Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christ, our savior, is born! Peace and blessings to you all on this holy day. May we remember the true meaning of the season as we fellowship together. Much love to y'all!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Left-lane slowpokes drive you crazy?

The words 'move over' -- even if readable in the rearview mirror -- may not mean much to them, but a ticket might. Some states are cracking down.

By: Christopher Solomon

Courtesy of: MSN Money

In these days of longer commutes and simmering tempers, nothing seems to set off already-testy motorists like the left-lane camper -- the guy or gal who drives in the passing lane and bars faster drivers from easily passing. Web sites have cropped up to educate other drivers, or to vent. There's a (somewhat painful) YouTube song called "Keep Right."

Even bigwigs get frustrated. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, weary of having his limo slowed down by such left-lane pokies, ordered an aide to have the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission install signs a few years ago reading "Keep Right, Pass Left. It's the Law."

And now some states are cracking down on left-lane campers, both to keep traffic moving and to tamp down the road rage that goes from zero-to-60 faster than ever before. That's not just a pretext. Last year, a driver was arrested on Interstate 79 outside Pittsburgh after allegedly brandishing a semiautomatic pistol at a driver who was on his tail. You could get a ticket Some states didn't allow left-lane lingering but didn't enforce the law. Now they are. At the start of the summer, the Washington State Patrol began pulling people over for violating the state's left-lane law, which prohibits "impeding the flow of other traffic."

"This a real big hot-button topic for the public at large right now," says Trooper Cliff Pratt. "We've had a lot of complaints" from drivers who've had to deal with left-lane campers. So far authorities have been gentle with the $124 ticket; the drivers stopped were given verbal warnings. Last year, news outlets reported that Oklahoma was bolstering enforcement of its left-lane law as well.

"We deal with it weekly," Lt. George Brown, supervisor of public affairs for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said of left-lane drivers going too slowly. He's issued more warnings than tickets. Insurers haven't gotten aggressive yet, either, but this kind of ticket has the potential to raise rates. "Any moving violation that applies points to a driver's record could affect that driver's car insurance rates," says Susan Gallik Rouser, a spokeswoman for Progressive. "And because left-lane driving would be considered as such an infraction, we would take that into account when renewing a driver's policy."

What's the law in your state? The laws vary widely, according to John Carr, who works for a software company in the Boston area and who compiled a list of the rules in each state after taking an interest in the issue:

A few states -- for instance, Kentucky, Maine Massachusetts and New Jersey -- permit use of the left lane only for passing or turning left.

  • Georgia, Colorado and Louisiana follow the Uniform Vehicle Code, requiring drivers to keep right if they're going slower than the speed of traffic.

  • Wyoming prohibits blocking the far left lane of a highway "for a prolonged period," though it adds that the traffic should be "at a lawful rate of speed."

  • In Arkansas and South Dakota, vehicles don't have to stay right.

  • In Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio, vehicles can drive in the left lane so long as they're moving at the speed limit.

  • Florida is trying to join in: Lawmakers reintroduced a Road Rage Reduction Act this year, requiring motorists to stay out of the left lane on interstate highways except when passing. It passed the Legislature in 2005 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who questioned whether it was based on sound research.

It's no wonder drivers can be confused, and often frustrated. One of those exasperated drivers in your rearview mirror might be Eli Dozier. "That's one of my biggest pet peeves in the world, is when people stay in the left lane. They're not passing, they've got people behind them, trying to go around, and they just cruise," says Dozier, 31 and a stay-at-home dad. "It's probably the most uncourteous thing you can do," he says, adding that it's "obviously" unsafe. "I'm a fast driver," Dozier allows. "But if I'm not passing, I don't use that left lane at all."

So what's a frustrated motorist to do? Dozier heard in a chat room about some windshield decals that said "Slower Traffic," with an arrow pointing to the right-hand lane, printed backward in large letters for reading in a rearview mirror. "And so I immediately ordered one. I jumped on it." He loves the thing. "Most people, it's just inattentiveness" that keeps them in the passing lane, Dozier says. "Most people, when you pass them, they'll give you a wave. They're thankful" for the reminder.

