Friday, December 24, 2010

My New Site

Thanks for tuning in to this blog over the last couple of years that I have been writing it. I have moved my blog and my real estate website all in to one Wordpress site. You can get there by clicking here:




Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Blogging Break?

Hi Everyone,

As you may have noticed, I have taken a break from blogging over the past month or so. It is not that I have not been thinking of things to write about or have not been doing anything. Just that I have been working hard on my next big project!

Within the next week I expect to unvail a new, all in one, website and blog. Actually, it will be 2 blogs and a website all in one. I KNOW.....CRAZY!

And, one of the blogs will require me posting EVERY SINGLE DAY! Probably crazy for trying this......but that's just how I roll! The other blog will be my real estate blog.

The new site will be a Wordpress site. All of my old domain names will still work, but they will point to the new site and my existing blog and website will no longer be used by me.

So, are you wanting a little hint as to what I am moving towards???

The photo below will give an indication. This is not an original idea by me, others have done this in other parts of the country with great success, and even locally a few have tried but have never kept up on the daily posting that is required.




So, that's all you get for now. But please be on the lookout for the new website! Ooops, almost forgot to mention.......there will also be a Facebook page for this as well! Be sure to look for it and click "Like". Within a couple of days all of this will be up and running.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Temptation

Every once in awhile, I get to choose a topic for my men's bible study group to discuss on Friday morning. This is the outline for our next discussion which is this Friday at Honkers on Day Road at 6 a.m.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13)

Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
(Matthew 4:1)

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13)

1) So if God does not do the tempting and He does not put evil desires in our hearts, then how do evil desires get there?

2) What is the difference between Testing and Temptation? Is there a difference?

Matthew 4:1-11
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

3) It seems like evil (satan) can twist or use scripture in a way that uses it against the purpose and calling for which God saved you. How can you combat this? How can you tell when this is happening? Have you ever fell victim to this?

4) Can you get out from under Temptation on your own?

5) What do you do when you do not get the answer from God that you are wanting? Are you tempted to walk away from God, or draw closer to God?

6) What is the purpose of Temptation?


1 Corinthians 10:13 13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

7) What are your thoughts on this passage? Does it comfort you knowing that there is a way out or does it disturb you knowing that you are going to be tempted to your limits?

Things to ponder: When are you most tempted? What time of day? Where are you most tempted? At work? At home? On the road? Ask who is with me when I am most tempted? How do You feel when you are most tempted? Bored-lonely-depressed-under stress? Identify your typical pattern or temptation and avoid those situations….get an accountability partner. Ask for God’s help.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Know What You Know,You Don't Know What You Don't Know

When asked about their childhood, most people respond about all of the difficulties they had or about how bad their parents were. I fall into that category as well. We all have stories to tell or situations that happened that molded us into to people that we are today.

My story mostly revolves around my parents. They cared about us kids and, although it may have been a little misguided at times, they did love us kids. I grew up in Niles, Michigan during the 70's and times were tough. The 5 of us were crammed into a small 800 or 900 sqft house. My parents were high school graduates, but really did not have a lot of skills. To date, I am the only one from my family to actually graduate from college. My mom worked at the JC Penney in Niles after Grants closed up, which was another retail store in the same location. After getting out of the Air Force, my dad worked in a factory called Clark Equipment in Buchanan until they started to move their operation down south somewhere. When that happened, it left my dad unemployed in a lousy job market with little knowledge of how to do anything other than the factory work he was just laid off from.

You Know What You Know

With the job market the way that it was, we were on Food Stamps and Welfare. I remember standing in Government Cheese lines with my parents (great tasting cheese by the way!) and I remember that we had Powdered Milk because we couldn't afford the real thing. Most of the time for dinner we would have fried bologna sandwiches, spaghetti or anything else that was inexpensive to make. Because of the money situation my family was in, I was in the free hot lunch program at school.

Growing up this way, it was all that I knew, it was all that my family knew. You struggled to pay bills and put food on the table. Good paying jobs were a myth when you grew up, and when you did have a job, you had to work hard at what ever it was in order to keep it. I knew that I didn't want this when I got older, but I had no idea how I would avoid it. You know What You Know, You Don't Know What You Don't Know.

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

As I got older and into high school I always tested out at high levels in math. The problem was, I had no idea how to enhance the way I studied. I was on my own. My parents knew nothing about the subjects I was taking, let alone the proper ways of studying. So, despite "testing out" well, I struggled at times. But I knew I needed to stick with school, even though it was VERY frustrating. When I saw successful people, they all seemed to have college degrees. So, I figured my goal should be to go to college and get a degree. "You have to go to college!" my parents would say. They were right, but I really had no idea why at the time. They wanted something better for me. I wanted something better for me too. I just didn't know what. You Don't Know What You Don't Know.

So, off to college I went. My grades in high school were average, something like a 2.6 GPA. The only money that I had was from the paper route that I delivered for the South Bend Tribune and from the part time job I had during my senior year. I saved and saved and saved. I had about $3,000, which was not nearly enough to pay for college. And, since my parents had no money to contribute but made just enough to disqualify me for certain types of aid, I applied for Student Loans and Pell Grants after being accepted to South Western Michigan College (SMC) in Dowagiac and meeting with financial aid counselors.

I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I felt that I had some good common sense in my thought process, and since it seemed that 90% of business decisions seemed like they were just good common sense, I decided business was what I should study. SMC made a lot of sense. They had an extension program with Ferris State's business program, so, I could get a 4 year degree and stay local so that I did not have to pay room and board like I would have to if I went away for college. I was still a little short on money for books and such, so I worked 2 jobs to make up the shortage while going to college full time. I remember one semester where I took 21 credit hours while working a 42 hour schedule between my 2 jobs. I would get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 2 a.m. Nothing but work, college, studies and trying to build a relationship with my then girlfriend and now wife Kimberly.

You Know What You Know, You Don't Know What You Don't Know

I know that, in part, I am where I am today because I knew I wanted something different than what I was used to as a kid. But I also know, that if it were not for programs like welfare, food stamps, pell grants and student loans, that I would not be where I am today. When you grow up in the kind poverty type of environment that I did, it is all you know. You know nothing else, because that is all that the people around you know. You Don't Know What You Don't Know.

When I hear political candidates talking about cutting these programs, or worse, eliminating these programs. It's upsetting.

It's upsetting because these programs enabled me to lift myself up.

It's upsetting because there are people out there that want what I now have and people are trying to stop them from getting it.

It's upsetting because these candidates might as well be saying to me "We wish you were still at that level of poverty you were at as a kid."

Maybe these candidates that are against these programs just don't care about people like me. Maybe they just Don't Know What They Don't Know, which is all the more reason that I will not be voting for them.

Think about who you are voting for, and what that person stands for, before casting your vote on election day.

My vote will be cast for people that are trying to help those less fortunate. I hope that's where your vote lands as well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Is Buying Power? Is Now The Right Time To Buy?

I get asked all the time "Is Now The Right Time To Buy?" or "Why Should I Buy Right Now" and in the past I have given a response similar to this:

"Now is a great time to buy because rates are low and prices are low. Historically, when rates are low, then prices are high. Or when rates are high, prices are low. So, this is truly a unique market in that you have the best of both."

Don't get me wrong, I think that is a fine answer to give, especially since it was the answer that I have been giving to people. And, to some people, I think that answer resonates. They get it. But to others, maybe not so much. So, today I thought I would take a different approach and really throw out an analysis as to if it is a good time to buy or not.

It is no secret that prices in real estate have taken a hit. According to numbers released from the NAR (National Association of REALTORS), at the end of 2009, the national median selling price of a home had reverted back to what they were in 2003. But since then, nationally our median selling price is up .7% this year and if you look just at Midwest numbers, that number grows to a 2.2% increase over last year.

So it appears that we have hit bottom on price and could be back on the incline again.

Now, let's look at interest rates.


Today I traced interest rates all the way back to 1963, I didn't feel the need to go back any further to prove my point. Since 1963 we are currently at our lowest point in mortgage interest rates which are currently at 4.375% as of this morning. As you can see by looking at this chart that I made, with only a couple of exceptions, interest rates go UP a lot faster then they go down. And since interest rates are in the low 4's, an area they have not been before, it would make sense that they may not be going down any further. Or at least not much further. It would also make sense, that interest rates will start to climb, even if it is by only 1/2% or by 1%.

So, why does this make a difference? After all, a low interest rate is a low interest rate, right?

True, but the low interest rate along with the low price effect something called buying power. People love to get the most for their money. And right now may very well be that time.

