Rick and Monique

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fair Warrior

On Wednesday October 21st, 2009 I couldn't imagine one person smiling in Praise all day long.  On Thursday October 22, 2009 I didn't have to.

His skin, fair and frail... sensitive even.  I was with friends at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and he was there.  His arms were thin; his watch crawled a third of the way up his arm.

His skin was so fair as to be red from his forearm down the sides to his palm and through the pinky finger.  He wore bright white fingernails. I'd seen as much on an infant.  I almost felt that he had only a short time ago been born.

He smiled as if he were woven into the basket of the arms of God, the womb of the groom.  I guess I don't know his life story, I don't know if he's experienced anything.  I imagine a man with arms stretched out that far has.

He was certainly not muscular; medium build I suppose...a small medium.  He wasn't fat, not lanky...not anything except fair.  His orange colored short sleeve shirt ran past his shoulder above his arms, arms marked not by muscle, but by sensitive skin.  A weight lifter's shirt holds tight to the arm, fixed and sure.

I'd take him easy.  Seriously, I'd break his arm if we arm wrestled.  You see, I have strong arms, chiseled even.  I can flex my pecs with the best of them.  Lose a few more pounds and I've got a wash-board stomach.

Yet his arm lifted toward God.  His hands gently swayed back and forth as if God held them and danced--as if God enjoyed the worship with his son.  In fact I can say for sure God did.  

His hands rose high on the pivot point called a shoulder for the better part of four hours--held in praise, held high like Moses himself holding Israel's enemies back.  I don't know what enemy languished by this young man's prayers and praise.

On Wednesday I had a lifter's view of strength.  On Thursday I knew much more strength's definition from God's dictionary.  On Thursday I realized I understood little of might and muscled praise, excpt by the example of a fair skinned warrior in a loose orange shirt.

My shoulders hurt not far after five minutes.

He could take me to be sure.  He broke me after five to seven minutes, beat me by four hours. I'd guess there's no way he'd harm me much though beyond his gentle and trustworthy example ... a slight but kind rebuke from a slight-bodied boy who's wash-board was found closer to the heart.  He'd never hurt me.  We're brothers, the bride of Christ.  By his fruit, by his faith I knew him and his strength.  I saw the ancient faith of Abraham in his mighty heart.  I saw one who knew in whom he believed, like Timothy.  I eavesdropped on one who would lead hosts of Christians, like Paul, simply by raising his hands for four or more blessed hours.

All that and he didn't look like much.  Last in the gym, but by God, first where it really mattered.

I'll find him in heaven one day.  Like with Paul and Peter, Elijah and others, I'll probably have a conversation with him, and I'll take notes.

Notes taken by a muscled follower from an interview with a fair warrior.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Colorful Mish-Mash called Legacy

"Oh, it's my coloring book!  My Oma gave that to me," said Monique.

She wore a nostalgic smile on her face if ever there were a nostalgic smile.  I looked at the colored pictures and touched the color as if it was asking.

"I love it," I said.  "It's hard to explain, but all those lines and shapes were done by such a different you, and still the same you."

"Feeling introspective today love?" she asked.

"I suppose, but you're standing here right now and I'm looking at something a you I never knew did.  I have fun with the paradox."

"You're definitely feeling introspective," she said.  "But it is fun to remember."

Such a long time ago, but her five year old artistry was still there.  A mish-mash of blue and red, yellow and green mushrooms, fairies, princesses, puppies and flowers.

Dust the book for finger prints.  Maybe I'd hope to see five year old mirror image prints of a 30-something year-old woman.  I wouldn't hope for it, but maybe Oma's ("Grandma" in Dutch) prints are there too.

My mom found some old letters that she'd written to a friend when she was twelve.  Her children gathered one weekend and we found the letters on the table.  We enjoyed this hilarious form of history.  Mom is forever branded the gossip queen!  But her children touched the ink, her ink, and read words of their mother.

