Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Healing Place

I've been trying to figure out my situation concerning where I go to church. I was a dedicated "every time the doors are open" church goer during most of my Christian life--over 25 years--until the past two or three years, when I just stopped going. I would say it was my schedule--often true--but a lot of times I wasn't getting much out of church. Sermons were not challenging me, but boring me. One of my best friends in the world moved to the other side of the state of Missouri. I felt uncomfortable when I did go, and so gradually, I just stopped going. It seemed I had lost the connection with the congregation I had been a part of since 1989, both with the pastors and with the people.

It is possible to be a Christian, and not go to church. However, the majority of people do not do well alone. They need the connection and fellowship that being part of a church congregation brings. The church is a place to practice the things Jesus taught about serving and forgiving and loving. In addition, the church is a place to worship, and to be taught about the faith. For myself, it took a couple years, but when it was time, God was more than willing to give me a wake up call, by unraveling a different part of my life. I was convicted of my need to go to church. But where should I go? I felt really awkward going back to where I had been going, even though since I stopped going, there had been a pastoral change. In fact, I felt awkward even thinking about going to churches of the same denomination. I was at something of an impasse. And a certain inertia had taken over; once you get out of a habit, it's hard to get back into it.

I looked around, and hit on a solution. The biggest church in our area, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, had services in the evening, 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday. I could go there. The getting up in the morning thing? No excuse there with the late services. Theologically, there was no problem. My own denomination had emerged from the Methodist church, and both denominations looked to the 18th century preacher and evangelist John Wesley for inspiration. So I started going to COR, as it is known, in August. I would have been there one week earlier, but I had a flat tire that weekend--that should have been my first clue I was on the right track.

The worship was wonderful. Tears welled up in my eyes the first two weeks I went; me remembering the joy of corporate worship, singing and praying together. The preaching was engaging and challenging. The people, warm and welcoming, even though the church is truly enormous. Since I started I have been singing in the informal Sunday evening choir, and lending my nursing expertise to the emergency/medical team.

As I enjoyed the church and its resources, and made my contributions in service, I began to wonder, is this the place for me? I do have problems with the United Methodist Church as a whole; the denomination, taken in toto is too liberal for this evangelical Christian. So odds are, my membership will remain where it is. Is this a long term place for me? I don't know; it's the place that God seems to want me now, and that's good enough for me. Finally, it came to me. It's a place for me to heal. A healing place, to borrow a phrase. The phrase is borrowed from Capt Schmoe, and his blog Report on Conditions. It's the way he describes his station in the Kinda Big Fire Protection District. His station is a place where people can go when they have a need to step out of the busy-ness and urgency of busier fire stations for a little while. The longer I considered the parallels, the more right I felt I was in my perception. Ever since I was a baby Christian, there was a pressure to lead, and to teach. When I told people I felt I had a call to full time ministry, this pressure to "do" became even more intense. I have done much in work for the Kingdom, but in many ways have not felt recognized. Perhaps I misread the idea of a call to ministry, or missed exactly what it was I was to do. The institutional church, the denomination I was/am a part of, both formally and in the local church, did not seem to confirm the presence of my spiritual gifts or my calling. I felt maybe, just a little rejected, and I think this may be part of my reluctance to start back up with church "as it was." At COR, this pressure is relieved. There is no expectation put upon me. I can serve or not. I can serve in practical ministries, present in scads, since the church is so big. I can sing, and find that I am one of 7 or 8 in my vocal range, not just 2 or 3. I can take the skills I have from my work life, and apply them directly in service to God's people as they come to worship through the emergency team.

It is well known that the point of connection in large churches such as COR is in small groups. Once a church gets over about 150 in Sunday morning worship service, it becomes difficult for the worship service to serve as the main entry point into deeper relationships for people. That is the next step for me on this journey, joining a small group and forming deeper relationships. It has already been happening in the choir to a small degree. I am trusting God to lead me on this journey. He has been leading so far, and He has not lead me wrong yet.

The Purple House

www.lovelylisting.com had this purple house in Wisconsin featured the other day. It has a story behind it, which can be found at this link here. It's a funny story and a bit sad, too.

It's probably sold at foreclosure now, and is likely to be torn down by any buyers but the story behind it is interesting and can make you think about liberty and property rights and all that. Seems as if the man who bought it had a little trouble with the city codes enforcers, who rode him for not having his house painted properly. So he painted it this lovely purple color, except for one wall, because he ran out of purple paint. That wall is red. He and his wife painted flowers on the house. Apparently there was no Home Owner's Association, because no one came running about the color. The city couldn't do anything; their directive was just to paint the house. The city told him his wooden privacy fence was too high. He took a chain saw and cut off the offending footage. The city b**ched about his lawn, his yard, and his cars. He probably did just enough to keep from being fined to the end of his paycheck, just enough to keep from being on first name basis with the judges in the city's Housing Court.

According to the man's son, whose interview is in the link, the man was a Vietnam vet who had some struggles with what we now call PSTD. Yet he was able to raise a family--his son seems very balanced--and have a good stable long term relationship. He and his girlfriend both passed within just a year or two of each other, and in that time period, mortgage payments were not being made and the house reverted to the VA. I just had a look at the area using google map and the google street thing. When looking from the street, all you can see is the trees and the purple privacy fence--you can barely make out the house. The satellite view reveals a not very tidy back yard, with large objects in the yard. I noted a particularly tidy house and lawn just to the south; I imaged this person going bonkers looking at the purple house with the messy yard.

