Abortion Rate at Lowest Level in Decades

Posted by    |    December 8th, 2016 at 11:21 am

The rate and number of abortions has fallen to the lowest level in decades, according to a new report out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1971 was the last year the US had a lower abortion rate, two years before Roe v. Wade.

The latest data is from 2013 and incorporates the numbers from forty-seven states. The CDC tallied 664,435 abortions committed in the US. This works out to 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years old. This is down five percent from 2012 and half the rate from 1980.

The CDC does not receive data from California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, as they are not required to submit their state’s abortion information. However, it widely accepted that, with their inclusion, estimates put the number at approximately 900,000 abortions every year in all fifty states.

The report notes that women are obtaining abortions earlier in gestation, when risks are lower. Sixty-six percent of all abortion were performed before eight completed weeks gestation, and ninety-two percent by thirteen weeks. The percentage of abortions performed at less than eight weeks’ gestation increased four percent from 2004. Among areas that reported abortions by individual week, there was a sixteen percent increase in abortions before six weeks gestation.

Women may not be showing signs of pregnancy, but they are feeling the weight of caring for a child. And unfortunately, the weight for too many is too much to handle.

Girls under the age of nineteen accounted for 11.7 percent of abortions. Women in their twenties experienced more than fifty-eight percent of abortions. And fifteen percent of the abortions were obtained by married women.

One abortion is one too many, but the decrease in abortions is reason to celebrate progress. The report lists several factors explaining the decrease. They include: increased use of contraception, state regulations, parenteral involvement laws, waiting periods, and an “increasing acceptance of non-marital childbearing.”

Laws should be passed that ensure the health of any living being, but the atmosphere must be changed in order to welcome the beauty of a baby.

The number of abortions have gone down, despite there being a pro-choice president in the White House and pro-choice senators making up the majority in the upper house. The battle over abortion may be fought in Washington, but it will be won in neighborhoods. While regulation should be a part of the pro-life movement, it cannot be the whole of the pro-life movement.

The abortion issue has turned into a political football that can unnecessarily detract from the ones who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and weight of a child in their womb. Instead of fighting in Washington, organizations like #StandForLife and Brave Love are changing the atmosphere in their communities.

No one likes to be where they are not welcomed, but these organizations are welcoming women of all backgrounds and changing the narrative with great results. Pregnancy is not a problem; it is a privilege. A baby is not a burden; he or she is a beautiful gift. Some gifts may be too much, but you never throw them away. Rather, you re-gift, finding someone who has a place and a heart to accept and cherish the gift.

For too long, one’s position on abortion has served only to divide us. Both sides have raised their voices with shouts of accusation. One side cries out for women’s rights. The other side cries out for the child. But all too often, the cries from the halls of power have only kept us from hearing the cries of the mother. This is more than an issue; it is a person—rather, two people.

As Christians, we must take a stand (Proverbs 31:8–9) but we must not forget to serve (Matthew 20:28).

As Christians, we must take a stand (Proverbs 31:8–9) but we must not forget to serve (Matthew 20:28). In today’s world, our stand is only as strong as our service. And our words are as directly tied to our deeds as a newborn is tied to its mother. Abortions may have gone down, but we cannot give up.

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Daily Briefing: December 8, 2016

Posted by    |    December 8th, 2016 at 8:35 am

T O P   N E W S

Donald Trump’s latest appointee once got tombstoned in a WWE ring (WaPo)

“Yes, Linda McMahon, who co-founded WWE with her husband Vince McMahon, has a new job. McMahon, 68, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate before she takes the reins, endorsed Trump in April while being interviewed on CNN.”

