I invite you to join discussions, it enhances the reading experience for everyone. Please share your thoughts, opinions and knowledge in a respectful manner. May we all learn something in our endeavor to educate our hearts and minds. I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

GAO Report: Billions Spent on Overlapping Programs!

With so much attention being given to our National Debt it is relieving to see some progress being made.  The GAO, Government Accountability Office, which was established in 1921 to investigate, evaluate and audit the United States Congress, issued a report in March of 2011 at the request of Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn.  

This 345 page report, the first of its kind, reveals Billions of dollars of waste spent by the Federal Government in programs that overlap or are fragmented.  It identifies 34 areas of overlapping and 47 areas of potential cost savings!  

This report is finding support on both sides of the political isle.  Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, supports the GAO report and calls it “Constructive”.  He further states, “There are duplicate programs around here that we can eliminate and so I support, I don’t say this very often, but I am glad Coburn asked for that”.  

An example of overlapping government is given by Coburn.  He reports that within the federal government there are 47 job training programs spend $20 billion/year where all but 3 of them overlap in what they do. (correction from yesterdays post stating none had been evaluated) Only 5 of the 47 were evaluated for effectiveness. 

Patricia Dalton, Chief operating officer of GAO, states that the report is being used to propose the 2013 budget.  

Fox News informs viewers that one billion dollars saved could give a $10,000 raise for 100,000 troops, or could supply 2 million school children with IPad2’s for learning.  I can think off all sorts of ways that money could be used more efficiently!

Report can be found at:  http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11318sp.pdf

What are your views on government spending and are there programs you feel need their budgets tweaked? 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do I Want Cheese with my Whine?

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

As Americans, we are so blessed.  We whine when we don’t get HD channels, when our TV’s aren’t gigantic in size, when our cell phones break or we have to use an ‘older’ model than we would like.  We whine about dinner being too cold, too spicy, too bland, too everything when there are so many who do without. We whine about not having the latest gadget, the best car, the coolest shoes…overall we whine!

Why are we so spoiled?  Why are we so selfish?  Maybe I shouldn't say 'we' and just say 'me'....

I am ashamed of my own entitled/spoiled mentality.  On a smaller, day- to -day scale, I am equally as guilty as about the more lavish things in life.  I whine about having to clean house when I should be thanking God for a house to clean.  I whine about doing laundry when I should be thankful I have more than one pair of clothes (or clothes at all).  I whine because I don’t know what to cook for dinner when I should thank God for having choices.  

I have been entrusted with so much, Lord, please forgive me!  I cannot believe how much I whine!  Thank You for blessing me despite my whining! 

“It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Do you have something you find yourself whining about repeatedly?  (I think laundry is my number one culprit!)  What are some things God has entrusted you with?  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Looking back to August 2008

Hope fills the air on this beautiful weekend!  My baby is resting in his crib, my husband is out mowing the lawn and I am here writing after a good night’s sleep.  All is right in my world…and yet there is heaviness, a sorrowful cloud around the edges of my heart.  

I can’t help but think back a few years ago to a time when my world was turning upside down.  It seems a life time ago and yet like yesterday that my dad was alive.  

We were in the hospital during this time of year back in 2008.  Perhaps this was the day my dad decided to make his most valiant effort yet on a jail break from his prison.  While his speech was impaired and his comprehension limited, he was still able to read.  The large red exit signs posted at the ends of the halls beckoned to him.  Repeatedly he tried to go out those doors.  One could only distract him for so long.  He wanted out!  He was fixated on leaving and I couldn’t blame him, I wanted out too.  

The Friday before Labor Day I talked the doctors into letting us go home for the weekend.  There was nothing they could do for him at the hospital that I couldn’t do for him at home.  My only promise was to bring him back on Tuesday for the brain biopsy.  

So for one stress filled glorious weekend I had my daddy home and almost normal.  After the biopsy he was never the same.  The swelling on his brain increased, affecting his motor skills, further impairing an already limited intellectual capacity.  I was glad I had told him before the surgery he had cancer, otherwise he never would have known why his body was failing him.  He may have been declining physically and mentally but there were still moments of lucidity that would shine through and he deserved to know the truth.  