I've read letters from my Grandmother, written many years ago.  She's long gone, nary a ripple of her breath left, except the letters.  I've touched them, grazed over her finger prints.  We all know the scratches of pen to paper and I can hear that too...the scratches are left in the wind and the ink maintains it's dark sky blue, the blue you see a moment after dusk when the sun's almost ready to turn her lamp off.

I remember the smell of Grandma's house.  The letters used to smell like her house.  I guess maybe it's like wine though...there really is no apricots in Chardonnay, but you can smell them anyway.  I suppose they smell like my mom's house now.

I enjoy the life God's chosen for me, I do.  I can't say that's always been, but...it is now.  I'm writing today, it's me, it is.  I wonder though, are some of my letters out there?  You'll not find any fingerprints here.  I guarantee your computer doesn't smell like my house.

Who delights over an uncle?  I mean I love my Nephews and Nieces and I know they love me.  I have so much fun with them, and anyone who knows me knows that I'd do anything for them; I'd hang upside down on the ceiling if it would make them happy.  I'm elated by them, charmed by them.  I'm gratified by their happiness.  But let's be real; post funeral they won't find my letters and graze their fingers over the ink.  They won't read my favorite kid book "A Day At The Zoo" and listen for my six-year old voice memorizing every word.   They won't.  I believe I'll simply go away.

I don't feel sorry for myself, I'm lamenting and there's a difference.  I enjoy God's path for me.

Siblings remember and remember well, but no one has keepsakes of a brother or sister...not many anyway.  They'll keep something if they die young, but when they die at 40 or 50...they simply don't.  They sinply remember.  My children won't keep my things, I don't have any.  My letters won't find gleeful groups pining for another line.

Don't tell me it's not a big deal, we all think about it...we want legacies, we want a family line.  Many, if not most, if not all of you will live many years after your death by the hands of your children.

I am lamenting, not feeling sorry for myself.  I needed to say that again.  The sky is blue today and I and my bride are headed out doors and I love that!  Maybe we'll hop on the bike and head out toward a late season ride to everywhere, I don't know yet.

Sixty years from now no one will care about my Triumph Adventurer, except for the guy I sold it to that hopefully will keep the classic bike pristine.

Your children will look after you when your gone.  I suppose Angels will tend to me.

Who remembers an Uncle anyway?  Regretfully, I couldn't make it to all my uncle's funerals.  I loved them too.  I wanted so bad to be there, but I couldn't.  I have some photos, nothing else.  My Uncle's children and his bride have the rest. I don't have rights to my Uncle y'know?  I don't have anything and I'm not entitled to it because their children carry the articles of legacy.  I suppose someone will go through my home and hold a big garage sale.  Some of you are in the will y'know.  You won't keep the rest most likely, and I know the Angels won't care one way or another.  But will my nephews and nieces feel like they have the right?  The entitlements?

It's ok actually.  The life God's chosen for me comprises of catalytic adventures and I for one tremble gratefully by the hand of my Abba.

Oh but I love my family.  We gather together like tidal waves and oragami, sometimes we're a force to be reckoned with, sometimes we're delicate.  Actually sometimes we're delusional and sometimes we're amazing and sometimes we're emotional.  Sometimes we're reminiscent and sometimes we're aggressive and sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're soulful and sometimes we're joyful.  We always delight over each other in good and bad, and...we're always amazing.

Maybe I'll go before my parents do.  They'll keep some of my stuff.

I imagine though, that when I'm old, and my nephews and nieces have grown, and my three siblings have grown old with me, that there'll be chatter when I'm gone.  They'll remember for awhile.

Chatter doesn't smell like anything.  Does it need to?  Naw...we'll talk again in Heaven.

But I have some laments, I'm not feeling sorry...my children don't look like me and won't carry my things for me.  I don't have any.