Nick Note: If I had an entrance video, it would be this. But this is Linda McMahon’s from her time in the WWE. I poke fun at wrestling, but the growth of the WWE under her leadership is no laughing matter. I had nothing to do with the growth, seeing as how my parents wouldn’t let me watch wrestling as a kid. But nevertheless, if she can transfer that success to other small businesses, these small business owners will be as excited as the Nature Boy Ric Flair. In other news, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. Pruitt has been a climate-change skeptic and a harsh critic of the agency in the past with purported ties to energy firms. He has also sued the EPA over their regulatory moves to curtail emissions of methane from the oil and gas sector. But his character is spoken highly of by the likes of Russell Moore and Albert Mohler. And finally, Mr. Trump picked Gen. John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general whose son was killed in combat in Afghanistan, as his choice for secretary of Homeland Security. General Kelly’s character is stellar. Read this moving letter he sent to his fellow Gold Star parents. Donald Trump has been likened to President Eisenhower in recent days (primarily due to his lack of political experience), however these appointments reveal he is more like Herbert Hoover. Some were skeptical of his conservative credentials, but his cabinet is shaping up to be a who’s who of conservative leaders in the US. You can tell a lot about a person by who they choose to associate with. This may be the reason why the Bible speaks so highly of staying away from bad company (Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 15:33), casting away unrepentant company (1 Corinthians 5:9-11), and keeping close with good company (Proverbs 27:17, Hebrews 10:24-25).

Abortions Hit New Low in U.S. (NBC News)

“The latest annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incorporating data from 47 states, said the abortion rate for 2013 was 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. That is down 5 percent from 2012, and is half the rate of 25 recorded in 1980.”

Nick Note: When you read news like this, it becomes easier to obey Philippians 4:4.

House joins Senate in approving heartbeat abortion bill (Dispatch)

“The election of Donald Trump emboldened majority Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly to pass the strictest abortion law in the nation Tuesday. In a surprise move in the final days of the lame-duck session, the Senate and House adopted the Heartbeat Bill — long sought by some abortion opponents — to outlaw abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally about six weeks into pregnancy. Previous attempts to pass the bill failed over concerns that it would be ruled unconstitutional in the federal courts, as have similar laws in two other states.”

Nick Note: When the heart stops beating, it indicates the end of life. It seems to follow that when the heart starts beating, a sign of life reverberates for all who have ears to hear (Psalm 139:13-16).

2 teens arrested in Tennessee wildfires, officials say (USA Today)

“The teens remain in custody in Sevier County, charged with aggravated arson, said Jimmy Dunn, 4th Judicial District attorney general. They await a bond hearing in Juvenile Court and could be transferred to Criminal Court if prosecutors move to try them as adults.
“He refused to give any details about the case, including the teens’ ages or genders, except that they are not from Sevier County … they are residents of Tennessee.”

Nick Note: The fires have largely subsided but charred remains indicate that peace is far from present. Jane Addams noted that “True peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.” Justice now appears to be on the horizon (Proverbs 21:15).

Life Expectancy In U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades, Report Finds (NPR)

“The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade,according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65.
“On average, the overall life expectancy, for someone born in 2015, fell from 78.9 years to 78.8 years. The life expectancy for the average American man fell two-tenths of a year — from 76.5 to 76.3. For women, it dropped one-tenth — from 81.3 to 81.2 years.”

Nick Note: This is troubling news considering some of the reasons as to why there has been this decline. We may not know the number of our days, but we do have the freedom to make the most of those days (James 4:14, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Health is not the top priority but it should be a priority for those who are following after Christ.

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Most Americans Who See Fake News Believe It, New Survey Says (Buzzfeed)

“The survey found that those who identify as Republican are more likely to view fake election news stories as very or somewhat accurate. Roughly 84% of the time, Republicans rated fake news headlines as accurate (among those they recognized), compared to a rate of 71% among Democrats.”

Nick Note: Do you hear what I hear? It doesn’t appear so because we are paying attention to and believing fake news. And unfortunately, fake news often confirms what we already believe, exasperating the divide. We don’t have to be skeptical of all news, but we should be discerning (Proverbs 15:21). Quick to listen, slow to share, and always inquisitive as to what is the truth (Proverbs 2:4-5, James 1:19).

Baby boomers ‘should work for longer to stay healthy’ (The Guardian)

“Professor Sally Davies, in her latest annual report on the health of the nation is expected to say that people of retirement age might do well to stay in work if they can, or else get involved in community and voluntary activities that will keep both mind and body in better condition than sitting in a fireside chair….Studies have shown that early retirement, when it leads to a busy and active social life, can benefit people who are better off, with larger pensions. But those who do not have enough money in retirement can suffer ill-health related to the stress of their financial insecurity.”