As you can see by this chart that I made, the payment stays pretty much the same throughout. But look at the interest rates and the buying power. As the interest rates go up, you cannot afford as much house. This was all based off of an original purchase price of $100,000. If the original purchase price were even higher, the difference would be even greater.

Now, take that prices are back at 2003 levels which means that $100,000 house today may have been a $115,000 house or more 3 years ago, and it is easy to see how great today's Buying Power actually is.

Hopefully that explains to you why the current real estate market IS the right time to buy, especially since prices and rates may start creeping back up again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

9 Tips For Buying A Foreclosed Home

1. Budget Carefully- Don’t let a small price tag lure you into a quick deal. Questions you should be asking yourself: Do you have the money for extensive repairs? If you plan to rehab the home and then rent it, can you afford the house if you don’t find a tenant?

I like to tell people to get a number in your head as to what you think it will cost to rehab, and then add 50% to it. There are always hidden problems that will need to be addressed. If you budget for that extra 50% and never use it, then its profit. Work backwards from what you think the house would be worth fixed up and start subtracting repairs, realtor fees, title work, taxes, and the purchase price etc. You might find that you will be upside down when it is all said and done.

2. See The house for yourself. Many investors have made mistakes by buying “sight unseen”. If you are an out of town investor, have someone from the area that you are wanting to buy in go out and take a bunch of pictures and give you a description of what they see.

3. Look at the neighborhood. Do your homework and check out crime rates and foreclosure rates in the neighborhood that you are looking to buy in. High crime and high foreclosure rates will make it difficult to recoup the cost of repairs due to falling home prices in that area. High crime rates may make it difficult to rent out.

4. How long has the house been empty? The longer a house sits, usually, the more damage there is. Vacant homes have a tendency to be vandalized, so check the walls and plumbing carefully. People like to break into vacant homes and take the copper plumbing.

5. Was it winterized? Do a very careful inspection of the plumbing and look for breaks and cracks before turning on the utilities. If the house has been winterized, when was the date? I’ve seen homes that were not winterized until March. By then, it may have been too late.

6. Look at the landscaping. Look for hanging braches on trees that are up against the roof, it could be concealing a roof or shingle problem. Look for grown up vegetation around the siding and base of the house. Vegetation holds in moisture making it a prime Termite area. Sometimes improper grading around the house can cause water problems if the house has a basement.

7. Have the home inspected. Expect a whole laundry list of things to show up, but what you are looking for are major defects. The big things that are going to cost lots and lots of money. Roofs, electrical, plumbing, foundation ,mold, furnace, AC, and well and septic if not on city water and sewer. A $300 to $500 investment in inspections can save you from making a huge mistake that could cost you thousands.

8. Consider buying a HUD home. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is sitting on 10’s of thousands of homes and usually sell at bargain prices. Local government and owner occupants get first shot at buying these, but if they pass on them, investors are allowed to bid on them. Investors account for about ½ of the HUD home purchases. HUD homes come with a property condition report, but still get an inspection of your own. Beware though, HUD homes usually have extensive damage to them but the trade off is a better price.

9. Don’t expect to profit from a quick sale. People that buy a home and put very little into it expecting a large payoff are generally fooling themselves and may find little profit and big headaches down the road.

Monday, October 11, 2010

St Joe County Absorption Rate

One of the things that I get asked a lot is "how much inventory is on the market?" One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to figure an "Absorption Rate."

To figure the current Absorption Rate, it really needs to be broken down in to different categories and areas. Afterall, the west side of South Bend is going to sell completely different then what Granger is going to sell. From there, you can break it down in to price range to get even a better, more accurate number.

To keep it simple on this post, I just broke it down in to price ranges and did not break it down in to areas. How these rates are figured, is I took the number of homes sold in a category for the last six months and divided by 6 to get an accurate monthly number. I then took the number of available listings in that category and divided by that monthly number. That gives you the number of months of "Available Inventory" that is currently on the market. These numbers are through the end of September.



You can also break these numbers down in to subdivisions if it suits the purpose of what you are trying to accomplish. If you are interested in knowing a particular area of St Joseph County, please shoot me an email at Barry@PrudentialOneRealty.com and I will try to get the numbers together for you. One thing to note though, if your house is really a $90,000 home and you see that it currently has 14.15 months of inventory, bumping it up to over $100,000 which has 10.22 months is not going to make your house sell faster. It will cause the opposite to happen. Over priced homes do nothing but sit on the side of the road in this market.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where Was God On 9/11?


This is something that I found on another website called "Swap Meet Dave" so I cannot take credit for it. But it is a very nicely written piece:

Have you ever thought, "Where was God on 9/11 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked?" Well, I know where my God was on the morning of September 11, 2001, and He was very busy!

He was discouraging people from taking those four flights. Together they could accommodate more than 1,000 passengers, yet there were only 266 aboard. He was on those four flights giving the terrified passengers the ability to stay calm. Not one of the people who was called by a loved one on one of the hijacked planes mentioned that passengers were panicked, nor was there any screaming in the background. And on one of the flights, God gave strength to the passengers to overcome the hijackers.

God was also busy creating obstacles to prevent people who worked in the WTC from getting to work on time. The work day had begun, more than 50,000 people worked in the two towers, yet only 20,000 were at their desks. On that beautiful morning, God created scores of unexpected traffic delays, subway delays, and commuter train delays. A PATH train packed with commuters was stopped at a signal just short of the WTC and was able to return to Jersey City. And far more meetings were scheduled elsewhere than was usual.

God held up each of the two mighty towers for a half hour so that the people on the lower floors could get out. And when He finally let go, He caused the towers to fall inward rather than to topple over, which would have killed so many more people. The foundations of six surrounding buildings were demolished by the fall of the towers, but God held them up for many hours until all the occupants were safely evacuated.

And when the WTC and Pentagon buildings went down, my God picked up almost 3,500 of His children and carried them to their home for all eternity. He also sat down and cried that 19 of His children could have so much hate in their hearts, that they did not choose him, but another god that doesn't exist, and now they are lost forever.

He sent people trained in dealing with earthly disasters to save those that were injured. And he sent in thousands of others to help in any way they were needed. And He brought people together across the world in a way that moved thousands to tears and hundreds of thousands to prayer—and caused millions to turn to the one true living God.

He still isn't finished. Every day He comforts those who lost loved ones. He is encouraging others to reach out to those who don't know Him or believe in Him. He is giving the leaders of our great nation the strength and conviction to do the right thing, to follow His will, not a popular poll.

So if anyone ever asks, "Where was your God on 9/11?" you can say, "He was everywhere! And, in fact, he is everywhere today and every day." Without a doubt, this was the worst catastrophe most of us have ever seen. I can't imagine getting through such a difficult time without God at my side. Without God, life would be hopeless.

Some More Thoughts...
As you might know, the head of one company survived 9/11 because he took his son to kindergarten.
Another fellow is alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.
Another lady was late because her alarm clock didn't go off on time.
One was late as a result of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.
One more survivor missed his bus.
One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.
One's car wouldn’t start.
One went back to answer the telephone.
One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.
One couldn't get a taxi.
The one that, struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
went to work by his usual way but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot.
So he stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone...
all the little things that annoy me....
I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated; God is at work watching over you.
May God continue to bless you with all those annoying little things and may you remember their possible purpose.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Strange Quotes..........By A Muslim

"I Believe in the redemptive death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ"

"I think I have an ongoing conversation with God...I'm constantly asking myself questions about what I'm doing, why I am doing it"

"I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone and I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can carry out in some small way what he intends. It means those sins, that I have on a fairly regular basis, hopefully will be washed away. It also means a sense of obligation to embrace not just words but through deeds the expectation that God has for us"

"What was intellectual and what was emotional joined, and the belief in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, that he died for our sins. That through him, we could achieve eternal life-but also that through good works we could find order and meaning here on Earth and transcend our limits and our flaws and our foibles- I found that powerful"

"I found myself drawn-not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ"

"Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to HIS will, and dedicated myself to discovering HIS truth and carrying out HIS works."

"Let's make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian, I have been sworn in with a Bible. I Pledge Allegiance and lead the Pledge of Allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding"

Those are all quotes from our current President, Barack Obama.

As part of President Obama's spiritual advisory panel, Rev. Joel Hunter said "He gets a devotional every day on his Blackberry and so I'm going through the Gospel of Mark with him." Hunter continues and says "months and months ago, he invited me to do daily devotionals and I just decided it would be more consistent to go through a Gospel with him so that I could talk about Jesus."