It can be a difficult balance between the desires of the community to have everything "just so", and the right to self expression and the use of one's own private property. This house was so well known that it was used as a directional land mark by those living in the neighborhood. It was tolerated, barely, by the neighbors and city. (If there had been a HOA, it would have been a different deal--just read some of the comments on the lovely listing site.) The funny thing is that in a way, people like a little quirky in their life. I'm sure that some of the neighbors were amused and not at all put out, while some others were just fit to be tied.

I myself would not mind a purple house in my neighborhood. My across the street neighbor has dark purple trim on her white house; a few snickered and made negative remarks, but I love it, a nice change from the browns that often dominate. Just keep it neat and reasonably tidy, and I'm happy. Besides it will be a cold day in Hell before I rat someone out about a house problem. I think I'd be more likely to snitch on a murderer then to tattletale to the city about something related to the condition of a neighbor's house. It just seems so minor in the scheme of things. Meth houses and dope dens not tolerated; a car in the driveway under repair, a trailer parked next to the driveway, a bush overgrown, toys in the yard, trash put out early (but no trash left out in a pile, that's a different ballgame because of vermin), maybe an extra cat or dog--odds are, if someone's complaining, it ain't me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Opinion on the State of the Union Speech

It's a little late, and the product of a person riddled with ADD, but here are my two immediate impressions of the State of the Union speech by President Barack Obama. Exposure to subsequent commentary has not changed them one bit.

1. Tax cuts? What tax cuts?

2. When did you write this, 0200 on Wednesday morning? Most disjointed mess I've ever heard, except maybe for the school papers I wrote at 0200.

"If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done around here."


Cute and Funny

Sorry for two funny cat posts, but I've loved this one since it first showed up a couple of weeks ago. From www.icanhascheezburger.com.

You dog people, we'll get you later.

Friday Funny

To truly appreciate this video, you need your sound on, so tune up those speakers, get out those ear buds, and have a smile. Via YouTube, originally seen on www.icanhascheezburger.com.




Thursday, January 28, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: An Afternoon at Heart to Heart International

I decided to volunteer some time to help Heart to Heart International get things ready to ship to Haiti during this week. They need help collating the donated materials and getting them ready to ship. Mainly they need help making the hygiene kits for the people in Haiti to use. They have a warehouse in Kansas City, KS and this is where all the donations are taken. Some donations are kits ready to go, others are kits that were made to different specs and need to be checked and modified and some were the raw materials of the kits: soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, small towels and wash clothes, wide toothed combs and small bottles of shampoo. It's not a hard job to make the kits, and many hands make light work.

Volunteers make hygiene kits and also organize supplies. The lady at left is putting together baggies of band-aids for the kits.
Some of the raw materials for kits: soaps, soap dishes, baggies of band-aids.
Making the band-aid baggies, trying to assemble useful sizes of band-aids, not those tiny ones!
The raw material of a hygiene kit: most of these items will go in a kit, except for the toothbrush holder. The kits have a very specific recipe. Shipping overseas means that every i must be dotted and every t crossed, so the kits have to be pretty uniform in content.
Finished kits, double bagged in strong zip lock freezer bags, ready to be put in shipping boxes.
A Heart to Heart employee does the final check and seals the boxes for shipping.
More donated hygiene kits that will be readied for shipping in the coming days.

Here's Heart to Heart's founder, Dr. Gary Morsch, in Haiti.


If you are interested in donating or volunteering, go to www.heartoheart.org. This was a great way to spend an afternoon, and I plan on going back for more!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama Blathering On and On

Assuming he started around ten past the hour, President Barack Obama is still blathering on one hour later or so, without sign of stopping. I propose a new constitutional amendment: State of the Union Addresses shall be no longer than one (1) hour.

He's done! He's done! (at 21 past the hour).

Did he say anything? I'm afraid I lost concentration on it and started doing other things while listening. Bad blogger!



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Spoiled Prank; Two Outstanding Trick Basketball Shots

Please head over to this link from my sports blog Looking Live for some good clean fun with basketballs. It will make you smile. We all need that occasionally, don't ya think?

Spotted It Again!

Spotted it again--and this time have photographic evidence! Generic Kansas City Missouri EMS box...not even a crummy Star of Life on the side. (Photo taken January 20th--yes, that is all that is left of our snow--lumps here and there. The pic was taken holding my cell phone up next to my ear as I turn the car to the right.)

In a related note, today Fire Chief Smokey Dyer was officially made head of MAST by the ambulance board. I can't make light of or have any fun with this news.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Not Sure About This One

Thursday of last week the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision striking down political campaign finance law that restricted the ability of corporations to finance political commercials during the later stages of a campaign. It was hailed everywhere by those on the political right as a victory for free speech, lifting this restriction on speech by entities that happened to be incorporated. The political left was hyperbolic in their objection, one congressman, Alan Grayson, comparing it to the Dred Scott decision. Every progressive and left leaning pol had a negative comment, from Ralph Nader to Charles Schumer to President Obama. All were predicting dire consequences for the buying of elections by corporations.

Here's the thing: I heard both sides. I hear the Supremes and the right rejoicing in free speech. I remember that not every corporation is BIG and now those who are incorporated for whatever reason have had their ability to participate in political speech fully restored. However, I hear the left's concerns for too much mo' money sloshing around our political candidates. It is already hard enough to find good people to run for political office. The money makes it harder for candidates to stay clean and influence free. In addition, the cost of political campaigning will continue to spiral upward, which restricts the number and type of candidates.