And who delights over an uncle?  Maybe my nephews and nieces will be gladdened by memory of me.  Maybe they'll dust off my old treasure box.  I hope so, and don't call that arrogant.  We all hope so.  It's not self-righteous to desire gladness and not disappointment from friends and family.

I think it's more important though that I won't die alone.  I know my family and I will not die alone.  I am so grateful to God for allowing me that piece of the path.

I realized recently that all of life mirrors God.  Some of you don't believe that.  I can't help that you don't believe, but it's true anyway.  My mom and dad searched me and they knew me.  They followed me day and night.  They knew when I sat and when I rose.  They hemmed me in from either side and nary a hair could fall from my head without their knowledge.  They protected me and guided me.  Even when I strayed they were there.  They and many others banded me by prayer.  Even when I fell their hands raised me up.  Therefore even my darkness was not too dark for them.  Their hands held me fast...

I lament sometimes, I'm not feeling sorry for myself.  You've discovered I'm so very fortunate.

They're just things really; foolish to worry.  Foolish.

Of course I'll wait for you in heaven, of course.  Everything points toward God.

Talk about a legacy.  You and I will not live and will not die alone, on either side of eternal life.  The rest is dust.  But I encourage you to write...actually write something on a piece of paper.  Someone will graze their hands over your ink.  Write something and leave the shiny new computer closed.

Delight in each other...please.

Family--by rje

I do not feign my soul to keep
To hide in wiles of the deep.
I do not take my life so vein
Resplendent in the prospect wane.

In urushiol green the tine have passed,
A peaceful breath and natures last.
My eyes have seen the earthen mast
And driven forth in dreams and asp.

I yearn to reach the thinning skies
Where oft the eyes of effort lies.
To be more blessed by sanguine breeze
Atop the billows and swarthy trees.

And yet supine and undisturbed
The skies unbroken, not a word.
Acknowledge me this very night!
And break in veins to know my plight.

Each day I wake my hand is filled,
Each day alive and love is willed.
To till the earth and reach the skies
To greet the young, consult the wise.

If I should die before I wake
I pray your grace before them make.
I pray my soul be laid with thee.
I pray my heart be saved for these.

I believe in blossomed joy,
Of Heaven’s poignant mirth.
And I believe, bereft of she
A blackened hole of frightening girth.

But God dost know my spirit’s whim
Designed by time, willed by Him.
And I believe before I die
He walks beside the fire and I.

On the wall a portrait be
Pride of heaven joined by thee.
The bride and groom and sunlight’s glee
A sign you’re never leaving me.

Before I wake, Christ holds our soul
Our fallow breath, our whisper low.
The morning dew the cock does crow
And life again within us sown.

And so each morn I wake and write
Lest we forget love’s even sight
A story binds my nest to home
I shall not die alone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Health Care Reform--and my attempt to remain informed

Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida made two wild stabs, two unsustainable claims against Republicans last week: Republicans' health care plan consists of urging the sick to "die quickly," and the GOP has no proposals of its own.

Massive politicking does achieve results, no one can argue that.  However, the same politicking often exposes sleaze, lies and corruption, ergo Mr. Grayson.  He's throwing dry spitwads at the board hoping they'll stick anyway.

The first claim does no justice to anyone and deserves nothing if not an incredulous booooo!  The claim has no merit and is terribly deceitful.  The second claim needs a response.

Republicans have presented alternative health care plans and they have presented them often and for several years.  Democrats consistently and unabashedly resisted, filibustered and complained about them.  And today, because of the Democratic Party's strong majority, they easily hide Republican proposals deep in the bill vault.  The Republican proposals might indeed work and work well.  Americans would prefer a unified bill.  However, healthcare seems to be a one way street these days.  A Rassmussen Report in August showed that only 9% of Americans currently support the Democratic Bill proposals on the table.  About 70% don't believe we've seen an active bi-partisan partnership here either.  They believe (in my words) that we're being railroaded.

