Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rob Bell Nooma video "Rain"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Home Affordability Hits 18 Year High

The Midwest is considered the most affordable place to buy a home! Here is an article that I just ran across:

Housing affordability is reaching record levels with nearly 73 percent of all homes sold in the first three months of 2009 considered affordable.

That’s the highest percentage ever reported by the 18-year-old, quarterly Housing Opportunity Index, compiled by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Bank.

To be considered affordable, a family making the national median household income of $64,000 must be able to devote no more than 28 percent of their income toward housing costs.

The most affordable major metropolitan areas and their median home prices are:
Indianapolis: $98,000
Youngstown, Ohio: $67,000
Akron, Ohio: $78,000
Grand Rapids, Mich.: $97,000
Syracuse, N.Y.: $85,000
Warren, Mich.: $119,000
Cleveland: $86,000
Buffalo, N.Y.: $90,000
Toledo, Ohio: $78,000
Dayton, Ohio: $85,000

The 10 least affordable metropolitan areas are:
New York City: $418,000
San Francisco: $525,000
Los Angeles: $288,000
Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.: $375,000
Honolulu: $360,000
Santa Ana: Calif., $360,000
Newark, N.J.: $315,000
Miami: $185,000
McAllen, Tex.: $106,000
El Paso, Tex.: $127,000

Source: CNNMoney, Les Christie (05/19/2009)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Notre Dame

I have to confess something. I have never been a fan of the University of Notre Dame. As a life long resident of Michiana, I have had Notre Dame crammed down my throat. But most of my experience that had led me on that path was from earlier years when all I cared about was sports. When ND won, it was on the front page and the headline story on the news, regardless of what else was going on in the world. When ND lost, it was usually a non story on the back page somewhere. I found, and still do, that most of the people that cheer for the sports teams of ND are arrogant and act like they are better than everyone else. That is just my perception, which means that it is reality to me.

Since I have become a Christ follower a few years ago, I have tried to become very active in the community. The more active that I get, the more I see Notre Dame. They are helping with at risk kids, in the very depressed areas of South Bend, with both volunteers and with money. They are helping with the homeless. I consistently see them reaching out into this community. There are no headlines about this, no fanfare and no recognition that is neither asked for or demanded by ND. They do these things without knowing whether the people benefiting are Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Atheist or anything else you want to throw in there. They do it because, as Christians, it is what they are called to do. As Christians, it is what we are all called to do. To reach out to those in need, whether they share our beliefs or not. To reach out to those you disagree with and try to reconcile those disagreements.

It is very easy to HATE in this world that we live in, especially when you are dealing with opposing views on topics like abortion. It is very easy to demonize someone you disagree with, it makes it more comfortable. Comfortable because that is how we see the world. Comfortable knowing that we are right and they are wrong, end of story.

It is NOT easy to sit down and have a civil discussion about a disagreement, that takes courage because it is uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, because you know that those that oppose you have just as strong of a conviction about their view as you do yours. Uncomfortable because their view of the world is different from yours or what you think it should be.

Usually what I have found, is that when there are opposing views, there is also some common views and beliefs. Common views and beliefs that can be a building block to bring the two sides closer together. They will never come to total agreement because their beliefs are too deep, but they can come closer together. When it comes to abortion, the two sides will never agree, but maybe more restrictions will be put in place. When it comes to abortion, there will never be acceptance of the other view, but maybe there can at least be an understanding of why the other side has the view they do. And if that happens, in a civil way, then maybe some real change will begin to happen.

The saying goes, "the definition for insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." Well, for years, the pro life group and pro choice group have been standing on their street corners screaming at one another and getting nowhere. Real change does not happen by forcing it upon someone. Real change happens by finding common ground, like Christianity, and building upon it.