I guess my message is this: both sides reacted somewhat emotionally and I have not seen or heard really well thought out opinions from either side, but especially from the right. In addition, voters now will have to wade through even more sh*t from advertisements to make their decisions about candidates. Some may not bother, and just listen to the loudest voice. I'm happy for free speech, but consider me concerned about some of the possible unintended consequences of this decision.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

They Retreated, They Made One Decision

It is for sure, announced today by the school board. Hickman Mills C-1 school district will loss one high school, starting the 2010-11 academic year. The plan is to separate by grades, with 10-12 together, 8-9 together and 6-7 together. Which high school will cease to exist and exactly which buildings will be used for what are not yet fully determined. A Boundary Committee meeting is scheduled for February 2nd, and a Town Hall meeting will be scheduled to give the community an opportunity to make their voices heard. The school board, as noted in the Kansas City Star article, is already planning on making changes with the leased offices and the maintainance department facility. One question answered with certainty now. Several more to go, and some community mourning to do as well.




Earthquake in Haiti: A Little Bit of History

An excellent article published in the New York Times provided a short concise history course on the nation of Haiti. Written by Mark Danner, a writer who has been exploring politics and history for many years and the author of five books, as well as numerous articles. I did not know many of the things Mr. Danner mentions in his article and I will try to hit some highlights for you. The link is available here so that you might read the article yourself.

Haiti started as a French colony, called Saint-Domingue. It became a very large source of wealth for the French, the wealth coming from the sugar cane harvested there. The harvest was done by people from Africa--captured people serving as slaves. Life in the cane fields was nasty, brutish and short, and it was required that French plantation owners go to Africa regularly and retrieve more labor. In 1791, slaves began to fight the system, taking up arms against the French. It took until 1804, when revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines created the Haiti flag by ripping out the white middle from the French tri-color. During the long conflict, most plantation owners and Whites were killed or driven from the land. The war was vicious and destructive, wounding the land and infrastructure. However, the people were free.

However, the world did not rejoice. The U.S., newly freed itself from colonial rule, refused to recognize the new nation, and with much of the first world, embargoed Haiti,and enforced the payment of reparations to the French for the lost of the colony. Danner notes that part of this was the fear that the slaves held in America would revolt too, disrupting commerce and life. The United States did not recognize Haiti as a nation until Abraham Lincoln's presidency, in 1862.

Large blocks of property were broken up. The people became small land owners, but taxes and bills for the reparations were a huge burden for the new country. There was little wealth to control, but the government, handling the taxes and money, became the center of power and the control of the government became the goal of the wanna be powerful. In this was the beginning of the countless power struggles over the leadership of Haiti's central government; it started in 1806 with the assassination of it's first leader, Dessalines. Danner describes the dysfunctional bent of the government: "...the colonial philosophy endured: ruling had to do not with building or developing the country but with extracting its wealth." It continued on in this way for years, one group taking over and reaping the benefits, then the next. In 1915, the United States nervous about German intentions in the Caribbean region imposed its will militarily on Haiti. Contributions were made to Haitian infrastructure, but the fundamental center being the government and its exploitation remained. In addition, more reparations were required by Haiti. When the Marines left, the Duvaliers took over. Making nice-nice with the U.S. during the Cold War, the Duvaliers, father and son, were able to hold power from 1957 until 1986. Since then, the government has been unstable, until the United Nations began to work to maintain order since the early 2000s. Now, the wealth that is extracted by the Haitian government is aid wealth. The land is worn out, as it has not been cared for. There are still trade barriers between First World nations, especially the U.S. and Haiti. Now, we have the earthquake, and in a way, an opportunity to produce real change.

The challenge is to make Haiti truly productive on its own, and then have the results of that productivity go not into some official's pocket, but into the country, and into the hands of the people. I'll give you Mark Danner's last three very hopeful but realistic paragraphs:
America could start by throwing open its markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, broadening and making permanent the provisions of a promising trade bill negotiated in 2008. Such a step would not be glamorous; it would not “remake Haiti.” But it would require a lasting commitment by American farmers and manufacturers and, as the country heals, it would actually bring permanent jobs, investment and income to Haiti. Second, the United States and other donors could make a formal undertaking to ensure that the vast amounts that will soon pour into the country for reconstruction go not to foreigners but to Haitians — and not only to Haitian contractors and builders but to Haitian workers, at reasonable wages. This would put real money in the hands of many Haitians, not just a few, and begin to shift power away from both the rapacious government and the well-meaning and too often ineffectual charities that seek to circumvent it. The world’s greatest gift would be to make it possible, and necessary, for Haitians — all Haitians — to rebuild Haiti. Putting money in people’s hands will not make Haiti’s predatory state disappear. But in time, with rising incomes and a concomitant decentralization of power, it might evolve. In coming days much grander ambitions are sure to be declared, just as more scenes of disaster and disorder will transfix us, more stunning and colorful images of irresistible calamity. We will see if the present catastrophe, on a scale that dwarfs all that have come before, can do anything truly to alter the reality of Haiti.