Nick Note: Loverboy is Working for the Weekend but it appears as though working is a component to a healthy life. Dorothy Sayers understood work to not be something one does to live, but rather is the thing one lives to do. She found that work is the medium by which we offer ourselves to God. In the home or at the office, work is using our creative love to tend the earth in order to bring about the potential and promise God has stored within it (Genesis 2:15).

The 50 Best Places to Work, According to Glassdoor (Bloomberg)

“This year’s winner, Bain & Company Inc., has been in the top five since the list’s inception in 2009 and has been No. 1 three times. Employees cite a great salary, benefits, mentorship, and a culture that promotes employee engagement, according to Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor community expert.
“The competition this year was particularly fierce: All 50 companies on the list are within a 0.5 range on a scale of 0 to 5. In order to qualify for consideration,at least 75 employees of a company must submit reviews. The average score for a company this year was 3.3.”

Nick Note: People are increasingly expecting more out of the workplace since they are spending more hours at work (average is 47 hours per week for Americans). Civic engagement is down, church attendance has decreased, but the meaning and questions those institutions typically provided are being sought after in the workplace. This makes it all the more important for the Christian to be a bright light that works with excellence and loves with abandon in the workplace (Matthew 5:13-15, Colossians 3:23, Mark 12:31).

Women Want Real Weights at the Gym (WSJ)

“More traditional gyms and boutiques are expanding weight areas to meet rising demand from women. They are also introducing heavier weights to the historically female realm of exercise classes. Gyms aim to accommodate women who want to lift but feel elbowed aside or self-conscious in weight areas.”

Nick Note: “Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade since it consists principally of dealings with men.” Joseph Conrad (Proverbs 31:27)

Where is the world’s most ‘godless’ city? (The Guardian)

“According to the 2011 Census of England and Wales, Norwich had the highest proportion of respondents reporting “no religion”. The city’s figure was 42.5% compared with 25.1% for England and Wales as a whole.
“The survey revealed that Brighton & Hove came in a close second in the ‘godless’ stakes with 42.4% of residents describing themselves as having no religion. Local newspaper reports in both areas pointed to the relative youth of the population and the high number of students as being relevant factors. If you are young and bright, it seems, you are more likely to be irreligious.”

Nick Note: Stories like this remind me of when Jesus went to Nazareth and the text says, “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58).”

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Grandma’s favorite stocking stuffer is this year’s most surprising popular gift (WaPo)

“Sales of socks — particularly funky, patterned, novel varieties — are on the upswing, as more Americans look to express themselves through their footwear, according to market research firm NPD Group. And as the holidays near, retailers say we’re approaching peak buying season: Roughly 20 percent of sock purchases take place in December.”

Nick Note: I am a millennial from Tennessee, so I have a worldview where I believe that no shoes, no shirt, no problems (thanks Kenny Chesney). But nevertheless, when it is cold, we increasingly like socks.  For those who are concerned about the materialistic melee that happens this time of year, remember that people are buying gifts for others, not themselves. We give gifts and remember that God gave the greatest gift ever – his son (Luke 2:1-20).

Cheesed off: Texas queso loses to Arkansas cheese dip in Senate competition

“Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas attempted to establish the dominance of Texas queso during a weekly meeting of Senate Republicans but were creamed in the competition. Although the two senators passed around chips and queso from Dallas’ Uncle Julio’s, cheese dip provided by Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton proved more popular.”

Nick Note: Don’t get me wrong, I am an equal opportunity cheese consumer – but a highly biased one at that. Just because more people like it does not mean it is right. Rather, it could be that more people are wrong (Proverbs 14:12).

San Francisco airport introduces first ‘therapy pig’ (USA Today)

“LiLou is the first pig to be certified in the Animal Assisted Therapy Program of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.”

Nick Note: If I need to destress at the airport, I typically go pig out at Cinnabon. But I guess seeing a pig may be helpful as well. Or considering this truth: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Psalm 55:22).”

Dancing Officer Helps Raise Money for Salvation Army Outside Tennessee Wal-Mart (WDEF)

“Officer Sean Bulow was taking part in a Battle of the Bells challenge for the Salvation Army outside a Wal-Mart when he decided to show off his dancing moves, local television station WDEF reported.”

