1. Remove dead branches. The Father prunes those things that have no life in it. Perhaps, sin areas in our life that suck essential nutrients away from those things that have life.

2. Remove crowded or rubbing limbs. Sometimes there are things in our life that are good and that help us grow, but these things take away from those areas that will bring more life. The Father helps prune these areas and allow for us to focus on the more essential things.

3. Eliminate hazards. The Father sometimes prunes areas in our life that tend to hurt or hinder the growth of others.

4. Remove branches to increase light and air penetration to the inside of the tree’s crown or to the landscape below. The Father prunes branches that may be good but do not allow enough penetration to our heart. Our lives tend to be too busy and we forget that we need light for our essential being.

I sometimes see that best practices in life tend to parallel with the spiritual. Jesus taught many parables in the Bible that related to the best agricultural practices in order for us to understand a glimpse of the spiritual.

Toastmasters Speech #5 "Your Body Speaks"

Why Toastmasters?

Before being nominated for President, I seriously considered stepping down from any role in Toastmasters to take it easy for a year. I thought perhaps I could get some extra TV watching or extra time relaxing if I did not have to prepare for Toastmasters. It would be very nice to have a few more nights without having to worry about creating a speech, or preparing to be the Toastmaster, or racking my brain about what I should do for Table Topics questions. I thought hard about this and questioned why I joined Toastmasters in the first place. I knew that I had good reasons for joining Toastmasters. I knew that it would not always be comfortable, but I knew that through Toastmasters I could challenge myself to do things I would not otherwise do, in order to be more confident and successful. Today, I would like to share some of the reasons why I participate in Toastmasters.

One of the reasons I participate in Toastmasters is to practice communicating my ideas with clarity and confidence. When I first came to Toastmasters, I was petrified. I started breathing fast, I start trembling [bite nails, wring hands, look down, pace back and forth], I started sweating profusely and I did not even have to get up and speak. It was just the thought of someday having to speak in front of everyone. I have fears of forgetting what to say, I have fears of not having anything interesting to say. Toastmasters is a safe place where we can overcome our fears of speaking, were we are allowed to make mistakes, where we can practice speaking of front of others, and where everyone has to listen to you.

A second reason why I participate in Toastmasters is to develop leadership skills. The great Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry said “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Most of us would rather have more time for leisure, but in the back of our mind we want to grow and work on becoming a better communicator. Being a leader requires not only pushing yourself to work toward that goal, but it also means challenging others toward their own goals. As a leader in Toastmasters, we challenge others to give speeches, to fill Toastmaster meeting roles, and to overcome that next hurdle to help them become a successful communicator.

Another reason that I participate in Toastmasters is that this is a great environment to be creative. Toastmasters give us the freedom to experiment with new ideas. We can give a speech about anything. We can come up with a fun Toastmaster meeting theme or a challenging Table Topics. I have seen a Table Topics that are based on the fortune in a fortune cookie, or I have seen a presentation on Toastmasters given as a game show. Toastmasters allows us to think from a new perspective and actually try out these ideas. With Toastmasters, creativity is part of the club and is greatly encouraged; as long as you stay within the allotted time [say it as a parent does].

The final reason why I participate in Toastmasters is to develop evaluation skills. How many just jump up and down [jump up and down] with excitement at the thought of being evaluated. It is like going to the mechanic. You know you will hear things you don’t want to hear. You need to fix the brakes, the timing belt needs to be replaced, and your tires are worn, But just as your car needs a tune-up, our speaking and leadership skills also need a tune-up. But many times it feels like evaluations are always associated with negative criticism. However, the purpose of evaluations is to give helpful suggestions for improvement. Toastmasters is a great atmosphere for us to learn how to give constructive criticism that motivate and help the speaker. Toastmasters also helps us [start moving elbow back and forth] with the capability to take feedback and understand what are our strengths, and also help us see possible annoying habits and areas that we need to improve.

After being a little reluctant to be the Toastmasters President, I would like to say that it is my honor to help serve this club. Toastmasters is a place for us to get over our fears of public speaking, it allows us many avenues to practice leadership, toastmasters helps us get creative, and toastmasters helps develop the invaluable tool of effectively giving and receiving evaluations. These are but just a few of the many reasons why I participate in Toastmasters and it has been a joy to challenge and be challenged by my fellow Toastmasters.

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Finished reading "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10" by Marcus Lutrell (with Patrick Robinson). This book gives a detailed account of Marcus Lutrell, a Navy Seal, and his survival through a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Out of 20 special forces soldiers that were involved only he survived. A group of four Navy Seals were sent to hunt down the second in command to Osama Bin Laden. They were right on his trail, when some Afghan sheperds stumbled in on their hideout. Faced with the decision to kill these sheperds or let them free knowing the sheperds will blow their cover, Marcus and the other three Navy Seals let the sheperds go. This turned into an incredible firefight with up to 200 Taliban Soldiers. After taking out around 80 of the Taliban Soldiers, Marcus was the only left alive. The battle and Marcus' way of survival is amazing.

I thought this book was fascinating. I was amazed about the events that took place and the skill and courage under fire of the 4 Navy Seals as they fought the Taliban force. There was also some unexpected twists and turns that occurred during Marcus' journey for survival that included a run in with a nearby Afghanistan tribe. You will gain more respect for these tribes and their sense of honor even though they are somewhat sympathetic to the Taliban.

This books also details the Navy Seal training and the physical and mental rigors that must be endured. The account of the Navy Seal "Hell Week" gives you a glimpse into the training that these men must go through to be called a Navy Seal.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the military. I think I read this in the course of about 5 days.