I have known and met people from Haiti. Freed from the constant governmental hand in the pocket, Haitian people who immigrate to other countries are productive, enterprising and innovative. The culture is family oriented and community oriented. Communities with large Haitian populations, such as Miami and New York find them to be an asset. We should, as a country ignore the cries of some of our more isolationist people and industries and open up our economy to the people of Haiti. Allowing their agricultural products into the U.S., and opening up factories and other commercial enterprises would be a start. The reparations bill, if it is still around, should be torn up and forgotten. Haiti should finally be allowed to be a real country, freed from colonial exploitation of any type, including that imposed by their own government. Now is as good a time as any to create a real and lasting change in Haiti. History should be a teacher as we look to do this. How many people, especially younger people, know that Haiti was not recognized by the U.S. for sixty years? That Haiti was forced to pay money to rich first world colonial powers after its liberation--something the United States was not forced to do? It is time to treat Haiti the way it should be treated, not as an ongoing charity case or a theater of drama, but as a full fledged grown up country.

Friday, January 22, 2010

When Blogging About Current Events...

...you should always know the date. For some reason, I thought the Hickman Mills C-1 school board meeting had already taken place. It actually was last night, Thursday, January 21st. However, it changes nothing about the post. More worries were aired by parents, teachers and students about merging the two high schools at last night's meeting. The board is still retreating this weekend to make the decision. We will still be waiting for the official decision to be announced, probably sometime in February. It will be a decision that no one likes.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Asking for Input: Should I Join Facebook?

So far I have resisted Facebook. Several reasons including its accessability to people trolling for information, its known security problems, and its addictive "crackbook" nature. Sometimes though, not being able to access a Facebook page is a research problem. For example, I would have liked to view the pages of those trying to save one or the other high schools in the Hickman Mills School District. Friends from Vermont have Facebook pages that would be fun to see. The pastor of the church I currently attend has a Facebook page, and he engages in interesting dialog about theology and the Christian life. However, I guard my privacy as much as I can, first for safety and to prevent identity theft, and second, to prevent the interwebs from biting me in the butt, as they have been known to do. (See this entry from Tony on KC Confidential for an example--look at the comments for the full effect.)

So I ask, should I join Facebook? Is there a way short of joining Facebook and having your own data out there that you can get on without sharing information and be able to look at the pages? Can you work in any way on Facebook semianonymously? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

High School Decision to Come in February

400 people attended the public meeting earlier this month with regard to the potential elimination of one of the high schools in the Hickman Mills C-1 school district here in South Kansas City. I figured this idea would get a few people fired up. There are Facebook groups "Save Ruskin", "Save Hickman Mills" with about 1000 members on each per the KC Star. The decision will probably come about in February's school board meeting, on the 18th, as teacher's contracts must be offered and athletic schedules must be made. Both The Star and The Jackson County Advocate are reporting that the decision may well be made when the school board gets together this weekend to talk about it.

I am not a graduate of either Hickman Mills or Ruskin, but I do know what it is like to have your school threatened with closure. My school in Vermont has experienced the same factors, only smaller: Two town businesses shut down, and enrollment has been declining over the years. (Vermont is actually a very old state population-wise, with a median age in the top five in the US.) If my school were to close, it would hurt, but I also know that it is the right thing to do; carrying the school will burden the people with taxes and hurt the town. For my high school, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time before it is closed. Unfortunately, Hickman Mills C-1 is in the same boat as my hometown school; lower enrollment, closed businesses/decreased income. It looks like the nasty demographic and financial writing is on the wall; one school will close. Which one will close? I have to leave that to the school board; they know more about which school is functioning at a higher level, or would be easier to close, or easier to repurpose, or a thousand other factors that they have to consider. (I would be willing to bet that a few on the school board are thinking to themselves, "I did not sign up for this.") One thing I do know: one group on Facebook is going to be very disappointed after the decision is made.

The Kansas City Star article: "Feelings run deep as district mulls fates of Ruskin, Hickman Mills high schools" Read the comments on the article too. The most intriguing one? The one about marching on the central office to ask about costs. The scariest one? The one speculating that merging the school populations might result in trouble.

Very "Cool" EMS Development in Johnson County KS

The ambulance service in Johnson County, Johnson County Med-Act and its partners, are going to be on the cutting edge with using cooling therapy for patients in cardiac arrest. During the past several years, research in both prehospital and hospital environments is showing that cooling the "Code Blue" patient results in more likelihood of both a successful cardiac resuscitation and intact brain function upon recovery. Intuitively, this makes sense, as we have known for quite some time that people who have near drowning in very cold water have a longer amount of time for the possibility of successful rescue. As I said in the title, very "cool." (groan...)


(Entirely unrelated thought; Would it kill the Kansas City Star to put the videos on YouTube?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: Can You Hear Me Now?

It's Wednesday, January 20, a week and a day since the earthquake in Haiti. Amazingly, people are still being found under the rubble of buildings alive. Aid is starting to get around to the people. Looting is happening without a doubt, some born of desperation, some born of greed and power, but does not seem out of control. Things are sort of stable, sort of slogging along. As help gets out, people will get less desperate. However, everything is hard. Moving is hard, through the rubble, cars and people. Communicating is hard due to the cell towers, land lines and phone lines being down. One may think this to be small compared to the need for food, drink and shelter, but we humans are social connected creatures, and I think--no, I know--we go slightly bonkers if we cannot communicate well. Also think of all the practical aspects. For example, I have read of a Haitian nursing home that is in a neighborhood populated by rough characters. The old people, outside, are surrounded by a hoard of unsavory characters, who are not just a threat to them, but hid them, until recently, from help and goods. Thankfully, someone thought to look in on them, or maybe was drawn by a text or tweet. But the NH folks could not just pick up a phone and call someone and say, "Hi, we could use some water, food, medicine and armed police down here." Part of the problem is that the government of Haiti runs/ran the phone system, instead of having a private company, whether home grown, or a branch of Verizon/AT&T/Sprint; my guess is that a private enterprise would do a better job. I would also wager that the system would be working better now with portable towers up, and repairs in progress under a private system. I hope that the Haitian government gives permission for private phone companies to help them get the system back up and rebuilt. In the meantime, like everything else, folks improvise and make do.