Democrats seem to need a system in decline so that their majority push for Government health care deems practical to Americans.  They've created such desperate rhetoric that even Hollywood "who's who's" may want to take note.  Even President Obama felt the need to lie about details of stories about patients losing insurance benefits.

Earlier this month, when the President addressed a joint sessions of Congress to push health care reform, he said:

"One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about.  They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.  Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when.  By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size.  her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America."

ABC news, FOX and other networks researched the stories.  ABC News Senior White House Correspondent said, "In either instance, the stories, as the president told them, were not accurate."

Therefore, I'm going to re-post an article written for the Friday, October 2nd, 2009 issue of Investors Business Daily.  I don't want to draw conclusions here, but I do want myself and you to be informed.  I do support new health care solutions and I'm not entirely sure what that should look like.  The Republican Representatives are fighting a massive uphill battle.  They're a super minority for one.  Second, conservatives around the country are feeling somewhat betrayed by the Republican Party, and for good reason (spending habits etc.).  Republican representatives must work hard, must act like genuine conservatives, to gain their favor. 

I favor tort reforms and I favor choice and freedom.  Today, however, I'm simply in the mood to perform a bit of fact-checking and offer you my findings.

Rhetoric and blow-hards...bloody confusing.  Take time to read--so it takes you awhile.  Today, make it worth your time.

Health savings accounts/medical savings accounts: Americans who hold these tax-free accounts, up to $5,950 for a family, use them to pay for basic medical services.In 1996, the Republican Congress passed a medical savings account demonstration program that, in deference to Sen. Ted Kennedy's opposition to MSAs, severely restricted the number of participants. Kennedy tried to kill the MSA provision, but settled on a compromise — a limit of 750,000 accounts.

He was willing to allow a few Americans to have the accounts because he needed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which the MSAs were a part of, to pass. In the end, Kennedy won. He got the framework of health care rules that were part of the law, and, due to the bill's heavy regulations, only about 75,000 MSAs were ever sold.

In 2003, the MSA program was replaced by health savings accounts legislation, and roughly 7 million Americans now have them. But Democrats including Rep. Pete Stark of California, who called the accounts "weapons of mass destruction," tried to destroy HSAs through excessive mandates in last year's Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Act. Fortunately, that bill never became law.

In recent years, Republicans have tried to advance policies that would increase the number of Americans who have HSAs. But Democrats have sat on the proposals. They don't like HSAs because they put patients in charge of their own medical care and push government further away from the process.

Insurance competition: Republicans have also been trying for years to change the law that lets state governments bar insurance companies from selling individual health plans across state lines. If the practice were ever allowed, consumers would have more providers and plans to choose from. The competition would, as competition always does, drive down prices as well.

In 2007, GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina offered an amendment that would have permitted Americans to shop for individual plans across state lines. But the Democratic majority in the Senate rejected it.

Tort reform: The Pacific Research Institute estimates that the practice of defensive medicine wastes more than $200 billion a year. With trial lawyers and plaintiffs seeking fortunes through medical malpractice suits, doctors routinely over treat patients to cover themselves in the event they are sued. They also pay higher malpractice insurance premiums because insurers often have to pay dearly in malpractice cases. These conditions increase costs.

For years Republicans have tried to bring down health care expenses though legislation that would place reasonable limits on the amount of damages a jury can award. But they have had little success at the federal level going against the party that's inextricably linked to the trial bar and its generous campaign contributions.

Current legislation: Just this year, the GOP has proposed more than 30 health care bills in just the House. But those bills, which cover issues from costs to portability, have gone nowhere in Democratically controlled Washington. "The White House, in spite of saying they look forward to meeting with anybody who wants to solve these challenges, has rebuffed us at every turn," GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia told the Examiner newspapers.

In response to calls that he apologize for his inflammatory comments, Rep. Grayson sarcastically said he would "apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."