Nick Note: Officer Sean danced to 24K Magic and he also Wobbled. But more than that, he provided us with a good news story. Officers are sworn to protect the peace, but officer Sean went above and beyond the call of duty, as is so often the case with many officers, and made peace. Thank you officer and the many others like you that remind Christians of our sacred call (Matthew 5:9).

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The surprising reason Trump is ‘Person of the Year’

Posted by    |    December 8th, 2016 at 5:45 am

To no one’s surprise, Donald Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year. But the reason for his selection may surprise you.

Nancy Gibbs, Time‘s managing editor, points to the disruption Trump brought to America’s politics and the revolution he stirred. But as she notes, his campaign was made possible by an even larger disruption that has affected every dimension of our lives.

Gibbs: “We can scarcely grasp what our generation has wrought by putting a supercomputer into all of our hands, all of the time. If you are reading this, whether on a page or a screen, there is a very good chance that you are caught up in a revolution that may have started with enticing gadgets but has now reshaped everything about how we live, love, work, play, shop, share—how our very hearts and minds encounter the world around us. Why would we have imagined that our national conversation would simply go on as before, same people, same promises, same patterns?”

Gibbs cites an example: “Perhaps the President-elect will stop tweeting—but only because he will have found some other means to tell the story he wants to tell directly to the audience that wants to hear it.”

Every successful presidential candidate in my lifetime was chosen by a political party that then provided the infrastructure necessary for him to get his message to the nation. The candidate was obligated to work with the media in this regard, since they determine what they will print and air.

Donald Trump’s candidacy followed none of these norms. Most of the Republican Party establishment did all it could to prevent his nomination. Most of the mainstream media did all they could to prevent his election. But the technology of our day enabled him to speak directly to his followers in ways that galvanized their support and fueled his movement.

Such real-time leadership has continued after the election. For example, the president-elect tweeted last Tuesday morning about wanting to cancel a Boeing government contract. The market reacted within ten seconds, sending the price of Boeing stock down. What leaders do and say is heard instantly around the world and affects events more directly than ever before.

The Founders intended a balance of powers, but we’ve watched the Supreme Court disrupt centuries of moral tradition with a single decision, Congress pass bills that their constituents hate, and presidents sign executive orders to bypass their opposition. Our “post-truth” culture no longer views facts as objective or uses them to constrain our leaders.

These are challenging days for a nation that has lost its moral compass and whose economy can be affected by a tweet. That’s why our nation desperately needs culture-changing Christians who use their influence sacrificially for the common good.

If you supported Donald Trump, do not think your work is done now that he is president-elect and Time’s Person of the Year. If you opposed him, do not decide that your country no longer deserves or wants your service.

We serve an eternal King whose message affects eternal souls. That’s why “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We serve an eternal King whose message affects eternal souls.

Who was Time magazine’s Person of the Year last year? The year before? Who will be in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27) because of you?


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How Leaders Confront Challenges

Posted by    |    December 7th, 2016 at 10:21 am

The Washington Post released an investigative piece this week detailing wasteful spending at the Pentagon. While that may not come as news to many who assume the government is inefficient by nature, the brunt of Whitlock and Woodward’s piece focuses on the politics of how the Pentagon tried to cover up a 2015 study that catalogued the bloat.

One of the more revealing tidbits within the piece was that almost every leader of the Department of Defense over the past several decades has tried to curtail wasteful spending, but has run out of time with each effort:

Former defense secretaries William S. Cohen, Robert M. Gates and Chuck Hagel had launched similar efficiency drives in 1997, 2010 and 2013, respectively. But each of the leaders left the Pentagon before their revisions could take root.

“Because we turn over our secretaries and deputy secretaries so often, the bureaucracy just waits things out,” said Dov Zakheim, who served as Pentagon comptroller under President George W. Bush. “You can’t do it at the tail end of an administration. It’s not going to work. Either you leave the starting block with a very clear program, or you’re not going to get it done.”

The problem is not that the leaders don’t know that there is a problem, but that they don’t have enough time to get anything done before the next person takes over. This highlights one of the central difficulties of leadership: balancing between long-term goals and short-term needs.