Can you hear me now? Now? How about now? (in Port-au-Prince)
A person with access to electricity creates a pay charge station for cell phones in Port-au-Prince. Epically great kludge!
This working land line near a destroyed church in Leogane became an impromptu pay phone.

Photos from Time magazine gallery "Haiti's Lines of Communication"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fog Photo--And An Annoucement

The combination of temperatures, moisture, calm winds and melting snow has given Kansas City four days of thick fog formation, both day and night. At times, the fog was freezing on the ground, giving rise to some bad driving conditions. A 30 vehicle pile up occurred Friday morning on I-35 southwest of the metro with one fatality. In the metro itself, the temp has remained above freezing, keeping the roads safer and melting the snow. This photo was taken Friday night. Since then, the tarmac of this street has reappeared for the first time since December 24th.

There are frequently more photos that I would love to show off in a blog, so I decided to start a photo only blog--"F8 and Be There"--www.skcobserverphotos.blogspot.com. A link is over on the left. There will still be photos over here at what I consider the "mother site", but please head over there for more photographic goodness.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear...

Memo to both political poles--left and right:

Do not politicize the earthquake in Haiti--period.

It is not a demonstration of how much better President Obama is at disaster relief.

It is not something the democrats concocted to make President Obama look good.

It may be a demonstration of the failures of heavily centralized government, but this is not the time for that!

It not the time for any political discussion; it is time to get busy, get the hands dirty, and do what has to be done to help people who have an immediate need for life saving aid!

Are we clear on this now? Good.


And one more thing: There has been and will be mistakes, snafu's, bad judgment calls, failures to communicate and just plain Murphy's Law stuff during the course of the rescue and aid effort, because that is how it is during this type of operation--there is always something that could be better. Trust me, rescuers, medical personnel and givers of aid don't like the mistakes, are greatly annoyed by the problems, and will work hard to solve them. NONE of the problems, mistakes, snafu's etc are political; they are part of the nature of a large, complex rescue operation. So don't make them political. They are problems for the rescue agencies, the relief agencies, the military and the governments to solve, not weapons to use against the other political party.

There I feel better now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: A Way To Pray

Christian traditions differ on the use of written prayers. Some traditions have almost exclusively written prayers and rarely do clergy or people pray extemporaneously. Some are the exact opposite; prayers are rarely written and offered "as the Spirit leads" without script. Churches in the Wesleyan tradition often walk the middle way, offering both written and free prayers. The church that I have been attending of late, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection gave the congregation today some written prayers for Haiti, to use throughout the week. I thought I would share them with you on this rare Sunday blogging session:

Monday--Today I pray for those who are still searching through the rubble, seeking survivors in Haiti. Help them. O God, in their work. Give them strength and protection, I pray. Use them as instruments of help and salvation for those still buried in the debris. Loving God, hear this prayer...

Tuesday--Today I pray for the medical relief workers who are even now caring for the injured, sick and dying in Haiti. Be their strength, O Lord; use their hands to bring healing in your world. Compassionate God, hear this prayer...

Wednesday--Today I pray for those who have lost loved ones in the rubble of Haiti. Comfort and sustain them, O God, in this time of overwhelming sorrow. Bind up their broken heart. I pray especially for Haiti's children. Help them to feel your presence as a parent's hand, holding them safe. Grant all those who grieve the assurance of the resurrection. Bring your hope to Haiti. Saving Lord, hear this prayer...

Thursday--Today I pray for those who are laboring to clear away debris, to build shelters, to haul food and water. Sustain all those who are at this moment shouldering such heavy burdens, carrying heavy hearts. Merciful God, hear this prayer...

Friday--Today I pray for the leaders who are called to make decisions in the face of disaster. Give them your wisdom, O God. Guide them with your vision. Bring good from this terrible tragedy. Divine Wisdom, hear this prayer...

Saturday--Today I pray for your world, O Lord: For peace to reign in every land; for hope to spread from person to person, and nation to nation; and for love to rule in every heart. Show us how to work for your kingdom here on earth. Holy God, hear this prayer...

Sunday--Today I pray for the people of Haiti who will gather for worship today. I pray for Christian relief workers and missionaries and their families in Haiti. Bring them rest and hope on this Sabbath, Lord. Help them to feel your very presence with them. Everlasting God, hear this prayer...

This material was not copyrighted by the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, but if you want to pass it on, just give credit back to the church. Their web site is www.cor.org. Sunday's prayer was altered to make it universal to all Christian denominations working in Haiti, with the substitution of "Christian" for "United Methodist" I doubt that either Church of the Resurrection or God minds!

Earthquake in Haiti: Some Good News

There is a long, long way to go, but slowly, some good news and images are coming out of Haiti.

A young boy cradles his treasure of biscuits distributed by the UN.
A child is rescued by a Spanish rescue team. He is reunited with his mother later.
The US military passes out water.
Virgina rescuers free a woman trapped in a collapsed building for several days.
Photos from the Kansas City Star gallery of January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: People Are Generous, Obstacles Are Many

I think we in Kansas City think of Heart to Heart International as our very own charity, even though their work is national and international in scope. Founded by a Johnson County physician, Heart to Heart has worked with intensity, efficiency and well, heart on behalf of people all around the world in medical need. Since about Wednesday, the Kansas City metro and Heart to Heart International have been working to gather what is needed to help Haiti. Some links from local newsies:


A chance to get "hands on": Event to Make Care Packages. Folks will be getting together at Scion Labs at 18th and Oak from 3 pm to 6 pm on Sunday, January 18th to make Heart to Heart hygiene packs.