What I saw from Notre Dame and from our President yesterday was an attempt to do things differently. There was an agreement to disagree along with the willingness to talk about the common ground. I felt it was courageous for Notre Dame to invite the President to commencement when they knew there would be a back lash. I felt it was courageous of our President to accept the invitation when he knew his view was not going to be the popular view. The common ground, in this case, is that we have a Christian/Catholic University and a Christian President reaching out to one another to reconcile their differences through the word of God. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of some real change. I know that it is certainly changing the way that I look at Notre Dame and it reconfirms why I voted for our President.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

President Obama, Notre Dame and Protesting

This Sunday, President Obama has been asked to give the commencement speech at Notre Dame. Because of the Presidents stance on Abortion and Stem Cell Research, there has been a lot of protesting over the University's choice of him as commencement speaker and getting an honorary degree. There are people getting arrested for protesting on the campus. People pushing strollers around with dolls covered in fake blood and sporting Obama bumper stickers. Planes flying over the campus that are pulling banners with pictures of an aborted fetus. People making threatening phone calls and sending threatening emails to Notre Dame employees. And I am sure that there is more being done that I am not aware of.

The protester's are doing this in the name of Christianity and of Catholics, and they are passionate about their cause. But what kind of an example is this setting for the non believer, that if you become a Christian you are filled with hate for those that oppose your view? That you are intolerant of others? That is NOT the Christianity that I subscribe to, not even close. And, if they think that non-believers are not paying attention to this, then they are wrong. A friend, who is turned off by church and religion, is even more determined to stay away after seeing the display these protesters have put on. Hypocrite's, I believe, is the word he used.

The mantra of these protester's seem to be "If we can save just one, then it's worth it!" How short sighted is that? Why not aim big? What if instead of spending $1,500 to $3,000 per day on that airplane, they were to spend that money on counseling at risk teens? Or a support program for pregnant unwed mothers?

What if, instead of pushing strollers around campus trying to get arrested, they were to huddle in peaceful prayer all day? Praying for the President to change his position on the issue. Praying for the leaders of Notre Dame to be able to have the influence over our President to change his mind on the social issues that matter to the Catholic population. I bet they would not get arrested for that. I bet others would join in. Now what kind of example would that set for Christians and Catholics and non believers?

The other topic seems to be that our President is getting an honorary degree when he has policy that counters that of the Catholic church. My question there is, were they protesting when George Bush and Ronald Reagan received their honorary degrees? They were both in favor of the death penalty, and last I checked, that also counters the belief of the Catholic church. Condoleezza Rice also received an honorary degree from Notre Dame and she is pro choice.

In Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Titus 3:1-2 and in 1 Peter 2:13-17 the bible speaks about respecting those placed in leadership. I feel Notre Dame is doing just that by having the President Of The United States speak at their Commencement and by giving him an honorary degree. The bible does not state that we have to agree with our leaders, but it does say that we need to respect them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Favorite Scene From Seabiscuit

I was watching one of my favorite movies last week, Seabiscuit. A little ways into the movie there was a scene that I just cannot get out of my mind, so I thought I would share it with you, along with my thoughts. I have included the scene at the bottom of this post.

It is the scene where Charles (Jeff Bridges) meets Tom (Chris Cooper) for the first time. Charles, purposely, wanders out into the night while nobody is watching to meet Tom who is a horse trainer.

After introducing himself, Charles asks Tom about a horse that he has. He asks if he will race again. When Tom kindly tells him no, this is where the conversation gets interesting to me. Charles asks "why fix him?" and Tom responds "because I can" then a little later Tom says "You know, you don't throw a whole life away just because he's banged up a little."

I love that last line!

The thing is, we are all banged up. Sometimes we are open about it and sometimes we internalize it. Sometimes it is very visible, while other times it is not. Sometimes it is by our own choosing, sometimes it is by the situations that we are put in, but we are all banged up.

I think sometimes, as Christians, we lose sight of that. We get so caught up in the grace that God has given us, that we forget about what it was like when we did not have it. Which brings up some questions.

Do you know someone that feels banged up a little, or worse, they feel banged up to the point that they feel they no longer matter? Do you remember what it was like when you felt that way? What are you going to do about it, sit on the sidelines and be a fan of Christ, or get in the game and be a follower of Christ? I just pray that I am being a follower.