At least, he says, women tend to be. Men sometimes take Dozier's sticker as an affront and will retaliate by slowing down, he says. There have been some middle fingers, some choice words. And then, Dozier says, "I have been known to show them how good the back of my car looks." At very close range. Which only exacerbates the situation.

Overall, though, both he and his wife are delighted with the results, he says. They recently bought her a Dodge Ram 1500 with a quad cab, and they've ordered a decal like his for it.
Pennsylvania authorities also find that reminders do work. "Anecdotally," says Carl DeFebo of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, "you do see a lot less people . . . enjoying the weather" in the passing lane since 25 signs went up on the turnpike in 2003 and 2004. It probably helps that "sometimes our police will actually enforce this," DeFebo adds, handing out warnings or tickets that add up to $108.

The creator of those stickers, J.A. Tosti, is also director and founder of Left Lane Drivers of America. "What we're seeking to do is raise awareness," he explains. A frustrating experience was a "Eureka!" moment for Tosti. "One day I was driving one of the local freeways in the area here -- we're not far from Portland (Ore.) -- and I got behind a guy who was going slow in the left lane," says Tosti. "And I got to thinking, boy, it sure would be nice if I could reach out and tap this guy on the shoulder and ask him to move over. And that's when the light bulb went off."

Tosti went home and designed a see-through decal for windshields that says "REVO EVOM." Seen in a rearview mirror, it reads "MOVE OVER."

"It's been a labor of love," says Tosti, who didn't disclose how many $29 stickers he's sold. He would like to sell more to law-enforcement agencies. Tosti said aggression only aggravates other drivers. For him, response to the decal on his car has always been positive and pleasant -- in large part because he is a patient, nontailgating driver. "It's amazing how effective it is," he says. "On one trip from Portland to Seattle, I felt at times like I was sweeping the left lane with a broom."

A faster, more courteous -- and well-swept -- highway? Sounds like something most folks could live with. Defending the driving But not everyone agrees with those who tell them to get out of the way. "The left lane is for passing . . . not a license to speed till you kill someone," wrote a contributor to Motor Trend's blog. "Grow up. If I'm in the left lane doing 65 while the speed limit's 80, I'll move over. But if I'm doing the speed limit, and someone decides he's Mario Andretti . . . he/she can go around me and break the law further up the highway."

Washington state law says, "It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic." "I think there is some misunderstanding," Pratt says. "A lot of people think that if they're going at or near the speed limit that they don't have to get out of the lane." And the left-lane driving debate goes on.

The Advent Conspiracy

This year, Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the season of holiday spending—was especially dark. Early that day, a crowd of bargain hunters trampled an employee to death as they rushed into a New York Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. Three others, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, also suffered from minor injuries. As reports about the incident continued to surface throughout the day, many were asking, "Is this what Christmas has become?"

If the more than 800 churches worldwide who are participating in Advent Conspiracy are to be believed, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Advent Conspiracy is a movement that started in 2006 as a way to reclaim the Christmas season. "There's been a significant drift from the worship of Jesus," says Greg Holder, the pastor of Windsor Crossing in St. Louis, Mo., and one of the creators of Advent Conspiracy. "We've seen anxiety and frustration consume entire communities as people start believing the lie that celebrating Christmas is about hyper consumerism."

Holder, along with Chris Seay, the pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, Texas and Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, Ore., launched Advent Conspiracy as a way to lead their congregations into meaningful worship during Christmastime. They put the focus squarely on worship and service instead of gifts and established four guiding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.

If the principles "spend less" and "give more" seem contradictory, that's because U.S. culture's understanding of giving is a little off. Consumerism allows people to create the illusion of giving without having to sacrifice anything personal. The three pastors encouraged their congregations to forgo much of their gift buying and spending on commercial items, and instead to give gifts of presence, creativity and time.