It seemed everyone wanted to shelter him from the truth, to make him think it was all going to be okay, but I knew better.  Maybe they didn’t want to tell him because they were having trouble comprehending it themselves, maybe it added credibility to their denial, I don’t know.  But I did know that if it were me, I would want to know why I was stuck in a hospital.

So maybe it was August 27, 2008 that I wrote a note to my father on a piece of scrap paper.  It simply said, “You have cancer”.  

And that was how my dad found out…

Looking back I wonder if he knew that, deep down in his gut, long before we were in the hospital that long horrid August.  Did he know?  Was he too in denial?  

I have second guessed many things about that time, but the one thing I don’t question was my commitment to his well being.  I stayed by him, watched over him and tried to protect him as if he were my child.  I watched over him the way I knew he would have watched over me if I had been the one in the bed.  He was my father, still is, and someday I know I will see him again.  Until that time, I have to move on, to learn to enjoy beautiful days like today.  

I know this time of year will always bring back sad memories, thankfully the rest of the year (9 months of it at least) are filled primarily with happy memories, memories of birthday parties, vacations at the lake, picking out Christmas trees and so much more. 

In loving memory of my father:  October 1, 2008

Question:  What are some special memories you have of someone you lost? 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Huston We Now Have a Problem!!!

Just yesterday I posted a blog arguing the pro’s and con’s of shutting down part of NASA and having to depend on Russia while our private sector is able to “catch up” and take U.S. astronauts into space.  (Okay, I mainly stated the cons of this decision because there seems to be so many.  Little did I image what actually occurred!)  

Wednesday, a Russian cargo ship on top a Soyuz Rocket crashed carrying supplies to the six crew members living in the ISS, International Space Station.  Prior to shutting down NASA, both they and Russia made stops to the ISS.  With the shutdown of NASA, crew members are reliant upon the Russian rockets to obtain supplies and to change crew members.  It is reported that there is no immediate danger to the crew members aboard the ISS at this time; they have sufficient supplies from the last NASA shuttle mission in July.  There are also no worries that the crew will be stranded in space as there is a pair of three- man pods that can be used as an escape route.  

So what’s the problem?  For starters, in September the Soyuz was to launch manned missions on these crafts that our astronauts were to be a part of.  This is the same time (September) that three of the crew members are scheduled to be replaced. Another three are to be replaced by fresh members in December.  If Russia is unable to identify the problem with the rockets it could leave the ISS short staffed or even unmanned for a time.  I am unsure the implications if that were to occur.  

It is being reported that Russia may halt immediate space missions until this issue is identified and resolved, this could be an indefinite period of time.  Presently Russian rockets and their Soyuz capsules are the only way for astronauts and cosmonauts to get into space. 

Tom Jones, former NASA astronaut, gave an interview on Fox News regarding the significance of this event.  He reports that it will take the private sector “about five years” to build shuttles to take U.S. astronauts into space (I had reported yesterday a projection date of 2014.  2011 is over half over, so if it takes five years from 2012, we will not go into space on our own until 2017!!!).  Regardless if it takes one year or ten, the fact remains we are at a disadvantage and now the ISS and its research is being affected due to the decision to shut down part of NASA without a backup plan for something going wrong with Russian equipment.

August 18th Russia had another hiccup with their equipment sending a telecommunications satellite into the wrong orbit.  Accidents will happen, but shouldn’t we, the United States, only be hindered by our own accidents instead of being affected by another country’s? 

And wasn’t it a good idea to work together, being able to back each other up in space, instead of placing so much burden on Russia?  

The United States decision to shut down part of NASA is having international consequences and while this is a “small hiccup” in the grand scheme of things, what could happen in the future?  

What are your thoughts?  (Please refer to yesterdays post for additional information regarding shutting down part of NASA titled  "From NASA to Boeing...Huston We Might Have a problem" ) 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From NASA to Boeing...Huston,We May Have a problem!

Following a good tip from a comment, I have started researching more about NASA and the private sector space exploration.  Much can be said on both sides of the argument and getting information not tainted by either view point is difficult.