Even if you do not lead an organization even approximating the intricacy and complexity of the Department of Defense, you know that effectively tackling problems within the organization takes both patience and tenacity. John Kotter’s famous eight-step plan in Leading Change encompasses both ends of the spectrum. The first of the eight steps is that leaders have to establish a sense of urgency, while the last maxim is to patiently focus on seeing the change take root at all levels of the organization.

Whether you are confronting billions of dollars of government waste or simply a department within your organization that is not aligned with your overall mission, the task of leadership is to continually confront the greatest challenges your organization faces. Ron Heifetz’s work on adaptive leadership argues that leaders are constantly lured away from these central challenges, tempted to avoid the reality of the situation, and instead become distracted by tangential problems.

In the Bible, Paul’s leadership is an excellent example of balancing the constraints of long-term and short-term approaches. He invested most of his time in the key cities of his mission: Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, and Rome (among others). He also visited other cities along the way, making brief stops to check in on things but not stay. He knew that in his limited time as a missionary, he had to be strategic where he invested the majority of his efforts. N. T. Wright argues in Paul and the Faithfulness of God that Paul’s efforts in his key cities was aimed to strengthen churches where Caesar’s power was strongest (1502).

I’ve heard it said before that leaders commonly overestimate what they can do in one year but underestimate what they can accomplish in five. The struggle to balance the short-term and long-term has to be faced by figuring out your most important challenges first and then relentlessly taking it on, even if it takes many years to see real results. Countless college football programs cycle through coaches each year, trying to find the leader who will instantly bring success. The coaches know the pressure-cooker atmosphere they walk into when they assume leadership, and many choose short-term success through whatever means necessary rather than long-term building.

If you focus too much on the short-term, you will inevitably come up against the temptation to cut corners. If your focus is only on the long-term, though, you lose momentum and energy as your people become frustrated or discouraged by lack of results. Leaders need to balance a true sense of urgency with a commitment to patience instead. It’s easy to become rattled by outside forces and voices, but true leaders stay committed to the challenges God has called them to face, however long it takes.

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Daily Briefing: December 7, 2016

Posted by    |    December 7th, 2016 at 6:23 am

T O P   N E W S

George H.W. Bush: 75 years after Pearl Harbor, strength renewed (USA Today)

“Before Pearl Harbor, many believed the tide of democracy, which had lifted and sustained our republic for 160 years, was ebbing. Totalitarianism was on the march, and the widespread misery of the Great Depression had some declaring capitalism dead — and seeking to concentrate vast new powers in the hands of federal government. They felt the United States was a nation in decline and needed to follow a new path to the future.
“Instead, it was America who, after vanquishing the dictatorial despots and their legions, reached out to make those erstwhile enemies our friends. We helped heal their wounds, rebuild their societies and give birth to new democracies and free-market economies.”

Nick Note: Listen to FDR’s Pearl Harbor address here. Andrew Delbanco observed that the future is always at stake in how we understand the past. Today we remember. Courageous individuals risked their future so that we might have one. They lived by the principle of no person left behind, and today, we do the same. We do not leave their heroic achievements and theirs families great sacrifices in the past, but call to mind those actions and express our appreciation. Thank you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Transition News

Nick Note: The word of the day is control. Mr. Trump has no control over his stockholdings, especially since he sold all of them and removed himself from positions in numerous U.S. companies according to a transition spokesman. But Mr. Trump does have control over his staff. President-elect Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team’s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton. And then there is control regarding planes. “The plane is totally out of control,” Mr. Trump said in brief remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower yesterday regarding future Air Force Ones. “We want Boeing to make a lot of money but not that much money…Cancel order!” Boeing stock took a hit similar to how my cell phone hits my face every night as I read articles to fall asleep. Speaking of cell phones and control, Masayoshi Son, who controls Sprint Corp., said Tuesday he would invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 new jobs. This after a 45-minute private meeting with President-elect Donald Trump. We all have some level of control – power – over a varying number of people. Power is value neutral in that power is not the problem, but the problem lies with the person who wields it. “Power at its worst,” Andy Crouch observes, “is the unmaker of humanity.” Power can be a good tool used to till and tend the earth in order to bring about the potential and promise God has stored within it (Genesis 2:15). Power is a gift. Like any gift, it does not originate within us but is bestowed to us (James 1:17). Instead of being driven by Nietzschean desire for more, we should be humbled to play a part in God’s redemption plan. This plan is less Hunger Games survival of the fittest, but more of a competition to outdo one another in bestowing honor, exhibiting grace, and making his kingdom come (Matthew 6, Romans 12:9-10).