According to Fox News, a recent poll conducted by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life earlier this month, showed that 18% say that President Obama is a Muslim. The article says that Obama IS a Christian, but when asked in the poll, only 34% of the respondents claimed that he is a Christian while 43% say they "do not know" what religion our President follows.

The President has said that he has NEVER been a Muslim. Like myself and many of you, The President has said that there was certainly a time where he had no belief structure, but he now believes in Jesus Christ. So why is there a question of what faith he follows? Is it because he has a "different" name? Is it because he is African American?

Most of us have had a time where we did not believe. Some of you reading might be in that category now. But for those of us that do believe, how would you feel if that large of a percentage questioned your faith?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Have A New Favorite Baseball Player!

I can't hold it back any longer. I have a new favorite baseball player and his name is..........Johnny Damon.

After last season was over and the free agency period began, it seemed as though the Tigers were going to take a step back and throw in the towel on the season before it even began after trading away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson and letting Placido Polanco go. It seemed as if they were in a payroll cutting mode.Then, just when I thought this was going to be a lost season, the competitive juices of Mike Illitch started flowing and he gave permission to sign a top notch closer in Jose Valverde along with an aging outfield veteran named Johnny Damon. Damon had been talking the Tigers up even when he was trying to negotiate a deal with the Yankees. At the time, I figured that he was just trying to leverage a position to get a better contract with the Yankees. And, maybe that was what he was trying to do, at least that is what sports writers were saying.

But the more I listened to him talk, the more I got the feeling that he did actually want to come to Detroit to play baseball. He seemed to know a lot about the city and the sports teams that play in Detroit, in particular, the Red Wings. Once again, people were saying that he was just saying the right things to get a contract or saying nice things because he wanted to leverage an offer from Detroit against other teams that he would rather play for.

Damon has always had kind of an odd reputation in baseball. After all, in Boston he nicknamed himself and some of the players as "The Idiots". So I was not sure what to expect with this signing other then they got a guy that could hit for a solid average but did not have a great reputation on defense. And, once again, that he was kind of kooky.

But as the season has progressed, I saw how when a young player like rookie Austin Jackson would make a mistake, he would be the first one to go up to that player to explain what just happened and why. And when he himself made a mistake, you could see him explaining what happened and why so that others wouldn't do the same. All while still professing his love for the city of Detroit, the Tigers and its fans. Still, the writers were saying "he's just a one year rental, he will be with another team next year, he's just doing this for next years contract."

As the yearly trading deadline approached, there were rumors flying around that the Tigers were going to trade him for a young prospect since the Tigers seemed to be out of playoff contention. When asked about the trade rumors, Damon said things like "I understand what the Tigers might have to do, but I still want to be here and if they do trade me, I would like sign with them again next year.....I love this team, my teammates, the city and the fans." Still, the writers were saying: "he's just saying the right things to not rock the boat, he would much rather be playing for a playoff spot."

Just this last week, the Tigers placed Damon on "Trade Waivers" which is something that every team does with almost every player on their roster. This time of year, the only way a player can be traded is to be placed on an option waiver system. If the player is claimed, then the Tigers can negotiate a trade with the team that claimed him. If they cannot negotiate a trade, then they can pull the player back off of the waiver wire. If no team claims the player, then the team can trade him to whatever team they want. When the Tigers signed Damon, they gave him a limited no-trade clause. There were 8 teams that he had to give the names of at the time of signing the contract that he could be traded to. It is unknown which 8 teams those are, but we now know that the Boston Red Sox were not one of those teams. Boston put in a waiver claim on Damon which meant that the Tigers either had to negotiate a trade with Boston or pull him back off of waivers. But Damon had veto power over the trade since Boston was one of the teams he did not want to be traded to.

Damon had 2 days to think about what he wanted to do. Instantly, he again talked about his love for the city of Detroit, the Tigers, the players and the fans and talked about how he did not want to leave. He again talked about how if he did accept the trade, that he wanted to re-sign with Detroit in the off season. Damon talked about how he understood what was going on and how Detroit might be able to get a good prospect to help out in the future.....but he really wasn't sure he wanted to go back to Boston. He talked to teammates and the front office. He was told by the players that they wanted him to stay. He was told by the front office that he should "do whatever his heart tells you to do". Damon chose to stay in Detroit and reject the trade. Again, Damon said "I love Detroit, my wife loves Detroit, I love the players, the front office and I love the fans." Again, the sports writers are saying; "If it were the Yankees that claimed him, he would be gone....or if it were the Rays that claimed him, he would be gone." They are also saying "He is just positioning himself for a contract next year."

Here is a crazy thought..................MAYBE HE LOVES DETROIT!!!!!

Maybe I am naive. Maybe I am just being a homer. But I believe him! I think he loves being a part of the Tigers organization. Maybe this is something new for the city of Detroit. A city that has been practically destroyed by the downfall of the economy. An area that is depressed beyond belief. Maybe it is hard to believe that someone could want to be a part of that. But maybe he sees hope. Maybe his heart is in a place where he wants to provide some relief to people in the form of entertainment on the baseball field. Maybe he appreciates the respect the front office shows him. Maybe he appreciates the owner that signed him to a contract when others would not. Maybe he likes wearing the "old English D". Is that really so hard to believe??

Well, he has made a believer out of me, and I hope he finishes the year out strong. I hope Detroit signs him in the off season. And if they don't, I will be cheering for him regardless of whatever team he is playing for. Maybe I will not cheer for that team, but I certainly will be cheering for Johnny Damon! In an era when people are grasping for loyalty and honesty, maybe we are actually seeing the real deal in Detroit right now and it is just hard to believe our eyes. I believe what I am seeing right now, and because of it, I have a new favorite player. Thank you Johnny Damon for wanting to be a Detroit Tiger.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Women As Church Leaders

Last Friday, August 6th, it was my turn to lead the men's bible study group that I attend. Below you will find the outline for the study. Just for the record, before you start reading, I am VERY much in favor for women leading the church if that is what they are called to do. I am in favor of anyone leading the church as long as they are qualified and teaching God's word as it was intended to be taught.

A few months ago, Michelle Wegner posted on her blog about a lack of women leading in churches. About how “They are just quiet. And Passive. And really quiet.” It has since got me thinking a little bit more about the topic of women leading in the church. I am not talking about women leading in the children’s ministry on the weekend or being a site leader for an inner city kids ministry or something like that. I am talking about actually leading the church. Standing up and preaching on the weekends. Being the voice of a congregation. Each time I look at a list that names the “most influential churches” or “most influential pastors”, I fail to see a single woman on the leader board…..not even Joyce Meyer is on the list and she is booking thousands of people to see her on speaking engagements.

I know that our group is a “men’s” group, but I thought that it would be an interesting topic to discuss since it seems that men dominate the leadership role in the church.


1) Are men and women “equal” in the church as far as roles?

2) I notice that when the topic of a woman leading the church comes up, often I hear scripture thrown out to “rebuke” that female as a proper leader. Below are a couple of those scriptures. How do you feel about these scriptures? Is it ok for a woman to Lead a church? On the 2nd scripture, why do you think that Paul said “they should ask their own husbands at home”? Do you feel that these scriptures are an outdated way of thinking by the church or should we strictly adhere to them?

1 Timothy 2:11-14 11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

3) Would you attend a church that is being led by a woman? Is it ok for a woman to run for President or be the Governor of a state but not be able to lead a church?

4) Do you think that a church would be ran differently if it were run by a woman? If so, what impact do you think female leadership would have on the church? Negative or positive etc…..

5) Do you think a woman pastor is viewed differently? If so, then how are they viewed? Men leaders are often viewed as “strong” or “insightful” what words are used to describe female leaders?

Thanks for reading! I know this is a hot topic within the church right now.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Batting Practice at Comerica Park



As a kid growing up, my childhood dream was to play 2nd base for the Detroit Tigers. That dream never became a reality for me. I played summer league at Thomas Stadium in Niles, played on the J.V. team in High School and was the last one cut off of the Varsity team when I tried out as a Junior. Which was when the reality of my situation hit me. I just was not a good enough player! The glove was there, but the bat was not close to being good enough. Looking at my future, I had a choice to make my Senior year. Put more effort into a baseball future that really was not there or go to work as a co-op student so that I could try to pay for college since my parents were not in a financial situation to help. Nobody in my family had ever graduated from college and few had even attempted to go to college. So, I chose the latter of the two choices and even worked full-time between 2 jobs while going to college full time all while trying to build a solid relationship with the woman who would eventually become my wife. It was hard and I don't regret it one bit! I have been blessed with a great wife and a career in Real Estate that I genuinely enjoy and have met some great people along the way.