KPRS Hot 103 JAMS is having a radiothon fund raiser at the Blue Ridge Crossing Wal-Mart on Monday from 06-18 (6a-6p). Check the link for more info.

This report from two Haitian members of the Church of the Nazarene is short but compelling. One of the men states that it is very difficult to find food: "If we find a sweet potato or a banana we eat it." and in the simple manner of one for whom English is a second or third language, "The smell of death is a major problem now."

Let a professional address some of the issues that are keeping aid from the people thus far; Capt. Schmoe teaches us about search and rescue, and reminds us about logistics here and here.

I know it is profoundly dismaying to people that aid is not getting through. Of course, the victims of the earthquake are hurting; they are hungry and thirsty and wondering where everybody is. We, as ones who want to help, are frustrated by the lack of results of our efforts to give to those with such urgent need. However the reality is that the airport was damaged, and air and ground traffic control was nil for several days until the Haitian government gave permission for the United States to take over the whole thing. The ports will require extensive repair. All land routes from the Dominican Republic are traffic jammed. The streets of the urban areas in and around Port-au-Prince are full of obstacles--bodies, damaged buildings, people living in the spaces, damaged cars. We cannot just fly over in helicopters and drop stuff--looting, rioting and fighting, already occurring over damaged food and fuel assets in the country would be even worse. Don't listen to those who would politicize this rescue effort; with the possible exception of expecting more out of the Port-au-Prince airport than it was ready to give within the first few days after the quake, this effort was quick, smart and timely. Pray that there will be solutions and miracles as more experts get on the ground, and begin to work in earnest. Meantime, keep making plans to give. The need will be great for several months.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: The Moment It Happened

I figured that even in a country that is not terribly advanced that, somewhere, there was a camera on--a camera that eventually would end up capturing the very first moments of the temblor. Here it is from CBS via YouTube.



What would you have been thinking as you waited in your truck at the side road to turn, or were walking somewhere? Also, note the cloud of dust from the buildings across the road. My personal opinion is that earthquakes are the most terrifying of natural disasters.

Earthquake in Haiti: Links I Like

Rescuers use hand tools to get at trapped survivors in a collapsed building (AP via Kansas City Star)

The blogosphere just blew up with stuff about Haiti, more stuff than any one person could take in. Here are a number of links to posts and news that I found helpful and informative:


Firefighter/paramedic Happy Medic gives us a brief course in the mind boggling logistics involved in the rescue effort.

The Kansas City Star assembled a gallery of images from the quake zone. Prepare to be touched.

My good friend and former pastor John takes a spiritual look at the disaster.

Blog bud Ann T. has more good commentary and links here and here.

Tony of TKC assembles more Kansas City blogger reaction and KC newsy links here and here.

The Church of the Nazarene has updated its news service and has also created a slide show. The distruction shown in these photos is mind-blowing. (If the slide show's direct link doesn't result in pictures for you, please use the news service link, and then go to the slide show. It is worth the trip.)

Lord knows there is lots more: If you know of a good story, source, or bloggy commentary, pass it on in the comment section.

Peace out.

Earthquake in Haiti: How to Help


A survivor stands on the rubble of his collapsed home. (AP via the Kansas City Star)
Many ways to help the relief effort in Haiti have been started, and I would encourage everyone to take part in those efforts with a contribution, even a small one, to a reputable charity. Here is a list of three charities who handle money well, have networks in place in Haiti, and are already working now to help the people.

The American Red Cross has pledged $1 million and is prepared to take further action as local responders assess the situation. The American Red Cross has made available all of the relief supplies from its warehouse in Panama, which would provide for basic needs for approximately 5,000 families. In addition, it is deploying a disaster management specialist to Haiti, and has additional disaster specialists on standby if needed. “Our phones have been very busy from people wanting to donate,” Almitra Buzan, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City chapter of the Red Cross, told the Kansas City Star. She said people can donate using their cell phone by texting the word “Haiti” and sending it to 90999. That will trigger a $10 donation for Haiti response. People can also donate at www.redcross.org or by calling 800-REDCROSS (800-733-2767). Checks can be sent locally to the chapter at 211 W. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111.

Heart to Heart International, based in Olathe KS, regularly sends humanitarian aid to Haiti and just this week shipped $2 million worth of medicines and other supplies to the country. The organization expects to send more aid in the coming days. “Haiti is a nation of tremendous need, even before the earthquake struck,” Jon D. North, the organization’s chief executive officer told The Star. “We’re planning to send medicines and supplies that address waterborne and airborne illnesses, as well as minor injuries.” People can donate financially to Heart to Heart online at www.hearttoheart.org or by phone at 913-764-5200. The organization is also asking groups or businesses to assemble care kits made up of personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, bandages, washcloths and hand towels. ( More on these below.) Blogger comment: Heart to Heart was founded by a Christian physician, Dr. Gary Morsch, after he saw the bad shape the Russian health care system was in after the fall of the Soviet Union. Heart to Heart is very well respected, among Forbes top 200 charities, and uses 98% of every dollar donated to help people with only 2% going to administration. Please read more at their website, address above, if you are not familiar with this wonderful organization.