Angela Merkel Calls for Ban on Full-Face Veils in Germany (NY Times)

“Accepting her party’s nomination as its candidate for another four-year term, the chancellor used the moment to broaden her stance on banning the veil, trying to deflect challenges from far-right forces that have made some of their deepest gains since World War II.
“In welcoming nearly one million asylum seekers to Germany a year ago, Ms. Merkel emerged as a powerful voice for tolerance across a Europe gripped by anxiety over waves of arriving migrants and fears of terrorism.”

Nick Note: Merkel has been unclear as to her concern with the full-face veil. Does the veil deter from the German culture? Does she believe the veil to be dangerous? We do not know her concern with the veil, but we do know that the veil is a religious expression. Nearly seventy-four percent of the entire global population live in countries that have “serious restrictions on religious freedom,” according to David Saperstein, the US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. In the American experiment, the Constitution guaranteed the free exercise of religion while equally prohibiting the state sponsorship of it. This mutually beneficial relationship was never intended to have a wall to separate the two from interacting one with another. Rather, the faux Jeffersonian wall was meant to allow the state to benefit from the church relative to virtue, and keep the church free from the burdensome entanglements of the state. If they ban one Islamic expression of faith, what is to keep them from banning a Christian (1 Timothy 2:1-2)?

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Children’s Headphones May Carry Risk of Hearing Loss (NY Times)

“But a new analysis by The Wirecutter, a product recommendations website owned by The New York Times Company, has found that half of 30 sets of children’s headphones tested did not restrict volume to the promised limit. The worst headphones produced sound so loud that it could be hazardous to ears in minutes.”

Nick Note: Can you hear me now? All things, including volume levels, are permissible, but not all things are permissible – like listening to Nickelback at loud levels (1 Corinthians 10:23).

Sleep-deprived drivers have plenty in common with drunk drivers (WaPo)

“The report says those who slept for less than 4 of the past 24 hours had an 11.5 percent higher risk of getting in a crash. Drivers who slept 4-5 hours had a 4.3 percent higher risk; 5-7 hours had a 1.9 percent higher risk; and 6-7 hours had a 1.3 percent higher risk.
“The report said that driving with 4-5 hours of sleep was comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit, and that the risk of driving with less than four hours was “much greater.”

Nick Note: Forsaking rest and being drunk are both forbidden by the Lord (Mark 2:27, Exodus 20:8-10, Ephesians 5:18). And we know it to be true that his commands are not burdensome, but rather lead us to the fullness of life (1 John 5:2-4, John 10:10).

How Break-Ups Change Your Personality (BBC)

“A group of German researchers…found that men and women who went through a divorce had become less extravert. One explanation is that they had lost many of the friends and other relationships they shared with their spouses, meaning they had less chance to socialise and behave in an extraverted fashion. Divorcees also showed a reduction in their “dependability” – a facet of the broader personality trait of conscientiousness – perhaps because they no longer had the need to support a long-term partner.”

Nick Note: Ernest Hemingway believed that we don’t fall in love but rather grow in it. Affection creates the beautiful inability to know left from right and up from down that characterizes “falling in.” But love requires a series of decisions and commitments that guide someone so that when the feelings are absent, the commitments are still present to protect the beloved. Such commitments are sacrifices and sacrifices always cause growth. Commitments and sacrifices always shape a person, so when those are no longer valid, changes occur (Mark 10:9).

More than 1.8 million teens are reading books by text messages thanks to this start-up (WaPo)

“This service has grown to more than 1.8 million downloads, mostly by the company’s target audience of 13-24 year olds. It’s recently become the top grossing book app for iOS in the United States and is now competing with Amazon’s Kindle and Audible apps to be the number one free book app in the U.S. Apple store too.
“The two founders did extensive testing with 15,000 people and found that a typical person only completed reading 35 percent of the books on a mobile-optimized website. But the people who received those same books via text messages became so attached to the story that 85 percent of them completed the book.”