It isn't that most gifts are wrong, just misguided. "We're not Scrooges," Holder says. "We're not against gifts. We want people to pull back on giving meaningless gifts."

The money that would’ve been spent on presents was pooled and used to provide clean water for communities in third world countries. According to Jeanne McKinley, Rick McKinley's wife and the director of Advent Conspiracy at Imago Dei, the decision to connect Advent Conspiracy with water was deliberate, contrasting the desperate need for water in many places to the comfortable lifestyles of those in the U.S. "Water is a starting point. It's the most basic need that all of us have," she says. "If we meet that need then we can go forward in relationship with the people receiving clean water."

The first year, five churches participated; by the second year, it spread to include not only hundreds of churches but also high schools, college groups and businesses. Holder considers Advent Conspiracy a common ground where people from all corners of the Christian tradition can meet. "This is a way for the body of Christ to unite,” he says. “It's not just one type of church jumping on board with this. Young, old, liturgical, contemporary, non-denominational, mainline—they're all in. We spend a lot of time talking about our differences, but this is a chance to remind ourselves we are the body of Christ."

One such church, Jacob's Well in Kansas City, Mo., decided to join in 2007. The pastor at Jacob’s Well, Tim Keel, liked that it was a practical extension of the concepts in the book of James, which his congregation studied that fall.

Keel knew his congregation would be willing participants in Advent Conspiracy, but he wasn't prepared for how enthusiastic their response would truly be. As children grasped the core concepts of Advent Conspiracy they asked for money to give to the water collection instead of gifts. Families attended gift-making workshops to learn how to make unique presents for one another. Artists from the Jacob's Well community donated their talents and time to make the season creatively stimulating and truly worshipful.

"I was thinking we'd dig one well," Keel says. "When we had the money to dig four, it was significant. I was surprised by how people took ownership of it, not just as something they were doing in our church, but inviting other people from their lives to participate as well."

As more churches and groups continue to climb on board, Advent Conspiracy will remain decentralized, acting not as an organization but as a resource. It isn't the desire of Advent Conspiracy to dictate how people are celebrating Christmas and donating their money, but to enable congregations to encourage and support each other as they recover the advent season.
"Ultimately, it would be amazing for the Church to stand together and see the water crisis solved because that's how we wanted to spend our Christmas," Jeanne McKinley says. "But for us, the Jesus component is the most important part. Beyond the giving and spending less, more than anything, we want people to engage in worship more fully at Christmas."

Author: Shanna Dipaolo
Courtesy of: Relevant Magazine

Friday, December 05, 2008

He Still Opens Doors

My very good friend, Rachel, sent me this because (as she says), "Joel says it better than me."

Lately I've been feeling more and more frustrated with my mortgage mess and current life situation. I continue to feel like when things don't go as I'd like them that God doesn't care about me anymore when I know deep down that I truly must rely fully on Him and stop trying to control my life as if it is mine to control. Although I know that everything works out according to His plan, it is hard for me to maintain patience and understanding that it will be alright. This scripture couldn't have come at a better time.

Courtesy of Joel Osteen:

Today's Scripture -
“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close” (Revelation 3:8, NLT).

God is ready to present you with new opportunities. He wants to open new doors before you. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in the world around you, in the economy, the housing industry, or with job reports; God’s Word still remains true. He rewards the people who seek after Him. He’s not the least bit concerned about how He’s going to supply your needs. There is no recession in heaven. He has His eye on you, and He still opens doors that no one can shut! In an instant, He can bring the right people into your life, the right opportunities, and the right resources to take you to a new level.

But in order to go to a higher level, you have to have a higher way of thinking. You can’t stay focused on what’s happening in the natural nor allow worry and fear to fill your thoughts. Remember, God’s ways are higher than our ways. He is working on your behalf behind the scenes in the supernatural realm. Choose to keep an attitude of faith and expectancy. As you do, you’ll move forward through the open doors of blessing God has prepared for you.

A Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, I bless Your holy name. Thank You for opening doors for me that no one can close. Fill me with Your peace and joy today as I wait on You. In Jesus’ Name Amen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World AIDS Day

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine:

The global HIV/AIDS pandemic rarely leaves much room for optimism. A brief look at the numbers is staggering, and even daunting. There are currently 33 million people worldwide living with HIV or AIDS, most of them in developing countries. Of that 33 million, 2 million are children under the age of 15. Last year, there were 2.7 million new cases of HIV. Another 2 million people died from the virus in 2007. In the United States alone, there were 56,000 new cases of HIV last year.

With a problem as massive as HIV/AIDS, it’s easy to become shocked into a state of inaction. The issue seems too difficult to handle, and not knowing where to start, we don’t start at all. Today, however, is a day to take action. It is a day to remember those directly affected by this pandemic. December 1 is international World AIDS Day. The purpose of World AIDS Day is to bring public awareness to the spread of the disease throughout the world. Moreover, it’s about respect and solidarity for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS. Across the globe today, governments are showing solidarity for those living with the virus. President Bush announced today that the U.S. met its 2008 goal of providing treatment for 2 million people by the end of the year. In China, a country where discrimination against those living with the disease can be common, President Hu Jintao visited AIDS and HIV patients to show the country’s support for those living with the disease. In South Africa, the country most afflicted with the disease, a moment of silence was observed for AIDS sufferers, and the country celebrated new strategies in their fight against the virus.

2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. In the past 20 years, much has been accomplished in the global fight against AIDS. New medications have allowed people to lead significantly longer (or even normal) life spans. The U.S. has tripled its commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa with the president pledging billion to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Great advances have been made in prevention education in developing nations. There is indeed reason for optimism. However, with the problem of AIDS growing globally, there is still much work to be done.

The time to get involved in the fight against AIDS and HIV is now. As the Church, it is a moral imperative that we show love and compassion to those living with AIDS. HIV and AIDS are often branded with a severe social stigma. People living with the disease are practically deemed untouchable. It is especially important, then, that Christians show the mercy and compassion to reject these stigmas. In the time of Christ, those stricken with leprosy carried this kind of stigma. As ceremonially unclean people, they were shunned from the community. Yet Jesus spent time with those who others would have seen as outcasts. He did this not out of pity, but out of love.

In addition to showing empathy, it is also incumbent upon us to offer practical help to people stricken with AIDS. One way we can do this is by becoming involved with World AIDS Day. The World AIDS Campaign , who coordinates World AIDS Day, offers opportunities to join the global fight against AIDS. One such avenue is the Leadership Pledge. This downloadable document serves as a petition to urge world governments to live up to their promises in battling the AIDS pandemic. Also, the pledge sheets are used in exhibitions during WAC events to raise public awareness about the global crisis. The WAC also provides people with tools to start their own local campaigns against AIDS. By providing position papers and marketing materials, grassroots organizations can be armed with the knowledge and practical resources they need to fight AIDS and HIV on a community level. This means individual churches can form their own viable AIDS ministries. This year, as we reflect on those around the world suffering with AIDS and HIV, take action. Consider utilizing the tools provided by the WAC to begin an AIDS outreach in your own community.

AIDS and HIV are indeed a daunting and overwhelming issue, but the battle is not hopeless. As long as governments continue to fund research, medications and prevention education, we can see the spread of AIDS halted. But in order to ensure that global governments follow through on their commitments to fight the pandemic, it will take a public willing to hold them accountable. It will take a church that does not stand by in apathy. It will take individuals willing to love those who have been deemed outcasts by society. Most of all, it will take a steadfast commitment. We as individuals must no longer tolerate the stranglehold AIDS and HIV have on the globe. Let this World AIDS Day be more than a reminder that causes empathy. Let it spur action.

Author: Sam Hamilton