But, when the opportunity came up for me to step out onto a major league baseball field, I jumped at it. On Friday, July 30th, I had the awesome experience of taking batting practice at Comerica Park in Detroit. Home of my Detroit Tigers. It was a blast!! From taking warm up swings in the batting cages behind the visitors dugout to shagging fly balls and eventually stepping up to bat against former Detroit Tiger and 1984 World Champion, Dave Rozema, which was who was throwing BP.

There were over 60 people taking BP with me. Out of those 60+ people, only 1 was able to pop one over the fence. No, it was not me! But I was in Left Field when it was hit right over my head as I was heading back to the fence so I got a nice view of it sailing over the fence, over the gap between the stands and the field and then into the seats about 3 rows up.

I practiced leading up to Friday. Taking BP in the cages at Hackers up in Niles and worked my way up to the fast pitch machine. But I was not sure what to expect or how I would feel when stepping up to bat against a former Major League Pitcher in a profession ball park. I took the whole thing seriously. I had my Detroit Tiger batting practice jersey on, baseball pants, cleats, batting gloves and even the knee high blue socks. I made sure that I had an old school look about me with the socks and the way that I had the bottoms of my pants up high to show off those blue socks (not a big fan of the way the players wear the bottoms now a days).

When I stepped up to the plate, Rozema spoke out to me and said "At first glance, you sure have the look of a ball player! You have the uniform and the batting gloves, but I don't see a belt! Real ballplayers finish out their look!" It was funny, and said as a joke, but I did get his point. I laughed and had a hard time during that first pitch. He got in my head! Luckily, I re-grouped, focused and was able to get some good swings in. The best of those swings might have been a double in the gap in left center. The rest would have been line outs, ground outs or singles.

A couple of things became VERY clear from my experience.

Hitting a Home Run is a very hard thing to do! You truly have to hit the ball perfectly and with a lot of bad speed in order to hit that baseball 345 ft down the left field line or worse the 420 feet in left center. I really do not see how there could be such a thing as a cheap home run after having the experience of being out on that field.

The people that play baseball for living work really, really hard at what they do! To be in playing shape and to be able to hit a little white ball that is coming at you 95 mph takes skill and dedication. There is no way these players can just show up and play.

And, if you have an opportunity to take BP at a Major League Ball Park.....TAKE IT! It was worth what I paid and it is an opportunity to do something that you would not be able to do otherwise!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inception

Not that I am some great movie reviewer, because I know that I am not. But when I see a great movie, I cannot help but to share my thoughts about it and what I got from it. So today, this post is about the movie Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

First, let me say that I really enjoyed this movie! It reminded me of the Matrix, but only a little different. Second, because of its complexities, there is no way I am going to nail this review perfectly without seeing it again which is something I would gladly take the opportunity to do if it presents itself.

At first glance, from the previews, it is easy to see that this movie is about dream manipulation in some shape or form. The movie does a great job in explaining what dream extraction is, which is stealing someones inner most ideas, thoughts and secrets. A little later in the movie the concept of Inception is brought up, which is actually planting an idea in someones mind so that they think it was their thought to begin with and the person would never know that you were in there head to begin with. Scary concept!

That is a great story line in itself, but the movie is actually much deeper and complex then that. The character that DiCaprio plays, Cobb, is struggling with the past. Much of that past has to do with his on screen wife named Mal and the decisions that he made to bring him to this point in his life. The word Mal, by the way, in Latin means evil. Mal had passed on some time before the movie takes place and she keeps "popping up" in the dreams that Cobb has entered into in an attempt to thwart his extraction jobs from others dreams.

This movie talks several times about taking a "leap of faith" and leaving the current world behind to enter another. The more you are in this "dream world" the more it becomes your reality and the more you want to be a part of it. The problem for them though, is that they always have to return to the current world, leaving them longing to return to the other one.

I tend to watch movies and look for "Jesus moments" or "God moments" and I love it when I find them! This movie has that all over it!

Much of Christianity is living in two separate worlds. The world view of things is much different then the Christian view of things, but as Christians, we need to be in both of these worlds. And when I am in the "world view" of things, there is a longing to be back in the "Christian view" of things. But I know at some point, I have to return to the world view at times. It is a back and forth. Just like it is in this movie, we need both worlds in order to exist.

Another subplot of this movie and in taking the "leap of faith" is going back to confront ones past. Late in the movie, Cobb realizes that he is going to have to confront Mal as more and more he is realizing that he is holding onto something that is not healthy for him or the ones around him. This is a great message for all of us. How many times do we hold onto guilt or anger or regret? There is comfort in holding onto it, in an odd sort of way, and if we hold onto that guilt or anger or regret it consumes us and turns into a different person.

In the confrontation scene, I couldn't help but to recognize the similarities of when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Kind of a "all of this can be yours" type of moment. I am not saying that Cobb was like Jesus, just saying that it was a similar type of moment as it was becoming more and more evident that Mal was evil. In order to do this "confrontation", Cobb has to go deeper into his dreams into a "lost" area. This area of his dreams is full of beauty and destruction at the same time.

So, that is what I got out of this wonderful movie. I purposely left out the very end, because nobody likes to have something totally spoiled for them. But this truly is a must see movie! If you saw it, I would be interested to know what your thoughts about it were.........

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Morning Men's Bible Group

Well, it was my turn in the leadership rotation again for my Friday morning men's bible study group. This time I decided to do something totally different for the study. Usually, we have a topic and scripture to support the topic along with questions that we ask. We usually send the study, via email, to all members of the group so that they can look it over prior to Friday morning and make notes on what ever they deem appropriate to make notes about.

This week, however, I emailed everyone that they would not get any questions until we sit down at our tables on Friday morning. Then, I had envelopes labeled 1-5. They were not allowed to go to #2 until #1 was complete which meant that they had no idea what the next question was going to be. And since they had no lead time on the questions, all the answers were spontaneous.

So what do you think of doing a study like that? It actually went over pretty good. I tried to keep the questions a little more basic, but thought provoking so that it would provide a lot of discussion.

Here were the questions:

1) In your view, what does a Christian look like? In other words, what is your definition of a Christian?

2) What do you think God's answer to question #1 would be?

3) Does your answer for question #1 differ from what you think God's answer for it would be? If so, why do you think that is? If so, what do we need to do to get our vision in line with God's vision?

4) Do you have to go to church in order to be a Christian? Why did you answer the way that you did?

5) What role could you see Social Media (Facebook, Blogs, Twitter) playing with the church? How would you expect your church to use those tools? Do you expect your church to use those tools?

If you are reading this, let me know your opinions of these....................

Friday, July 2, 2010

Todays Thought

I woke up this morning at 6:00 a.m. turned the alarm off and went back to sleep. Kimberly says "aren't you going to your men's bible group?" "Too tired" I said.

After I got up and sat down at my computer and started looking through my emails and at Facebook, I started thinking about all of the excuses I come up with from time to time to NOT to go to church or to my bible study group.

"Too Tired, didn't sleep well."

"It's been a busy week, I have been up early every day"

"Ah, someone from another church is speaking this week, don't want to listen to them"

"Ugg, another series about tithe."

As you can tell, I am feeling a little guilty about missing my group this morning. I attend more times then not. Same for the weekend service at my church. But it did pop some questions into my mind today that I have been thinking about and I thought I would share.

What if God took the same approach to me as what I do with him?

How would that make me feel?

How would I react if when I brought a problem before God he said "You know, it's been a busy week, not really in the mood to hear about right now" or "another problem about money? give it a rest already!"

Good thing God is not like that, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Disgusted



Normally, I try not to write anything too negative here. But I am just disgusted. It has now been 60 days since the Deepwater Horizon oil well blow out happened.

Disgusted that BP and our Government seem more concerned with trying to salvage oil that is spewing from the depths and to save the well then actually trying to stop the oil from spewing from the depths. And when they were trying to stop it, it was the same waste of time solutions that oil companies had back in 1979 which was when the last major spill in the Gulf happened. Only back then, it was in less then 500 feet of water, not the 5,000 feet that it is today. If it didn't work back then, what made them think it would work this time? Back then, the only solution that worked was to drill a relief well, which took them about 45 days to discover they were going to have to do this time. Who cares about saving the well? Blow the thing up! Think outside the box! Try SOMETHING different!