The Salvation Army operates schools, clinics, a hospital, feeding programs, children’s homes and church-related activities in Haiti. The organization through a spokesman said it was committing $50,000 to the relief effort and was preparing for a greater financial commitment along with providing food, water and other emergency supplies. Amanda Waters, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army in Kansas City, told the newspaper that people have been calling the local office in Kansas City wanting to help. She said trained volunteers from the Kansas City area may be asked to travel to Haiti in the coming months to assist in the relief effort, which could last for many months or even years. The organization is accepting donations for the relief effort at www.salvationarmyusa.org or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769).

Money goes a long way in these types of situations, usually farther than material donations, especially at first when moving material is a logistical nightmare. There may well be needs for specific materials to be donated in the future, but what is needed now is funds to buy from neighboring countries and in bulk in distant countries the things that people and rescuers need now. However, the urge to do something more concrete then writing a check or putting a donation on your debit/credit card is very strong (and very human!). Heart to Heart International has a way for you and your church/office/team/troop to help more concretely. They have been doing for years, and find that these donations of items for personal hygiene kits are really helpful for people in the disaster zone. Here is a link directly to the pdf file that will give you directions on how to put these kits together, and where to send them. Heart to Heart will take it from there.

Of course, if you are a person of faith, continue in your prayers for the people of Haiti and the rescuers coming to their aid. Some say prayer is the least you can do. In reality it is the most you can do, and the first thing to do, and the last thing to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti


At about 4:53 pm CST, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the country of Haiti, followed by several stiff aftershocks. The quake was centered quite close to the capitol city, Port-au-Prince. Haiti is in the Caribbean on the west side of the island of Hispanola. The country is very poor, and the infrastructure strength is questionable. There have been issues of corruption in inspecting buildings in Haiti. Most electricity and communication is down as well, so news is sporadic, plus it is after dark when the quake struck. There could be quite a loss of life in Haiti.

The Church of the Nazarene has a good number of congregations in Haiti, and their news service has a short report. They happened to be in district meetings at the time, with many of the country's Nazarene pastors gathered together. It's not a lot of information, but it's from folks with their boots on the ground.

A major earthquake measuring over 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale hit Haiti Tuesday evening at 5:53 Eastern Standard Time. The initial quake lasted about a minute, followed by strong 5.9 and 5.5 aftershocks. The epicenter of Haiti's earthquake was six miles west of Carrefour, just outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The Church of the Nazarene in Haiti has been holding district assemblies for its 11 districts this week. General Superintendent J.K. Warrick flew into Haiti Tuesday afternoon for those assemblies. Communication with personnel in Haiti has been difficult due to phone lines being down, but Warrick was able to get a text message out from the Nazarene Seminary campus in Petion-ville, outside of Port-au-Prince, to say he and other church leaders on campus are safe.

What is not known is the full extent of loss of life or property damage beyond the campus walls. Bill Dawson, French Field Strategy coordinator, Emailed the Caribbean Communications Office to say the situation "is grave and urgent."

"There are many injured all over the city," said Dawson. "Major buildings, three and four stories, are down. ... Neighbors who work for the United Nations report many injured, people carrying wounded through the streets."

Here is a link to an AP story about the quake. They report that a hospital collapsed, among the many buildings that fell down. Some witnesses reported a cloud of dust over the city from the buildings falling down. There are other news reports, but info is still quite sketchy.

If you are inclined to prayer, remember the people of Haiti. No doubt there will be calls for financial aid. Only give to churches or charities you trust, that will use your money well. There will be great need.



Here is a first hand report from someone on the ground, from Fox News.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Observer Says...Be Observant

This Ford Fiesta is on exhibit at the North American Auto Show in Detroit this week--the big show for automakers to show their latest models and concepts for the coming year.

Your observant Observer, who does not make a habit of wandering around yapping on the phone or texting, spotted this vehicle at the local Chick-Fil-A this past August. Those are manufacturer's tags from Michigan on the car; obviously someone had the privilege of driving/testing the new ride for Ford (plus PR; note web address on bumper).

It pays to pay attention to the world around you; it is frequently filled with wonders.

Note to car nuts, don't forget the Greater Kansas City International Auto Show, March 3-7, 2010 at Bartle Hall. (Link)
photo credits: top, AP. Bottom, Yours Truly

Spoiled Brat Alert: Another Follow Up

So far as I know, the woman in the McDonald's video has not been identified publicly yet. Fox 4 had this story out last week concerning her. This might explain why she scooted so quick when she found out the police department was called. So check this short story posted by Fox 4 last week (1/8/10); my apologies it is not more timely, but I swear, my brain was frozen most of last week.
.
A woman caught on video smashing up a Kansas City McDonald's may be linked to other crimes.

Surveillance video shows her on a rampage at the McDonald's at Linwood and Main. Police said she caused $3,000 in damages at the restaurant because she was unhappy with her meal.

Now police said she's also wanted for questioning in an aggravated assault and a series of burglaries in south Kansas City.

"Since that time we've gotten her identified, but she isn't in custody so if anyone knows where she is, they can give us a call, and let us know where she is," Rich Lockhart with Kansas City Police said.

If you can help police find the woman, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Love This Picture!

President Richard Nixon in China (Time/Life photo)
Maybe some people just weren't cut out to be world travelers--or at least worldly eaters!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The View From the Driver's Seat

Cell phone pic of what it looks like from the driver's seat, on 119th street, looking west, cross street is about Mission Road, in Leawood at about 1630. Fine snow is falling, and visibility is limited. No wind just yet. Temp in the teens.