Nick Note: Just when you think you have seen everything…“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles William Eliot (John 5:39, Joshua 1:8).

Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self (The Atlantic)

“Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.”

Nick Note: This adds another level of beauty to Mark 8:36. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Most Americans Say Assisted Suicide is Morally Acceptable

“Two-thirds say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die….Where there are differences among demographic groups, most still agree. For example, Americans age 18 to 24 (77 percent) and those 35 to 44 (63 percent) and 55 to 64 (64 percent) agree. So do white Americans (71 percent) and Hispanic Americans (69 percent). Those with some college education (71 percent) or with graduate degrees (73 percent) and those with high school diplomas or less (61 percent) also agree.”

Nick Note: In April 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize assisted suicide. 3,136 were prescribed a lethal dosage under medical supervision in 2010. Belgium followed suit with their own law. In 2013, there were 1,807 cases. In 2014, Belgium became the first country to remove age restrictions on euthanasia. In the United States, we believe it to be true and worthy of enshrinement in our founding documents that there is an inherent dignity and value within every person. Regardless of their contribution to society or position in a community, they are a valued part. They deserve a level of education, an equal hearing for justice, and protection from evil, among other things. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights. And in this grand experiment known as the United States, the protection of the innocent and upholding the value of life must be respected in order to remain coherent. People may have tragic burdens, but people are never burdens. Physician-assisted suicide rarely comes in ideal situations, however it is imperative to know that worth is not equated with use. We should not feel obligated to extend a life, nor should we be active part in ending life, but we must fight for life, both at the beginning and end (Job 33:4, 14:5, Hebrews 9:27).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Rep. Louie Gohmert airs beef with Capitol architect over BBQ ban (USA Today)

“Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert raked the Capitol architect over the coals for the seven-year ban he had been forced to swallow on him cooking ribs on his office balcony.”
“The conservative firebrand lambasted the architect, who is responsible for the maintenance — including fire safety — of the Capitol building, in a speech on the House floor. The architect decided that Gohmert’s balcony barbecues constituted a safety hazard and the congressman — who says his rib cooking had become a ritual every quarter — has had a bone to pick ever since.”

Nick Note: Give me BBQ or give me death… I would be interested in how many people expect to have a place to cook ribs at their office. I understand a heater for your feet. I understand a microwave for your afternoon munchies. But something to cook ribs? To each their own…(Titus 3:1)

Dad Turns Baby Into “Elf On The Shelf,” His Mischievous Antics Have Internet Cracking Up.

Nick Note: These pictures are better than the KFC fried chicken candle that is smelling up my office. I digress. Just as a baby is a gift and the elf always moves from his shelf, God is the best gift giver and often scatters gifts throughout our path each day (Psalm 127:3, Matthew 7:7-10, James 1:17). I hope you have a great day and find so many elves on shelves and gifts from God.

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Pearl Harbor, my father, and a courageous priest

Posted by    |    December 7th, 2016 at 5:45 am

I will never forget my visit to Pearl Harbor. Janet and I joined a long line of tourists waiting to see the USS Arizona Memorial, which marks the final resting place of 1,102 sailors and Marines killed on the ship during the attack. The memorial straddles the sunken hull of the Arizona without touching it, enabling more than two million annual visitors to see the remains and remember those interred within them.

As we stood above the sunken vessel, my thoughts turned to my father. Dad was a Sunday school teacher while in high school and planned to be an optometrist before World War II began. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army and fought in the South Pacific. The atrocities he witnessed damaged his body and affected his soul. Everything about his life changed because of this day seventy-five years ago.

President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” As I reflect on this day, my thoughts turn to another man whose story will forever be a part of Pearl Harbor. Aloysius H. Schmitt was a Catholic priest from St. Lucas, Iowa. He was serving as a Navy chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma on this fateful day.

The Washington Post tells his story. Father Schmitt had just said Mass that Sunday morning when his ship was hit by at least nine Japanese torpedoes and grazed by several bombs. The battleship quickly rolled over in the water, trapping hundreds of men below deck. Some were saved by rescue crews or swam underwater to find their way out. A few managed to escape through portholes. Father Schmitt is said to have helped as many as twelve sailors get out of one small compartment. He chose to remain behind while they crawled to safety. As a result, he died while they lived.