Disgusted that when BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward was brought before a congressional committee investigating this disaster, he had no answers.........to anything. And, he was given the questions in advance so that he could be prepared!

Disgusted at Congressional Committees that investigate, well, anything. All this is, is public grandstanding and both parties are guilty of it. About the only thing these committees accomplish is wasting time and tax payer money. I would love to see some of these people from Congress sit before a panel made up of the public, have it televised and see how they answer when asked some tough questions for a change.

Disgusted with the drill baby drill crowd on how drilling for oil in our country will free us of other countries oil. On the flip side of that, every time I mention "Boycot BP" I am told by the same people that all of this oil that gets pumped out of the ground gets all mixed together anyway, so if I get my gas at Speedway or Shell or where ever I choose that I will be getting some BP oil anyway. So all a BP Boycot does is hurt the local owners. It is true, the oil does all get mixed. So remind me, how does drilling in this country free us from other countries oil again if it all gets mixed together anyway??? Quit being part of the problem and start becoming part of the solution. Oh yes, and it is also the same crowd who wants smaller Government and is for "the people" but sure scream and holler when the Government isn't there to regulate something, like say, an oil rig that blows up in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And then, actually comes to the defense of BP when our Government is putting pressure on BP to help out "the people" that have been effected by this disaster.

Disgusted that our Government seems to react extremely slow when it comes to this type of stuff. Katrina, the floods in Tennessee and now this "Gusher in the Gulf". I would have thought that after Katrina, we would have gotten more on top of our reaction time and take this stuff more seriously. Why our Government has not demanded more skimmers in the Gulf is a mystery to me. And why is BP the only company being investigated right now? They didn't even build the rig that blew up and I seem to remember some company called Haliburton involved with this. Why is it, that Haliburton seems to be at the center of so many controversial things going on in this world?

Disgusted at cable news channels and radio talk show hosts who throw out some kind of conspiracy theory to this spill. That makes a lot of sense. People that are so in love with the environment that they decide to ruin it in order to make a point. Give me a break. This was a negligent accident.

Disgusted that we could be so careless toward this beautiful land God gave us to live on and destroy the lives of all of this incredible wild life.

Just disgusted.........

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Perfect Game That Wasn't

Dear Mr. Selig

It has been said, that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will instantly jump out. But if you put a frog into a pot of water and gradually turn up the heat until it boils, the frog will stay in the pot of water until it dies.

Umm, excuse me, Mr. Selig. The pot of water you are standing in appears to be boiling.

Last year during the playoffs, Mr. Selig, you were gifted with several reasons why we need instant replay in Major League Baseball. For failing to act on that opportunity, now you have a public relations nightmare on your hands after Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost his perfect game last night on a bad call by 1st base umpire Jim Joyce.

I understand that you are a purist, Mr. Selig, and do not like the thought of instant replay. "It takes away from the charm of baseball" many say. Well, what is charming about a very negative story about your sport? All because you did not take action after last years playoffs when most of the fans were screaming for instant replay. Why not give the fans what they want? Why not improve your sport?

Today, the fans and the media are not talking about the incredible career of future Hall Of Fame Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. who decided to retire yesterday after 22 seasons and 630 Home Runs.

We are not talking about the incredible catch that Austin Jackson made to start of the 9th inning to save the perfect game.

We are not talking about how Galarraga only needed 88 pitches to get his perfect game, which would have been the least amount of pitches thrown in a perfect game.

We are not talking about how for the first time in MLB history that there were 2 perfect games thrown in less then a week from each other.

We are not talking about how for the first time in MLB history that there were 3 perfect games thrown in the same season and all with in a 1 month time period.

We are not talking about how, by using technology, that MLB was able to get this call right.

And, because a story like this brings out the worst in fans and the media:

We are not talking about the incredible amount of Grace that was shown by Galarraga towards Jim Joyce after the game.

We are not talking about how this call has devastated Jim Joyce, a man that has been considered one of the best umpires in MLB. A person who takes his job very seriously and immediately was apologetic to Galarraga to the point of tears after he realized his error.

We are not talking about how Jim Joyce stood up and accepted responsibility. Something few of us actually do when we make a mistake.

We are not talking about how when the call was made, Galarraga just stood there and smiled as if to say "really, you're just joking right?" and then he did not blow up when he realized it was no joke. He just concentrated on getting the next guy out.

Mr. Selig, you need to fix this problem! It is too late to fix The Perfect Game That Wasn't. What is done, is done and I don't see how you can over turn this play. However, this game will always have an asterisk by it. As will the careers of Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce. And that is directly from your inability to act on instant replay. Give the fans, players and umpires what they want. Give them instant replay.

Jim Joyce said this after the game: "Every Tiger there was telling me that I had kicked the call because they had seen the replay, so the first thing I did when I got in this locker room I told Tim the clubhouse guy to Que it up and..and...I missed it, I missed it."

Mr. Selig, you are setting your umpires up to fail by not equipping them with the tools they need.

Sincerely,

Barry Skalski

Monday, May 31, 2010

Who Is Hall Of Fame Worthy?

I just read a post on Facebook a little while ago about how at any one time there are 15-20 active MLB players that will make it to the Hall Of Fame. So, I thought it would be interesting to look at the current list of MLB Active (which means they have not retired) players to see if I could find 15-20.

First, I thought I should look at who I feel are the "no-brainers" that if their career ended today, would be in the HOF. I have that list at 7 players. These are the first ballot guys.

Derek Jeter- #44 in Hits @ 2812, #44 in Runs @ 1606, #89 in Doubles @ 449. Not to mention all of his awards, his clutch hits in the post season and he plays Short Stop which does not typically produce big time stats.

Ken Griffey Jr.- #46 in Hits @ 2781, #5 in HR's @ 630, #36 in Doubles @ 524, #14 in RBI @1836 and #31 in Runs @ 1662. He numbers also indicate the strong possibility that he never used any performance enhancing drugs as he showed a natural decline in statistics and never had the outrageous statistical seasons that some others have had, not to mention all of the injuries he had over his career.

Ivan Rodriguez- All time hits leader for a catcher and #46 overall @ 2751 and #23 in Doubles @ 556. Next to Johnny Bench, possibly the best catcher to ever have played. Brilliant defensively for most of his career, the last couple of years have been a little shaky. The only knock on him, that I can think of, is that he has been linked to PED's which was evident in his drop in weight and muscle 1 yr after being named in a Canseco book.

Alex Rodriguez- #80 in Hits @ 2583, #7 in HR's @ 589, #20 in RBI @1741, #25 in Runs @ 1712, #84 in Doubles @ 456. The big question here is how long did he use PED's? Their is no doubt that his stats are hall worthy. Another question might be "what statistic will he not be the leader of?" when he is completely finished.

Manny Ramirez- #87 in Hits @ 2522, #14 in HR's @ 549, #18 in RBI @ 1812, #59 in Runs @ 1520 and #30 in Doubles @ 537. Just a pure hitter. Not great in the field, but who cares with that kind of bat. Once again though, another player linked to PED's.

Gary Sheffield- #62 in Hits @ 2689, #24 in HR's @ 509, #25 in RBI @ 1676, #36 in Runs @ 1636 and #74 in Doubles @ 467. Another pure hitter that has a hard time on defense. And another player linked to PED's. Hard telling if it was the wrist injury in Detroit that really started his decline or the lack of PED's or both. But one thing for sure, he has some serious stats.

Mariano Rivera-#2 in career Saves @ 536 and a career ERA of 2.25. I don't there has ever been a player so dominant with just one pitch! When you look at his post-season career, it just gets even more ridiculous.

Here are a few more that are "not so slam dunks" but I think will definitely get in. In other words, they might or might not be 1st ballot guys. My guess is that they probably will not be and it will take them 2-4 ballots to get in.

Pedro Martinez- #13 in Strikeouts @ 3154, #76 in Wins @ 219, and a career ERA of 2.93. I had a hard time figuring out where to put him because I would like to see the Win total higher. No doubt though, a dominant pitcher. I do think he will get in, it just might take a couple of ballots.

John Smoltz- #88 in Wins @ 213, #16 in Strikeouts @ 3084, a career ERA of 3.33 and 154 Saves during his time as a closer. Dominant in the post season, perhaps the best starter in post season history. Injury problems lessened his stats a little bit. Personally, I think he is a first ballot type of player, but the voters seem to be weird with players that split time at different positions like he did.