I am all for decreased government in our lives and I fully support private sector jobs.  I believe the cure for our economy rests with the private sector creating more jobs and the government decreasing their involvement in businesses.  That being said, I still have reservations regarding shutting down any part of NASA.  

I do believe the private sector will come out with a great many new inventions and technology, the drive to compete against other companies will enforce the need to ensure the best products at the best pricing possible in order to compete in the market.  That is the beauty of free markets and part of what makes America great, the free market is a wonderful design.  It is how we get cheaper and better products consumers use on a day to day basis.  Free markets drive our economy, so in this sense I think the private sector getting in on space exploration is a great.  

However, there are some problems with this ‘somewhat sudden’ development of shutting down part of NASA (which began being talked about April 15, 2010).  Here are some facts I have uncovered:

1)       Two of the companies (Lockheed Martin and Boeing) are getting around $6 billion from the government (instead of NASA) to help them start building shuttles.  Both do a great job in building aircraft and both gave  large amounts of campaign contributions to the Democratic party in 2010.  Could this privatizing space have anything to do with that, is this a kickback as some suggest for contributing to the party, or is it a coincidence?  You decide.

2)      It is projecting to take till 2014 to build the first space shuttle by private companies.  What if it takes even longer than that?  Why not wait to halt NASA space exploration until private companies have had time to work on constructing these shuttles?  Why the rush?  

3)      We will now be reliant on Russia to explore space. If one remembers history correctly we fought Russia to be the first in space and now we are handing them the reins on space explorations and advances in technology.  We will be reliant upon them until our own shuttles will be operational, this makes our military, to an extent, dependent on them.  Something I am not comfortable with.

4)      It could cost the U.S. $56 million per seat for us to go up with the Russians on their shuttles.  While there, we will still be reliant upon them on where we go.  Who is to say they will give us the ability to go where we want?  We are ‘riding’ with them, not using their craft.  Also, they will have access to hear everything we say.  Is anyone not a little worried they will take over space and leave our military weakened?  Almost everything we do is dependent upon our satellites in space. I for one am concerned over having to trust Russia with something so vital to our survival as a nation.   

5)      Thanks to NASA we have many inventions we use daily, such as Satellite dishes for our TV’s, shock absorbing helmets used in sporting events, edible toothpastes, joy stick controllers, ear thermometers, pens that can be used to write upside down, smoke detectors, cordless power tools and more.  Will the private sectors be developing such inventions?  I assume they will, astronauts need such inventions to aide them in space, but what if they don’t?  

6)      Those who argue that NASA cost too much for tax payers need to know that less than 1% of the federal budget went toward NASA.  Closing down part of NASA will not save us enough to make a dent in our budget problems.  

After all this research, I must say that overall I am saddened we will no longer be the leaders in Space.  I am proud to be an American and I believe NASA was one of the great things we possessed.  I am happy to see the private sector grow, but I worry it is growing at too great a cost. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One More Day...

When my dad was diagnosed with stage four Brain Cancer I thought the center of my world had collapsed.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much I relied upon him, how much he meant to me or how much I didn’t want to lose him.  I knew I loved him, but it wasn’t until that moment that true clarity came.  Every day I thanked God for allowing me to have one more day with him.  Even as the cancer spread and the days got worse I thanked God.  Each moment was precious, each moment I tried to capture in my mind so that I would never forget.  

Daily God showed me His mercy as He slowly took my father from me and my family.  As the day of his death drew near God enabled us all to come to terms with his passing, He gave us peace to accept what we did not want to and when we were finally able to endure the lose, He took my father home.  

Looking back I remember the pain, the anguish and how I longed for one more day with him, even a bad day would be better than no day, but that was not Gods plan.

Last night while lying in bed with my husband, I thanked God for giving us one more day together.  One more day…I love my husband so much, but sometimes the world gets too busy and I forget how fragile life can be and how precious each moment is.  So I thanked God for bringing my husband into my life, for granting us another day together and I prayed for more time with him, I prayed for one more day.  I thanked God for this reminder…that it shouldn’t have to come to extremes for me to be thankful for the small blessings of one more day with the ones I love.  Each day is a gift.  Each day should be treasure and treated as if it could be the last.   