Fannie May Needs More Money From Treasury

Fannie Mae told the U.S. Treasury on Friday that it will need another $19 billion to offset a loss of $23.17 billion in the first quarter, as the company continues to be battered by mortgage defaults, The Wall Street Journal reports.

This demand for capital will bring the amount provided Fannie to about $34 billion; the Treasury has agreed to provide as much as $200 billion to Fannie and to Freddie Mac. Freddie, which will report its results in a few days, has already received $45 billion.

Both companies, which were taken over by the government, buy home loans from banks and turn them into securities for sale to other investors. They are suffering losses because they focus on the weakest segments of the housing market.

Alt-A loans, many of which allowed borrowers to avoid documenting their income, accounted for 39 percent of Fannie’s credit losses in the latest quarter.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (05/09/2009)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

South West Lower Michigan April Numbers

The number of properties sold for April 2009 was -10% from April 2008. There were a total of 196 properties sold this year vs. 217 last year. Leading the way with increases were: South Haven/Bangor/Covert (+35%), Coloma/Watervliet (+33%) and the Edwardsburg/Cassopolis and Benton Harbor markets were both at +8% for the month.

On the negative side of number of properties sold were: Dowagiac/Marcellus (-41%), Berrien Springs/Eau Claire (-20%), St. Joseph/Lakeshore (-18%), Niles/Galien (-15%), Hartford/Lawrence (-13%) and Bridgman/New Buffalo (-10%).

Two areas showed positive numbers for Average Sales Price over last year, Dowagiac/Marcellus and St. Joseph/Lakeshore which were both at +10%. The negatives were: Bridgman/New Buffalo (-63%), South Haven/Bangor/Covert (-62%), Coloma/Watervliet (-51%), Benton Harbor (-45%), Edwardsburg/Cassopolis (-42%), Hartford/Lawrence (-16%), Berrien Springs/Eau Claire (-9%) and Niles/Galien (-7%).

Overall, total dollar volume was -40% from $39,913,258 down to $23,993,126.

With the units total up and dollar volume down, hopefully this is a sign that the market has bottomed out as it appears that the investors are buying up the bargains.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Auction Item Photos and Starting Bids

Autographed Keith Richards Guitar. Starting Live Auction bid at $2,400

Autographed John Cougar Mellencamp Guitar. Starting Live Auction bid price $300

Signed Jack Nicholson photo. Starting Silent Auction bid price at $150

Autographed Willie Nelson Lp. Silent Auction starting bid price at $125

Autographed Dan Quayle Photo. Starting Silent auction bid at $40

Autographed Bruce Springsteen Photo. Silent Auction Starting bid at $300

Autographed Billy Joel LP. Starting Silent Auction price at $175

Autographed Hillary Clinton for President Poster. Silent Auction starting bid $125

Signed Clint Eastwood Photo. Silent auction starting price at $125

Autographed Eric Clapton Guitar. Starting bid price $4,000

The Sunshine Kids, Helping Kids With Cancer Smile

Prudential realestate has a national charity called The Sunshine Kids. This 501 (c)(3) non for profit is based out of Houston, Texas and is devoted to sending children that have been diagnosed with cancer on trips with positive group activities.

Purdential One Realty of Michiana has been participating with this charity for a few years. Every year, Prudential One Realty has an auction/fundraiser that occurs sometime in the spring. The money that we raise, stays local to help local kids from Memorial Hospital.

This years fundraiser, Helping Kids With Cancer Smile, is being held on May 16, at the Mishawaka FOP which is on 12th street. The event runs from 5:00 p.m. and will last until close to midnight. We have live entertainment from Darryl Buchanan and BLAMMO, a polish buffet and of course, the auction. The dress code is casual, tickets cost $30 each and can be purchased by calling me at 574-370-8156. This is going to be a great event, with lots of fun and is a great way to make an impact on our community.