Trevor Hoffman- #1 in Saves @596 and a career ERA of 2.85. This one might be a stretch to put him this high, only because closers do not do well in HOF voting. Lee Smith isn't even in the HOF yet, but his ERA is up over 3.00 which really hurts him.

Chipper Jones- #39 in HR's @ 428, #54 in RBI @1464, #74 in Runs @ 1477, #69 in Doubles @ 482 and 2440 hits. I would like his Hits number to be higher, but the power and production numbers should get him in.

That brings my total to 11 players. Here are the rest that need more stats to get in, in my opinion:

Albert Pujols- In only his 10th season, he is already #62 on the career HR list @ 378. His other numbers are 1775 Hits, 400 Doubles, 1150 RBI and 1102 Runs. He just needs to add stats, but there is no doubt that he should get them.

Miguel Cabrera- It is only his 8th season, so this might be an early call. He has 663 Runs, 1284 Hits, 801 RBI and a career .313 AVG. But he is only 27 years old and has a lot of playing left. Providing that he does not have injury problems, he should get his numbers.

Ichiro Suzuki- Another player that is in his 10th season. An exceptional defensive player that nobody tries to stretch extra bases on. He has 2099 Hits and has never had less then 206 Hits in a season. He also has 996 Runs. The knack on him is a lack of power. Only 85 HR's and 525 RBI. And at 36, how much longer can he do this? My guess is that he can play another 4 years which will get him close to 3,000 hits. Close enough for the HOF.

Johnny Damon- A couple of years ago, I would not have thought he was a possibility. But, after a couple of World Series rings and no drop off in production, why not? He is #94 in Hits @2474, #60 in Runs @ 1518, #76 in Doubles @ 465 and he has 1014 RBI. A couple of more seasons after this one and he should be at 3,000 hits which is the magic # I think he needs to get to, and I think he will.

That gets me to 15 players. Here is the remainder of who I was looking at. There no doubt will be a few that will certainly get talked about. A few of these may or may not get in.

Vladimir Guerrero- #42 in HR's @ 419 and #77 in RBI @1362. 2313 Hits, 1214 Runs and a career .322 avg. He is 35 though and has tailed off the last couple of years.

Jim Thome- #11 in HR's @569, #38 in RBI @1582, #69 in Runs @1496 and 2158 Hits. If he gets in, it will be because of the HR's for sure. But he was a defensive liability and DH'd a lot which will count against him. But, just when you think this guy is done, he comes back with another good year. He will be 40 this year, so I think it is safe to say he is close to the end.

Carlos Delgado- #30 in HR's @ 473 and #49 in RBI @1512. Just barely crossed 2,000 hits @ 2038 and has1241 Runs. But, he is without a team this year which might signal the end for him. He did not DH as much as I thought he did at only 184 games, but I think he might suffer the same as Fred McGriff, a sudden end to what was a very good career...... but just a little short of the HOF. Though I do think that McGriff should be in.

Jason Kendall- I bet that one shocked you more then just a little bit. Shocked me too until I started to look more closely to his numbers. His 2,132 Hits rank him high on the all time Hits list for catchers and he should be at #4 for Catchers by the end of the year. He also has 1002 Runs, 717 RBI and 181 steals while also being a very very good defensive catcher and a career .290 hitter. Not saying he is getting in, but his numbers are surprisingly good and he is very consistent. There are only 15 catchers in the HOF.

Omar Vizquel- #57 in Hits @2715, #92 in Runs @ 1382 and 910 RBI. He seems to be a "hanger on" at 43 years old and still playing, but he has accumulated some impressive numbers and is great defensively. Still, if he gets in, the Larkin and Trammell had better have gotten in as well.......just sayin.

Garrett Anderson- Yeah, I know, but look at his numbers. #90 in Hits @ 2513, #78 in RBI @ 1360, #39 in Doubles @ 518 and he scored 1.080 Runs. Those are not bad numbers. But I do think he will fall short.

Todd Helton- This was one of those players that I really dismissed early on, but his name kept coming up in my research so I put him on the list. Hits-2,173, RBI-1,211, Runs-1,239, HR's-326 and a .326 career AVG. But, he will be 37 later this year and he really needs 3,000 hits, I think.

Magglio Ordonez- It looked like he was done with a serious knee injury in 04-05, then again last year. This year, it looks like he is back again. If that is the case, he may have 2-3 more seasons at age 36, which means he still has a shot to make it. Hits-2031, HR's-284, Doubles- 408, Runs- 1,021 and RBI-1,179.

Andy Pettitte- #61 in wins @ 235, #53 in Strikeouts @ 2186 and a career ERA or 3.88. A great post season pitcher. I see him in as being similar to Jack Morris only left handed. Ok, maybe not as good as Morris, but close. I guess what I am saying is, if Morris gets in then it is a good sign for Pettitte. If Pettitte gets in and Morris doesn't, then I will give some consideration to blowing up the HOF...........just kidding, but seriously, Morris should get in before Pettitte.

Jamie Moyer- I can't believe I typed his name, but he will get some votes. At 47 he is still pitching. He is #39 in Strikeouts @ 2,374 and #40 in Wins @ 263. But, his 4.22 ERA will keep him out. Plus, come on, it's Jamie Frickin Moyer.

There are several other pitchers like, Roy Halladay and such, but Pitchers are so here today gone tomorrow because of arm problems that it is hard to put them in consideration until they get the numbers compiled.

So, that is what I could come up with. There may be some names I left off that you feel should be on here......see Jorge Posada, but he doesn't even have 1,000 RBI or Runs or even close to 2,000 hits. But let me know what actives you think will make it or if I left one off that you think should be on it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Losing low-income students forces P-H-M to change Madison Elementary

By KIM KILBRIDE
Tribune Staff Writer
Story was first posted at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, May 22, 2010.

This fall, there no longer will be a school bus picking up 4- and 5-year-olds from Village Green Mobile Home Park and Arbors at Ironwood apartments in Mishawaka and taking them to preschool at Madison Elementary. In fact, there will no longer be a preschool.

The program that was piloted two years ago and offers the opportunity for young children in Penn-Harris-Madison's neediest schools to get a jump start on the skills they learn in kindergarten has been cut.

Ironically, the move has come because there are fewer economically disadvantaged students in the school district now than there were last fall.

As a result, federal Title I funds are being reduced by $92,000.

While it wasn't an easy decision for P-H-M administrators, it made sense to make the cuts at Madison, a school in which 26 percent of the students now receive free and reduced-priced lunches.

Back in the fall, that number exceeded 30 percent.

“This wasn't even on our radar,” said Nancy Nimtz, assistant superintendent for instruction, about losing some 4 percent to 7 percent of students who receive free or reduced-priced meals at P-H-M's six Title I elementaries.

Overall, since the beginning of this school year, the district has lost a total of 180 students. “Is that different than (this same point in) any other school year?” Nimtz asked. “I can't tell you. ... But I think it is. My gut tells me it is.”

What happened?

Jerry McKibben, P-H-M's Rock Hill, S.C.-based demographer who is originally from Mishawaka, has long predicted that the 10,000-plus student district would shrink by about 1,000 students within the next decade.

As for the loss this year of economically disadvantaged families, McKibben said it is really not a surprise.

A large subsidized housing community near Walt Disney Elementary School closed, he said. And another P-H-M elementary school draws kids from an area mobile home community, a type of housing that attracts a highly transient population, he said.

Many families, he said, are likely moving in with relatives. McKibben surmised about half of those who have left this school year likely live and attend schools in South Bend.

Nimtz said she hopes when the job market and economy stabilize, those students will return.
But McKibben isn't optimistic.

“Some will,” he said, “but the key issue is the availability of housing.” He doubts, he said, that all 180 students will return unless another large subsidized housing community opens in the district.

Barry Skalski, a Realtor with Prudential One Realty in Mishawaka and Edwardsburg, follows the local foreclosure market closely.

He approaches struggling homeowners and shares information with them about the possibility of selling their home as a short sale. That means, their bank agrees to take less for their home than it's mortgaged for.

“I've been doing short sales for three years,” he said, “and at first, people (who were being foreclosed upon) would say they were going to find a place to rent. But more and more, I've seen it become much more prevalent for people to combine households.”

Though there aren't foreclosure statistics available specifically on the P-H-M district, whose boundaries lie in Granger, Osceola and parts of Mishawaka and even Wakarusa, Skalski said “there are certainly more Granger ZIP codes popping up (in foreclosure listings).”

More impact

At Madison, full-day kindergarten will also be cut next school year.