None of us know when our time will come and I for one do not want to take any moment for granted.  God has blessed me with amazing family and friends and I am so thankful for them and for all the times we have together.  

I pray you too remember to thank God for this day of life…it is a gift and it is wonderful. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Romans Road: Tool to Help Christians Witness

Have you ever felt the need to share your faith but were unsure how to start the conversation?  Or wanted to witness but didn’t know how?  

I have and it can be scary.  The anxiety and fear can be immobilizing making it difficult for someone who knows the Bible backwards and forwards to speak out boldly, let alone someone like me who needs to look the same scriptures up repeatedly.  

So how do we overcome our anxiety and fear and follow Jesus’ command to go out and witness?  

Here are some basic opening questions I have used, followed by Romans Road.  

1)       Do you believe there is a God?
2)      Do you believe in heaven and hell?
3)      How do you think you get to heaven?
4)      Can I share a few scriptures with you from the Bible that tells us about God and how we can get to heaven?

To help me, what I have done in the past is write the first scripture on the opening page of my Bible so I remember which one to start with (I get really nervous and need reminders).  When I go to that first scripture I turn the Bible so they can read it and so I can read it (upside down from them) I write the next scripture I am to go to. That way I can focus on them and not be thinking of what scripture I need to go to next.   

So here goes, Romans Road:

1)       Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Everyone sins.  There is not one person who has not committed some sin, whether it is lying on taxes, cheating on a spouse, hating someone, murder, envy or whatever…we all have sinned.   

2)      Romans 6:23, “For the wages (penalty) of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”  God hates sin.  The penalty/punishment for sinning is death.  You do not get a pass on sin; even “small sins” deserve death.  We cannot be good enough to get to heaven and God, being holy, cannot tolerate sin.  But because God loves us He gives us a gift…eternal life!

3)      Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  While we are sinners.  We don’t have to clean up our acts first.  God accepts us as we are, dirty and all.  Salvation is a gift; just like at Christmas, you get a gift…you don’t have to earn it.  It is free!  Gifts are Free!!!  So how do we get this free gift?

4)      Romans 10:9-10, “[T]hat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you WILL BE SAVED.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  It really is that simple. Notice it says when you believe and confess (declare) you WILL BE saved, not might be, but WILL BE!  Some think that is too easy, my response to that is…If it was something difficult wouldn’t you do it?  Why not do something that is simple?  Jesus paid the price, He did the hard part, and all you have to do is believe in His love and grace.

5)      Romans 10:13, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.”  Whoever!  Isn’t that amazing!  Anyone and everyone can be saved when they call on the only true God. 

6)      Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  By Faith, that’s all it takes.  You cannot earn it; you only have to accept the free gift.

7)      (optional) Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  

8)      Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Once you believe you belong to Christ, you do not have to work to achieve His love or forgiveness, it is freely given.  All your sins (past and future) have been forgiven!

9)      Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
Once I have shared the scriptures with someone I like to ask a few more questions:  (answers along these lines)  

1)       Are you a sinner? (Yes, everyone is)
2)      What does the Bible say about sin?  (Punishment for sin is death)
3)      Can you earn your way to heaven? (No, it’s a free gift called grace.  You cannot work your way into heaven.  Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than eating at McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac)
4)      How are you saved? (Salvation comes from faith, believing Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave.  Believing and confessing. ) 
5)      Would you like to pray and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?  (Yes or no…respect their decision and regardless I let them know I will be praying for them.)

If they would like to accept Jesus into their lives I pray with them something like this and I emphasize the words do not save them, only faith that comes from the heart:

 “Jesus I know I am a sinner and I deserve punishment for these sins.  I believe You died for me so that I would not have to.  I believe You didn’t stay dead but rose from the grave conquering sin and death.  I ask that You forgive me of my sins and come into my heart.   I ask that You become Lord of my life.  Thank You for Your grace and the gift of salvation.  In Jesus name I pray. Amen.” 

If you have any other techniques you have used please share so we can all learn.  Or if you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to share, Thank you.