Monday, April 23, 2007

Living by Faith

This won't be a long post but I wanted to publish it while the thought is still fresh in my mind and also because, once again, I'm behind my "post at least once a week" guideline.

The title of this post is something you might see in a post about religion. You may have seen some thing like "We live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (New International Version) from the New Testament and say, "I could never believe that. I have to be able to prove everything." Well, when was the last time you checked that chair you're sitting in? Did you realize that it is possible that there is a screw or joint about to come loose and if you shift - it could collapse? Or, that a train wreck occurred two miles away a half hour ago and the deadly chlorine it was carrying and that spilled out will reach you just as you're taking your next breath? No, I'll bet you didn't think about those things until you read them here. This just proves a point that we all live by faith. Every day. For most of the day. You may say, "Well, I could prove that my chair is solid before I sit in it or I could install gas sensors that would alert me to poisonous gas if I wanted to take the time to do those things. But you can't ever prove that God exists or that your faith in Him is worthwhile." I counter that it is all a matter of degrees of faith. We don't all have the same amount of faith. Some are blessed with more faith than others. But I assert that you can never fully prove that your chair is completely sound or that your chlorine sensors haven't malfunctioned, either. You can only ever "prove" something to a certain extent. And I would say that the proof that God exists comes every day when I look around at His creation. You may put your faith in the ideas of science and that all of this came about by chance but I put my faith in a Creator. For every law of physics or theorem in evolution, just replace the action verb by, "And God said...". And take a good, deep breath of fresh air. It's a beautiful day!

By the way, happy day after Earth Day. We are only stewards of this planet, not the owners. We should be taking care of it and not ruining it. This picture is from NASA from the Apollo 17 mission to the moon. Those guys had a lot of faith in the low bidder!

Friday, April 13, 2007

When is it OK to help people?

I heard another interesting story on NPR this morning. This time it was about the collapse of some subprime mortgage lenders. One of the proposals was that, because some of the people facing foreclosure were the victims of so called "predatory lending practices", the government or other agencies may help some of the borrowers out. There were comments for and against this and at first I sided with the guy who said (I paraphrase here because I don't remember exactly what he said), "These people bet on the fact that their house would increase in value and it didn't. Why should we bail them out for a bad decision?" You could say that these people need to learn a lesson. But why should be less willing to help these individuals and families than we would to help a company or group in the same situation? Chrysler made a number of bad decisions in the 1970's and the government loaned them money until they got back on their feet. We help out some industries facing foreign competition by raising tariffs. We subsidize our farmers to help them through the ups and downs of the weather.

I've seen arguments that these are proper because if we didn't, large numbers of people would be affected and our economy as a whole would suffer. Well, that's right. And I'm not saying we should choose between helping corporations and helping these borrowers. I'm saying that this is also a large group of people who just don't all work for the same corporation or have the same occupation. But make no mistake that it will have a large economic impact. Not only will it flood the market with low-priced houses (further depressing the price of houses for people who need the worth of their homes to increase or at least stay the same) but home owners, as opposed to renters, support their community in a number of ways. From buying at the local lumber yard and hardware store to being able to fit in with a long-term community where they have roots. They work on their houses more (nicer looking neighborhoods), care about the schools and support the police and fire companies because they are there for the long haul.

Another argument I read stated that not all the people facing foreclosure were victims of "predatory lending practices" and that is probably true. We should look at these on a case by case basis. The reason these are subprime loans, though, is because the people taking out the loan are already in bad financial shape. They don't have any other options. The only way they could buy a house was to grasp at the straw a less than scrupulous lender might hold out to them.

Many people have a hard time putting themselves in the place of another person who is facing a crisis and is in need of help. The nice side of me prays that those people never find themselves in the same situation and hopes that they will just open their heart to the people in need. The nasty side of me says, "Just wait till you need help - we'll ignore your pleas, too."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pictures from my walk area

I've been having lot of trouble getting Blogger to show me the buttons I need to attach pictures to my messages. And when it did show the buttons, when it allowed me to attach a picture, it corrupted the picture and the message. I'm trying this from a Macintosh running Firefox with many less restrictions on web pages (because this Mac is safer than a Windows machine). So, the problem is probably not with Blogger but with the restrictions I've been forced to put on web pages through the browser. Enough complaining here is the post I've been wanting to enter.