That upsets parents like Tammy Yoder, who addressed the school board on the subject earlier this month during a regularly scheduled meeting at the Madison Township school.

Last week, she shared her frustrations further. “The preschool, I know, is one of those wonderful extra benefits,” she said, “but my main concern is full-day kindergarten. Having it taken away feels like a slap in the face.”

Several other parents also spoke in support of the programs. As to why Madison is taking the brunt of the cuts, Nimtz said of the district's six Title 1 schools, it has the lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged kids.

A KinderClub full-day program -- one in which there is a charge -- will be implemented at Madison next school year, Nimtz said.

And, she said, transfer requests to other P-H-M schools with full-day kindergarten will be honored for families with incoming kindergartners who desire a full-day program that's free.

Filling seats

In an effort to compensate for the lower enrollment that McKibben, the demographer, has predicted -- in addition to the seats vacated this school year -- P-H-M's board voted recently to open enrollment to students outside the district for the first time ever.

“We've been in the business of keeping students out,” Nimtz said. “Now, we're welcoming them in.”

As of last week, nearly 60 completed applications had already been received, Nimtz said.
McKibben predicted the district will initially attract 125 to 150 students whose families will pay tuition in the $800 to $1,000 annual range.

To be eligible for a transfer to P-H-M, students must be in good standing in their current school and have updated immunization records, among other criteria.

A lottery system will be used, Nimtz said, to admit students if interest is greater than the district is able to accommodate.

Asked about the notion that officials might pick the best and brightest candidates, Nimtz said it's simply not true.

“You may be a C-minus student in your school in good standing,” she said, “(and district officials would say) ‘bring it on.' ”

Staff writer Kim Kilbride:
kkilbride@sbtinfo.com
(574) 247-7759

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Great Scene From The West Wing

I feel that the first 3 or 4 seasons of the TV show The West Wing, are some of the best that television has ever had to offer. During an episode during season 1, the President is faced with a decision about whether to allow the death sentence should be carried out. It is not a decision that he wants, he consults his staff for a way out and he decides to allow the sentence to be carried out.....even though he is against the death penalty.

That is the backdrop to the following scene. A scene that brings up all kinds of questions. What exactly are we asking from God? Are we really paying attention to the answers that God is providing us? When faced with tough decisions, are we going to stand up for what we feel is right? Do we have wise counsel in our lives and are we listening?

I hope you enjoy this scene as much as I do, it is worth the 6 minutes:

video

Friday, May 7, 2010

Will We Get TRUE Wall Street Reform??

If it looks like a skunk and it smells like a skunk, then chances are, it is going to be a skunk. And with that, I bring you Wall Street reform and a question. Will we get TRUE Wall Street reform?

Some of my Democrat friends might be saying "absolutely, we are leading the charge!" but I question that. Is the charge TRULY trying to reform, or is it just political posturing for the populist idea of Wall Street reform? I think it is the later. I find it hard to believe that we will get TRUE reform when the people that are writing the reform have their hands in the pockets of the ones that they are trying to reform/regulate.

President Obama is leading the charge right now, but according to my calculations from data pulled from The Center For Responsive Politics, our President raked in over $24 million from Wall Street during his bid for President. I question if he is truly going to bite the hand that fed him, or if he will just kind of nibble at that hand just a little bit.

Some people may point out that it is not the President that will be writing the bill for reform. This is true. It is the Senate Banking committee that will be doing that. Chaired by Senator Dodd (D-CT) who raked in $2.5 million last year from Wall Street. In all, the Senate Banking committee pulled in over $29 million last year from Wall Street contributions. The Senate Banking Committee is made up of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans, so both parties are getting their fair take on this one.

Still thinking that this "reform" is going to be TRUE reform?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) collected just shy of $1.7 million last year. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Whip, brought in $1.1 million.

It looks like I am just picking on the Dem's, so let's take a look at those right wing conservatives, shall we?

Rudy Giuliani, during his presidential nomination run took in $8.6 million. Mitt Romney, took in $8.7 million. John McCain, took in over $10 million during his run for President which doesn't sound like a lot compared to Obama, but then again he raised less then 1/2 of what Obama did during the campaign. How about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)? He took in $2.45 million. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) took in $309,540 and minority whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) took in $472,900. The last 2 being in the House of Representatives, will always take in less then a Senator in total campaign contributions.

Right about now, my Tea Bagger friends may be thinking "This is what we are against, glad you are joining us". Not so fast I say. Current candidate Marko Rubio (R-FL) $348,976 and still counting. And Mr. "My name is Scott Brown and I drive a truck" pulled in $717,817 during his campaign. Of course, the Tea Baggers are now calling themselves "Constitutional Conservatives" which I get a kick out of because the only Constitutional Rights they seem to be concerned with are their own, not those rights of other people. But that is a whole other topic in itself. So, no, I would never affiliate myself with the Tea Baggers or Constitutional Conservatives or whatever they are calling themselves this week.

From 1998 thru 2008, Wall Street contributed $1.25 Billion in political contributions and another $3.4 Billion on lobbyists. Of that money, 55% went to Republicans and 45% to the Dem's. In 2008, just over 50% went to the Dem's which was the first time in several years that had happened. In the 1st quarter of 2009, 76% of the Wall Street contributions went to Democrats. By the 4th quarter, 73% was going to the Republicans.

I think that we will get some kind of reform passed, but nothing with any kind of real teeth to it. What would be nice is if these politicians decided to give the money back to Wall Street or at least started to decline it. At that point, I would be more inclined to believe in some reform. But just last week, Chris Matthews had a couple of elected officials on his show Hardball and asked them straight up to give the money back. Both the Republican and Democrat politely declined as the sweat was rolling down their foreheads.

Starting to smell that skunk yet? I sure do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thank You Ernie Harwell


Every once in awhile, someone that you never meet has a drastic influence in your life. For me, one of those people was Ernie Harwell, who passed away today from cancer at the age of 92.

Growing up was rough in my house. Often, I wonder how I was able to get to where I am today. Not that I am anybody of great significance, because I am not. But the fact that I never wound up an alcoholic like many of my relatives or a drug abuser like other relatives is a miracle. In a big way, Baseball was the main thing that always kept me away from trouble. And Ernie Harwell was a huge part of why I was attracted to baseball. Without a doubt, he helped shape who I am today.

Ernie was the legendary broadcaster for my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. Back then, there was no XM radio or cable TV to get the ball games, there was only AM radio. I remember running antenna wire up onto the roof of my house just to get a static broadcast of Ernie giving vivid descriptions of what he was watching. His calls of "LLLoooooong Gone" on home run calls will always be remembered as will his "Stood There Like The House On The Side Of Road" when someone was called out on strikes. When someone hit a foul ball he would say "Someone From Niles Michigan is taking that one home" or whatever city he chose to say. As a kid, never having gone to a Major League game at the time, I was fascinated at how he could know that the person in the stands catching that foul ball was from the city that he announced. Of course later I figured out he was just making it up as he went, but I still enjoyed hearing it and waiting to see if he would say Niles which was where I lived.

In 1948, Ernie became the only broadcaster in baseball history to be traded for a player when he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Catcher Cliff Dapper. A few years later in 1951 he was broadcasting for the New York Giants for Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard Round The World" during the National League Pennant Playoff Game for NBC. In 1960, Ernie became the "Voice" of my beloved Tigers until his forced retirement in 1991. Fans across Michigan revolted and protested. The decision to force Ernie out was initially blamed on the radio station WJR. Later, it was found that Tigers team President Bo Schembechler and team owner Tom Monaghan were actually responsible. Bo left his position at the end of the 92 season when Monaghan sold the team to Mike Ilitch. One of the first things Ilitch did was to bring Harwell back to the Tigers where he belonged. Ernie remained broadcasting with the Tigers until HE decided to retire on September 29, 2002. After his retirement, Ernie would fill in from time to time doing games for the Tigers or on ESPN. He made a special comeback when Detroit made the post season in 2006. Unfortunately, the Tigers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals that year.

A devout Christian, Ernie would recite a verse from the Song of Solomon each spring training before the beginning of the first game: "For, Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come; and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."
In July of 2009, Ernie was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and was only given a few months to live.

“I’m ready to face what comes,” he said at the time. “Whether it’s a long time or a short time is all right with me because it’s up to my Lord and savior.”

Thank you Ernie Harwell, I know that I am just one of many many people that you had this effect on. The streets in heaven are rejoicing tonight, may you rest in peace.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lead Poisoning

The fact that Lead is a danger has been know for some time, but, it is a good idea to be reminded once in awhile how dangerous it actually is. It is most hazardous to children.