His remains were recovered from the Oklahoma wreckage during a months-long salvage operation, but they were too damaged and jumbled with other bodies to be identified. As a result, they were buried as “unknowns” in a Hawaii cemetery. Last September, Father Schmitt’s body was identified with the help of DNA retrieved from a skull bone and matched to a relative.

The priest’s chalice and prayer book were recovered from the wreckage a few months after the attack. They have been kept at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, the college from which Father Schmitt graduated in 1932. His prayer book was found marked with a page ribbon for the December 8 readings, including the Eighth Psalm in Latin:

Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirable est nomen tuam in universa terra! Translated, David’s words of praise read, “O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your name in all the earth!”

I believe that these words explain Father Schmitt’s courage.

We serve God sacrificially to the degree that we believe him worthy of our sacrifice.

We serve God sacrificially to the degree that we believe him worthy of our sacrifice. And we do not allow the sins of others to deter us from serving him if we know that our sins cannot change his majestic character.

Father Schmitt started December 7, 1941, by praising and serving our magnificent Lord. Let’s join him today.

NOTE: I invite you to read Our Unusual Christmas Gift, Janet’s article about my foot surgery and the peace of Christmas.

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What an NFL player and I have in common

Posted by    |    December 6th, 2016 at 8:50 am

Von Miller was named Most Valuable Player in last year’s Super Bowl, which his team won. So he has abundant reason to be grateful during this holiday season. But he recently expressed his gratitude in a way I’ve never seen in professional sports.

Miller sent every player in his division—more than two hundred people—a bottle of custom Cabernet Sauvignon. With the wine came this note:

“It is an honor and a privilege to take the field and compete with you twice a year. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to fulfill our childhood dreams of playing in the NFL. The blood, sweat, aches and pains, and endless hours spent watching film are a testament to the love and dedication we have for this game. So take a moment, reflect on all your successes, and enjoy your accomplishment. Appreciate those who have helped you get this far, and start working towards your next childhood dream.

“Thank you for helping to make our game great!”

It’s typical for football players to thank their teammates for their success. Running backs give presents to their offensive linemen. Head coaches reward their assistant coaches. But to thank his competitors for the privilege of playing against them is a counterintuitive expression of gratitude that makes all the sense in the world. Without them, Miller would have no one with whom to compete. His livelihood depends on their participation in his vocation. So his gratitude, while surprising, is completely appropriate.

Von Miller and I have almost nothing in common. He is a world-class athlete; I am a fan of athletes. He appeared on Dancing with the Stars; I have never watched Dancing with the Stars. He can run a 4.5-second forty-yard-dash, which is insanely fast for a person of his size. I had foot surgery last Friday and cannot walk without crutches today.

But that’s where our stories converge.

Surprisingly, I am truly grateful for this surgery. Admittedly, the days afterward have been painful. But I’m realizing the wonderful blessings that make up this medical event: a world-class surgeon, outstanding nurses, access to all the medications I need, a ministry staff that is covering for me while I’m at home, and most of all a loving wife who clearly married me “in sickness and in health.” While the country debates the future of ObamaCare, I can commend JanetCare without reservation!

Here’s my point: There are ways to turn the holidays into holy days if we’ll look for them. There are reasons to “give thanks in all circumstances” if we’ll view our circumstances through an attitude of gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even hard places can be holy places if we trust God for his peace and praise him for his love. And a world filled with competition and pain may see in us the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:7) and be drawn to his grace.

Even hard places can be holy places if we trust God for his peace and praise him for his love.

Christmas proves that Christ can be present everywhere and praised in everything. As my intellectual hero C. S. Lewis notes, “Once in our world a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Now that “something” is a Someone who lives in your heart. Is there a better reason for Christmas joy today?

NOTE: For more on today’s theme, be sure to see my wife’s blog tomorrow. As you might imagine, she has her own view on lessons we’re learning from my foot surgery. I will link to her column in tomorrow’s Daily Article, and you will also be able to read it at www.janetdenison.org.


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