I promised to post some pictures from the area of my lunch time walks. I'm still walking after about two weeks but of course that doesn't mean much. To do myself any good, I need to keep this up for at least three months. Then keep going! I got a new camera just as I was starting to walk again and I plan to take it with me on the walks. I hope that will be an added motivating factor to keep me going. This first one reminds my of the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken". You can see that spring has NOT hit us here yet. The only green are the pine trees. These two paths seem to head off in completely different directions but you can actually get from one to the other about ten minutes down either path. So, I've been making a loop by going down one of the paths and coming back on the other. That gives me about a half hour walk.

As you can , perhaps, see from this picture, we share these woods with dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles. While they help by keeping the path open, they do cause a lot of damage to the path when it rains. These ruts make it difficult to walk, sometimes, and collect water when it rains. I noticed someone dragged a dead tree across the path trying to keep the bikes and ATVs away but they just treat that as a challenge and are probably happy that it was done. The smashed pieces of the tree are still across the path adding "excitement" to an otherwise easy ride for the motorized folks.

There aren't any great views n this walk because it is pretty flat. It would be nice if there was a hill along the way that you could look out and see a larger area. But there just aren't any hills here. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania where there is no "flat". You're either on a hill or in a valley. That has its pluses and minuses. My wife jokes about all the cemeteries there being on a hill where it is hard to walk to the grave sites or to stand as you look at the stones. I tell here that hills are all they have there. The only way to have a flat place is to dig the top top off a hill.

Here was a pleasant surprise on my of my walks. I haven't been seeing butterflies as much as I remember when I was younger. It seemed like you'd see hundreds of butterflies in a day but now you're lucky to see one a week. Well, this day I saw five or six of the same species (what ever this is). I thought I kept seeing the same one and that it was following me. Then I saw two of them together and then three. My new camera has a really nice zoom lens that can go to the 35 mm equivalent of about 420 mm (12x) so I was able to get this picture from about ten or twelve feet away. I will talk more about this great camera in another post.

Here is the largest "hill" I have to deal with on my walks. You can see more ruts, too. I'll bet the bikers like this part. They get to slip and slide and test their abilities when it is wet here. It tests my abilities, too, when it is wet and muddy. I've had some close calls going up and down this section. I did some volunteer work maintaining trails at one time and I'm tempted to try what I learned there on this section. But there just isn't enough time. And I'd probably just get it fixed and it would rain and the bikes and ATVs would rip it up again. I may be neurotic but I'm not a masochist! I'll just leave it as it is. Maybe it will get so bad that the motorized folks will leave and go somewhere else. There have been dirt bikes back here for years, though, and I don't remember seeing the paths this beat up before. Maybe it is just some new people who are doing all the damage. Maybe they'll move away and leave our paths alone.

I was going to show some pictures from another section of the woods that I used to walk but that other path is completely gone. There is a lot of construction there now. Here is a picture of that. It looks like they are carrying away a lot of the dirt and rock. The machine in the middle of the picture (you can only see the top of it here) is separating the dirt from the gravel and the rock with three conveyor belts that make three piles - one for dirt, one for gravel and one for rocks. This area is becoming a larger and larger industrial park. It doesn't look like many of the spaces have been sold yet but they are digging again so I guess they think they will be selling more.

For my final picture, I've got a picture of , what someone has told me, is a Turkey Buzzard (or Turkey Vulture). I've only seen them soaring so I've never seen one resting to really see its head or see the upper side. I've only seen the bottom. Last year I only saw one or two but this year I see at least four of them. I don't know if we're seeing the young of the older pair or new birds are moving in. They look so graceful. They rarely flap their wings. They like soaring over our parking lot to get the heated, rising air to give them lift. I used to think they were watching me when I started to walk in previous attempts to exercise regularly. I was moving so slowly at that time that they may have thought they'd soon have a meal.