When a child ingests or inhales lead it is absorbed into the blood, bone and organs. Over 1/3 of all lead ingested is deposited in the kidneys and liver where it replaces needed metals such as iron and zinc. It then interferes with the formation of enzymes and blood. Some of the lead, when ingested, gets deposited in the brain where is can cause neurological damage. Lead can also be deposited in the bone where it decreases bone density and may slowly leach into the blood.

Children are most affected because their brains are still growing and developing. The affects can be chronic or acute and lethal. The affects include:

*Lower IQ *Anemia *Tremors *Depression
*Decreased Brain Volume *Renal Disease *Hypertension
*Physiological Problems Including Difficulty Controlling Anger
*Decreased Hearing *Decreased Growth *Cardiovascular Problems

According to the CDC and Surgeon General, lead poisoning from deteriorating lead-based paint and remodeling houses is the greatest environmental threat to children.

Other common sources of lead poisoning are: chewing on keys and charms, cooking with ceramic potter containing lead, Mexican candy, Eating off of ceramic dishes containing lead, Toys with lead in the plastic or paint, lead in soil from leaded gasoline and lead brought home on clothes of adults from work.

In adults, the affects of lead poisoning are: Increased levels of birth problems, increased incidence of Dementia and Alzheimer's, Transference of lead to a fetus and Decreased ability to absorb vitamins D and Calcium.

Lead poisoning is a serious problem in St. Joseph County Indiana. 70% of the houses in St. Joseph County were built before 1978 when lead was still added to paint.

St. Joseph County has approximately 60 confirmed lead poisoned children each year. Since the testing rate is low, there is actually an estimated 250 to 500 kids poisoned each year. This does not include the many hundreds of children that test high but below the legal definition of lead poisoning. Those children have similar but somewhat less sever health effects.

***All information in this post was provided by the St. Joseph County Health Department

Great News On USDA Rural Housing

This information is straight from the House Committee on Financial Services, not rumor or third party information, this came straight from the committee this afternoon.

Today, the House Financial Services Committee unamimously passed H.R. 5017, the Rural Housing Preservation and Stabilization Act of 2010. This action clears the bill for consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to take up the bill as early as next week. The bill ensures the continuation of the USDA loan guarantee program.

Since the financial crisis has spiked consumer interest in this program, the number of loans made annually have tripled since 2006. With continued demand, the program was slated to have exhausted its funds within the next few days. The new bill would solve this problem by making the program self funded.

The bill, introduded by Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), will correct the original program shortfall by enabling the program to pay for itself. To pay for the program, lenders will pay up to a 4% fee on new home mortgages. As a result of that change, financing of the program will move from a combination of government funding and industry fees to a self-sustaining initiative.

The USDA program is designed to be a vital source of mortgage credit for people living the rural communities. The program aims to lower the costs of homeownership by giving rural area access to a home loan guarantee program for those with low to moderate income with good credit. These guarantees decrease the exposure of home lenders to defaults so that they will underwrite more mortgages. In 2009, loans made under the program averaged $112,000.

Once again, that was directly from the House Committee that is chaired by Congressman Barney Frank and the same committee that local Congressman Joe Donnelly is part of. This is just the first step, but thoughts are that this will pass through Congress.

EPA's New Renovation Repair and Painting Rule (RRP)

Thinking about installing some new windows? Maybe some new kitchen cabinets? How about knocking down that wall to give your old home that "open concept" look? Do you want to be fined $32,500 per RRP rule violation and face a federal felony per violation? Do I have your attention now??

Well, before you start that new renovation or begin to rehab that flip house, make sure you read up on the EPA's new Renovation Repair and Painting Rule also called RRP which is how it will be referred to the remainder of this post. The new RRP rule takes effect today, April 22, 2010. This new rule is all about Lead Based Paint and effects YOU if your house was built prior to 1978, if you are performing an activity on your house that is disturbing lead based paint and if you are a person or company that is performing the work for a profit.

So, let me break that down a little bit because there is probably a question or two out of that paragraph. If you are an owner occupant, in other words you own the home that you are living in, then you are exempt from this rule if you are doing the work yourself. Also, any structure that has been declared "lead free" from a lead risk assessment is exempt, but make sure you have that documentation. Mostly, this new rule effects people that have investment homes.

So, what's the big deal???

Any work that can effect lead based paint more than 6 square feet inside of a house or 20 square feet outside of a house, must be performed by certified firms by the EPA. And, irregardless of the size of the area disturbed, the rule automatically applies to window replacement and demolition projects (that means taking out a wall or something like that). So, as you can see, this is a big deal. Those square foot numbers are relatively small.

When this work is being performed:
*Signs must be posted at the work site warning people to stay out
*All objects must be removed from the area or covered with plastic sheeting
*All doors and openings must be sealed off with plastic sheeting
*All heat duct must be closed and covered
*All flooring must be covered with plastic sheeting
*Do everything possible to minimize dust

The clean up process:
*Collect all debris and place in a heavy duty bag
*Remove and dispose of plastic sheeting
*Clean all objects with a HEPA vacuum and wipe down with damp cloth
*Wet mop hard-surface floors

After the clean up process is done, test each 40 sqft. of each component of the room (wall, counter top etc..) by wiping all surfaces separately and comparing the results to an EPA cleaning verification card. Each window must be tested separately.

Additional information can be found at www.epa.gov/lead/pub/renovation.htm and the NAR at http://www.realtor.org/government_affairs/lead_paint_realtors

Saturday, April 17, 2010

U2, Wisdom and The Bible

"There's cathedrals and the alleyways in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you're slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder and wondering if there's somebody following you. An then you get there and you realize there was somebody following you: It's God." --Bono

There is no doubt in my mind what-so-ever, that U2 is the greatest Rock and Roll band in the history of music. They always seem current and relevant with each passing year with an ever changing sound. The one thing that always seems to stay true, however, is the wisdom in their lyrics and quotes. Most can be directly traced back to scripture from The Bible, that is either their interpretation of that scripture (see the entire song 40 which is Psalm 40 and Psalm 6) or a fairly direct quote of scripture (Vertigo- "All of this can be yours" Luke 4:7).

The faith of Bono and U2 has been highly documented.

"We've found different ways of expressing it, and recognized the power of the media to manipulate such signs. Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It's there for people who are interested. It shouldn't be there for people who aren't"
---Bono on Faith, U2 At The End Of The World.

Bono even spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple of years ago. Here is part of his speech:
"God may well be with us, and our mansions on the hill...I hope so. He may well be with us in all manner of controversial stuff--maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree-all faith, all ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and the poor. God is in the slums and the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her baby with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the ruble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives. And God is with us, if we are with them."

Of course, we all know the obvious "Christian Themed" songs that they have, but I thought I would write down a few of the songs along with lyric that can be directly related to a Bible verse:

Beautiful Day "See the bird with the leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out" -Genesis 8:10-11 and 9:12-13

The Wanderer "Who would sit at his Fathers right hand"-Matthew 26:64

Lemon "And when you're dry, she draws her water from the stone" -Numbers 20:8

Running To Stand Still "Sweet the sin, bitter the taste in my mouth" Rev 10:10

The First Time "He said I have many mansions and there are many rooms to see" John 14:2

Walk On "A place that has to be believed to be seen" John 11:40 and "home, I can't say where it is, but I know I'm going" John 14:4-6

In A Little While "In a little while, I won't be blown by every breeze" Eph 4:14

City Of Blinding Lights "Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel, luckily" Matthew 5:44-45

All Because Of You "All because of you, I Am" Exodus 3:13-14

There are many many more, but I think that shows a pretty good example in their songs. There is also the artwork for "All That You Can't Leave Behind." If you look at it, on a sign above the band is a reference to Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." The band calls this God's phone number.

And last but not least, there is the concerts. On one of the recent tours, during the intro to "Where The Streets Have No Name" Bono recited parts of Psalm 116

What can I give back to God
For the blessings you pour out on me?
What can I give back to God
For the blessings you pour out of me?
I lift high the cup of salvation
it is a toast to our Father
I'll follow through on the promise I made to you
Hear my Heart.

I am not really sure what the point of all of this was, other then to state some of the reasons why I truly love listening to this bands music. It really does help me spiritually. I hope you find value in it as well.

**research credits go to "One Step Closer" by Christian Scharen, Angela Pancella of www.atu2.com and www.biblegateway.com
Website Hit Counters