About 1 year ago, I was approached about the possibility of taking lead on the auction portion of the event, which I agreed to do. I recruited a few agents to help and a couple people from outside Prudential to help as well. Below is a list of items that my team has compiled. I think you will agree, it is a very impressive list. There are gift certificates that could be won in a raffle by purchasing a $1 ticket and there are items that could sell for thousands. We are still adding items, but here is what we have and what categories they look to be in.

Piggy Raffle Items (items that could be won by purchasing a $1 ticket)
$50 Portrait Package
$25 Gift Certificate to Reggio's Restaurant
$40 Gift Card to Famous Daves BBQ
Bob Evans Gift Basket
Avon Gift Basket
Dinner for 2 at The Bonefish (bang, bang shrimp anyone?) Valued upto $45
$25 gift certificate to Doc Pierces
3 Pizza's from Papa Murphy's
$25 gift certificate from The Woodfire in Dowagiac
$25 gift certificate from Hacienda
Pizza, 4 drinks and 100 tokens from Chuck-E-Cheese
Dinner for 2 at Don Pablo's
$50 gift certificate for Auto 1
$20 gift certificate from the Boat House Restaurant
2 Oil changes from Zolman Tire
A Can Safe
A CD Case Safe
$20 gift certificate from Hackers Golf and Games in Niles (there are 2 of those)
Autographed Photo of Chicago White Sox Pitcher Matt Thornton
Autographed Ornament of Ara Parseghian
Autographed Mini Mini Football of Ara Parsghian
Candle Basket
Knitted Yellow Blanket
6 items of choice from Del Taco
Ace Hardware Basket
3 Lunches at Penn Station
2 Basket meals plus desert at Culvers of Mishawaka
Golf Michiana Package

Silent Auction Items
Whole House Carpet and Tile Cleaning from A & R Extreme Clean $500 Value
Taste of Michiana Gift Card Tree (various rest. from our area)
Avon Gift Basket
Candle Gift Basket
Realtor Gift Basket
Golfing at Juday Creek
Water Pik
Dog Basket
Cat Basket
Art Work
AS SEEN ON TV Gift Basket
Ryan Newman Autographed Hat
Spa Package
Tony Dungee Signed Mini Helmet
Andre Dawson Signed Photo
Reggie Jackson Signed Photo
Billy Joel Signed LP
Bruce Springsteen Signed LP
Clint Eastwood Signed Photo
Hillary Clinton For President Autographed Sign
Jack Nicholson Signed Photo
Willie Nelson Signed LP
Dan Quayle Signed Photo
Notre Dame Football Tickets (vs. Mich. State and Boston Coll.)

Chick-Fil-A Nugget Tray
Wii Fit
Pizza A Month For A Year from Little Caesars
Pizza A Month For A Year from Papa Johns
Charlie Weis Signed Football
Golf Michiana

LIVE AUCTION (These are the big ticket items)
Dinner for 5 Including Congressman Joe Donnelly at Carrabba's
Autographed Larry Bird Jersey
A Trip to Las Vegas
Dinner for 5 Including Mayor Jeff Rea of Mishawaka at Carrabba's
Autographed Joe Montana ND Jersey Framed
Autographed Peyton Manning Jersey Framed
Play Like A Champion Today banner signed by Lou Holtz and Charlie Weis
Autographed Eric Clapton Guitar
Friday Night Cruise on the River with Drinks and Hoers Devours
1988 Football signed by Lou Holtz and 5 others (national championship year)
Keith Richards Autographed Guitar
John Cougar Mellencamp Autographed Guitar
Autographed Mohammad Ali Boxing Glove

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Indiana Foreclosure Bill

A new bill that has been unanimously passed by both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly is just waiting for Gov. Mitch Daniels to sign off on it. Once implemented, mortgage lenders trying to foreclose on a home in the state of Indiana will have to meet with delinquent home owners in order to try to modify loan terms before foreclosing on the property at sheriff's auction.