Snowing Its Brains Out Again!

Not today's snow, but it looks kinda like this.
Wow, this winter has a punch to it! It started snowing pretty darn hard around here about 1230-1300 and it is going at it! A friend and I had to cancel a trip to see KU hoops. About 1/2 inch of really fine snow had fallen by 2 pm or so. The MidContinent Library, my current WiFi hot spot is closing early, so we'll have to step away from the keyboard for a bit.

The snow is forecast to fall until about 7 pm with a total of 3-4 inches or so. Then we get blasted by a cold front, with winds of 40 mph, another band of snow, and really cold temps for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Nice!

Spoiled Brat Alert: Follow Up

When you have a fit, it is best to make sure it is not being recorded on video. It is sure to end up on YouTube. The video of the Kansas City McDonald's tirade has gone national, after being picked up first by Kansas City bloggers, then by Kansas City news stations. Fox News had a little fun with it this morning. I almost feel sorry for the woman. Almost. The reason why it is just "almost" is because she had a choice about how she would act in this situation. The reason I have some empathy and sympathy for her is that on occasion I have made this bad choice of action myself. Thankfully, I did not end up on YouTube. This will be forever for her. She can be anywhere now, and someone might recognize her. She could move from KC or be on vacation far away and be recognized. This could become something that impacts a job hunt, or renting a home. So the lesson for her--and the rest of us--is: Think before you react. Take a breath. Will whatever is the concern matter in the morning? When in doubt, walk away. Your reputation is worth more then any money or any saving face or any of that stuff.

Alonzo Washington made an appeal to her. She should call him. I don't completely agree with him about the racial aspects but I do know that people will want to make race part of it. I have seen racist comments on blogs and blog comment boards. However, the behavior issue is self control, and losing self control is something that people all races are guilty of. If you are picking on her or saying this happened because she's Black, you are wrong. This could happen to anyone. Check out Alonzo's blog entry below. If you know the lady in the Mickey D's video, or by chance you are her, call him. He'll help you get a fair shake. It won't make your tantrum go away, and there will be consequences to your actions, but you get a little bit of protection from being prejudged, and get a chance to tell your story. Just one tip: don't make it out to be someone else's fault. We chose how we respond, and unless we have a mental disorder or brain damage, we have control of that choice. If you try to evade responsibility, you will be pilloried. Here is Alonzo:

KC,

Here is the perfect type of Black news story that the world wide media loves: A Black person acting a fool. I predict that this video will be all over the national press soon. Therefore, I am reaching out to the lady in this video. Please surrender to me because you are about to be famous. All the local press has covered your story and the KCMO police chief put you on his blog. Bloggers are joking on you. The crime that you are apart of is not a big beef. Beef, McDonalds. I made a funny! Anyway, you will be treated like you are a terrorist by the time this hits the world wide press. So just calm down realize that this is going to get huge. So, just pick up the phone and call me. I will help you tell your side of the story to the press before I help you surrender to the cops. I am pretty sure the clerk did something to upset you that had nothing to do with food. Do the right thing and surrender. Just call me. For others who read this blog peep this video and if you know her tell her to call me or give me a tip about her.

Peace,

Alonzo Washington
(913) 321-6764


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

History Of Emergency Medical Services

I debated posting this video for a little while as it is kind of long and "teachy", but it sent me right down memory lane, as well as addressing some here and now issues near the end. It gave me some historical perspective on something I ended up doing and loving, almost by a happenstance. So I want to share it with you.



Yes, we've visited the history of EMS before. I gave you a link to the report on accidental death and disability, and I introduced you to Freedom House. We'll link up to those posts here so you can go to them easily.

In this video there is a reference to the Hyatt Regency sky walk disaster here in Kansas City, MO. That event, in 1981, taxed the then rather haphazard EMS system of this city to the max. It was that memory that stood behind the eventual formation of the Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust, MAST. MAST, along with Johnson County Med-Act on the Kansas side, eventually provided some of the best, most cutting edge EMS in the country, with cardiac arrest save rates and response times in the top 10 of the nation. Now we are coming full circle, barring further political maneuvers, MAST will cease to exist and the EMS service will be merged into the Kansas City Fire Department.

I became involved in EMS in 1976 in Vermont. Back then, we made our own backboards, out of sturdy wood, stain/paint and finish. I was trained in CPR with some of the newest standards. We had a proper federally funded Type I ambulance. That service, which was established in 1968, still exists today, with dedicated volunteers, and provides ambulance service for at least four towns. Vermont now has state wide 911 service, and considerable effort was made to give every occupied dwelling a street or house number. Many of the towns have established FAST squads, or organized their fire department to go to scenes quickly, and provide care before the ambulance gets there. This service has provided care to two of my relatives, and I am proud to have been a part of this organization. We were part of the vanguard. While in college in PA, I worked BLS level transport ambulance, and later became a part of a volunteer unit trying to revolutionize the EMS care in our Main Line suburban township. I also was a CPR instructor. While I was there, our unit transitioned to a ALS or advanced life support unit. When I left, the service was still trying to convince the police department that we were a far better choice then the back of a paddy wagon.

Now, I am an RN, who finds the ER to be my favorite type of nursing. One of the gaps in the video, besides its lack of recognition for Freedom House, is its neglect to mention the Emergency Nurses Association. ER nurses are a special breed!

Looking at this video, and looking back, I am both amazed and gratified to have played a small part in encouraging and being involved in the development of prehospital care and treatment of the sick and injured in this country.