Give the first-term congressman credit. Having distracted the media with his sideshow, they don't have time to report on the Republicans' efforts to improve health care in America through consumer-driven policies.

And we don't have to look further than our own borders to see how "Universal" health care might work, and what the actual cost might be.  Kerri Houston Toloczko, Senior Vice President for Policy at the Institute of Liberty and the director of its Center for Health Security and Access reported:

"Hawaii's Prepaid Healthcare Act and its coverage mandates have left Hawaiians with fewer coverage choices, higher costs and nearly double the number of uninsured. Recent budget cuts resulted in discontinuation of its coverage for children.

Oregon's state-controlled care includes an official list that dictates what treatments will be covered based on annual budget constraints. If your disease is above the treatment line, you are covered. Below the line — you're not.

However, patients being denied treatment often receive an additional note in their denial letters — the system telling them it will pay for "physician aid in dying." Oregon won't help you live, but it will help you die.

In the three years since the Massachusetts "universal" coverage plan was launched, the state still has thousands of uninsured, costs have exploded to unsustainable levels, and waiting lists for treatments have appeared.

Tennessee's "TennCare" program, an attempt to expand coverage to low-income uninsured, included dead people, escaped felons and NBA stars. It drove doctors and insurers out of the state, and has been on the brink of insolvency several times.

Tennessee's Democrat governor, Phil Bredesen, recently went to Washington, D.C., to explain to Congress that government health care does not lower cost.

But perhaps the worst — Maine's universal coverage plan is most similar to the plans circulating on Capitol Hill. It was proposed in May 2003 by Democrat Gov. John Baldacci and passed a scant four weeks later. Much like the $787 billion federal "stimulus" plan that passed Congress in February of this year, nobody read the Dirigo plan either.

While greasing the pipeline for quick passage of Dirigo Health, the governor assured that all of Maine's 128,000 uninsured would be covered by 2009, the bureaucracy would be streamlined and health costs lowered, and the plan would fund itself based on system savings with no tax increases — a similar claim to what President Obama has said about a new federal plan.

Six years after it was passed, it has insured only 3% — roughly 3,400 — of the 128,000 promised.

By 2007, the system was so broke that it closed to new enrollees. It still has not reopened and has also cut and capped benefits. The "streamlined" bureaucracy has cost the state's taxpayers $17 million in administrative costs to cover 9,600 people, leading one to wonder if there are more bureaucrats in the system than enrollees.

Systemwide insurance costs have increased 74% since Dirigo was passed, and the governor and legislature have tried — unsuccessfully — to raise taxes to fund the system.

Dirigo's more "efficient" bureaucracy started out with an aggregator agency for health records and a cost administration agency, but it now includes numerous councils to study this, that and anything else bureaucrats can conceive.

These agencies also dictate to providers how much they can spend on new technologies and diagnostic machines even though these costs are borne by physicians and hospitals and not the state.

Dirigo has failed because it lacks market forces, ignores the nature of the uninsured and was more interested in bloating its bureaucracy than providing care to patients."

I'm not sure what plan will gain the most support. Several million of those who do not have health insurance choose not to carry insurance. Others genuinely want Health Care Insurance but can't have it for one or a number of reasons. I'm hoping I'm a citizen worthy of their honest debate, not political trickery.

Government assistance has merit, just ask Military personnel, ADA patients and more about that.  But healthcare on a wide, universal scale may not work at all...in fact global research exposes many problems.

I can't stand the thought of being hoodwinked, even though I'm sure I have been a thousand times over.  I still don't have to like it.  A Canadian friend says one of two things--things can be quite difficult there and good "doctoring" is hard to find. Major procedures can take months and months to complete etc. But for the most part things seem to work well enough and since he doesn't know any better, he doesn't know what there is to complain about. That is a telling statement. We have to be very cognizant about the quite excellent care the many millions are receiving here now...including illegals who need emergency care, and what vast changes might do to that. Other than that, sweeping changes might be a good thing.