During the face to face meeting, lenders will be required to inform the property owner where they can find certified foreclosure prevention counseling and off the opportunity to engage in a settlement conference with the borrower. The lender representative does not have to have the power to authorize on the spot modified terms, but there must be someone available by telephone that does have that power. Also, the bill does NOT mandate that the lender must modify the loan.

The purpose behind the bill is to create more dialogue between the homeowner and the lender. It is estimated that there will be a need for about 700 people to perform these face to face meetings statewide. There has been no time table announced for when this would take effect once Gov. Daniels signs the bill into law.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Are You Doing Your Best?

Do you ever feel that you are doing your best, only to find out that you really are not? And when you find out what you can actually do, you are stunned and surprised by what you can do?

It certainly happens to me! It happens in all areas of my life too. Spiritual, relational and professional. There are many reasons for it. Sometimes it is just getting too comfortable where I am at, other times it is not believing that I could do any better. Sometimes I put those obstacles up, other times outside forces put those obstacles up. Sometimes I can snap myself out of the comfort zone that I am in, sometimes friends snap me out of that comfort zone and other times God snaps me out of it. In reality, I guess, God is always the one that snaps me out of it.

I tend to be a very visual type of person, so I love motivational video clips or scenes from movies that I find to be a motivator. When I find one of these scenes or clips, I can't help but to find Christ somehow worked into it.

One of those scenes is below. It is a scene from Facing The Giants. The scene has the coach trying to prove to his players what can be accomplished through faith. The coach asks the team captain to do "The Death Crawl" which is where the player gets down on all fours while another player is lying on his back on top of him. The goal is to see how far you can crawl without your knees touching. The team captain thinks he can go about 20 yards which is further than the other players on the team can go. The coach thinks that he can go even further if he trusts and puts his faith in the coach by being blind folded before he begins his crawl. You will see when you play the video the constant encouragement by the coach. "You can do it" "Just a little Further" "Don't Give Up". When hearing the coach, I can't help but to think how often Christ is saying those same words to me. And my response is just like the words the player is saying "I Can't Go Any Further" "I'm Tired" "It's Too Hard" the coach or Christ saying "Keep Going" "Give Me Your Best!" This is an amazing video clip that reminds me that I can always do better and that I do not want to let God down, just as this player did not want to let his coach down. I hope you enjoy this video clip as much as I do!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama and Guns

This morning in my men's bible study group, someone made a comment about gun prices going up because people are afraid that President Obama is going to take away our rights to gun ownership. I too have seen these gun prices rise since the election. I made the comment to my group that people are worried about the wrong issue when it comes to guns. And, at my friend Augie's urging, I will explain what I am talking about. But before I do, you need to know, that I voted for our current president and I do own a gun and my wife has a weapons permit so that she can carry her .22 or 9mm if she chooses to. And she is deadly accurate with them, kind of cool, huh?

Anyway, it is my belief that the focus has been misplaced. I do not believe, for a second, that President Obama is going to take away our rights to gun ownership. I don't think he is even going to try to. Don't get me wrong, I do not believe that President Obama is pro gun. I just don't think he is going to try to take them away. For one, Vice President Biden has a weapons permit to carry and IS pro gun ownership. Another reason, is that 65% of the democrats that hold office are pro gun ownership. But I also do not think President Obama is going to fight this perception of him wanting to take away guns. Why would he want to? The pro gun ownership part of this country is creating fear, which is driving the price of guns up, which makes it harder to buy them. In other words, the very people that want their guns are making harder for themselves to buy the guns that they want.

What I do think President Obama is going to try to do though, is to make it harder to buy the ammunition. President Obama is a very smart man and he knows that he cannot tamper with the constitution, but there is nothing in the constitution about the right to own the ammunition that you put in the guns. I don't think that he is going to ban bullets, just make it harder for people to purchase them. There is talk about having every bullet that is manufactured be marked with its own individual serial number. The cost of manufacturing ammunition will sky rocket, making it harder to buy the bullets needed.

So, whether you are pro gun or anti gun, that is for you to decide. I just thought that I would throw out a different perspective as to what is going on with gun ownership.
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