Saturday, November 27, 2004

Mind Over Matter

An early snow, followed by rain and more snow, left a thick crust on the windshield of my 1989 Mitsubishi Mirage. But it's not winter, and I refuse to give in to whims of weather and pull out the old ice scraper. Instead, I turned the heat on full and drove (slowly) for almost 10 blocks while peering over the dash and waiting for my wipers to thaw. I took the back streets, crawled along in first gear, and eventually, I won.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Tragic Death

Two years ago, a 15-year-old girl committed suicide. I went to her funeral. The Friday before, she was in my sophomore English class. I couldn’t even remember what she looked like. I asked God, “Where were you?” and he answered, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

The following Monday, I planned to speak about God’s salvation to a group of kids, many of them classmates and friends of this girl. A man invited me to the front. I wasn’t ready, but God put words in my mouth. I spoke of mistakes, destructive choices. I spoke of wrong decisions that can’t be erased, decisions that kill. I spoke of a 15-year-old girl who took her own life because she didn’t want God to have it.

I sat down, embarrassed for having said so much. Another leader prayed. We broke for snacks. A boy approached me to talk about what I’d said. We talked a long time. I looked around the room. The other five leaders were having conversations similar to mine with kids who wanted to know more of God. Usually they just wanted snacks. This night was different.

Read the full article (click link and scroll down to page 4).

Local Readers Approve

My daily Bits & Pieces column has been running in the Idaho Press-Tribune for just over a month, and here's a comment written in a letter to the editor from one local reader: Eric Muhr's Bits and Pieces is definitely the best contender for the daily Trivia spot.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Culture Inspection

The holidays are the best time of year to inspect a culture. Throw strangers together with bright lights, loud music, and jam-packed parking lots. Add a dash of cold weather, gift lists, and high expectations. Most likely you'll find consumption is king. Here in America, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are commercial enterprises, but we seem to be slipping further and further away from the very ideas of happiness and satisfaction. No matter our effort, they remain out of reach.

A friend and his mother physically fought their way into a store for the Day after Thanksgiving Sale. He wanted to go early, but his mom said they could show up just before the store opened and cut in line. He confided his nervousness at breaking unspoken social rules, but his mom assured him she gets away with it every year. My friend said when they arrived he was surprised at the vile words coming from "grandmotherly types" when they perceived his mother's dishonest intentions. Many had been waiting for hours. Between chants of "Don't let her in!" the women interspersed four-letter words describing her forebears with comments on her weight, grooming, and probable profession.

Visiting another friend's house, I marveled at the Christmas light display, silently calculating the money, time, and sheer effort involved. He proudly paraded me around his home, showing off the multiple extension cords and electrical outlets required to avoid overloading the system. Inside, his wife had covered almost every surface with red and white candles, miniatures, poinsettias, needlepoint holly leaves, and Santa and Mrs. Claus salt and pepper shakers.

It is all too easy to dismiss such stories. We console ourselves with the idea that the real problem is over-consumption. We are exactly right, and we are guilty as charged.

Read the full article.

Monday, November 08, 2004

It's Academic

Andrew Yankey is on track to graduate with honors this spring from Nampa High School.

If everything goes according to plan, at least one of those honors could mean hefty college scholarships.

Nampa High School Building administrator Byron Holtry said that's because Yankey, a straight-A student, earned high test scores that put him in the running for recognition as a National Merit Scholar.

Yankey said the secret to his academic success has been to take the most difficult courses available.

"These are my favorite classes because they're challenging," he said, adding that in some classes, his view is that an "A" grade can be a relatively low standard. "You have to independently want to learn."

Read the full article.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bovine Business

It's easy to lose money.

That's what Tyson Nielsen learned when he started up his own cattle operation. The 14-year-old Marsing student secured a loan from the Farm Service Agency, purchased black Angus calves and went to work, developing his herd.

But tragedy struck in his second year when he lost two cows and a calf.

"It was a $3,000 loss," Nielsen said. "It felt awful."

The honor roll student -- now 17 and a senior in high school -- dug into his savings to make the loan payment and kept working.

The effort paid off. Last year, Nielsen made $2,000 after expenses, selling off some of his calves. But he said the real benefits of having his own business can be seen in his level of commitment.

Read the full article.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Real Life

Why didn't Jesus teach Sunday School or set up a non-profit healing ministry when he had the chance? What about cushioned pews and sanctuary-expansion projects? And where was Jesus when it came time to set an eternal foundation for the Church by writing out a set of focused doctrinal statements?

I'll tell you where Jesus was. He was asleep on a boat. He was having his feet washed by a woman's tears. He was stopping to heal a blind man on the side of the road and feasting with sinners. He was taking his own sweet time, making the trip to Bethany (where Lazarus lay sick and dying, dead). He was standing on shore, inquiring about the fish.

Jesus lived.

Read the full article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Science vs. Faith

For thousands of years, the Church has insisted that it has the answers. Those who question are labeled heretics.

But do you still believe that the earth is at the center of the universe?

Aristotle came up with the teaching, but it was the Church that adopted the idea and backed it up with scripture.

"He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." - Psalm 104:5

So what happens when science comes along with a new idea? What if the earth isn't the center at all? What if it's the sun?

Martin Luther called Copernicus a fool for suggesting a heliocentric solar system. After all, Luther said, "Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth."

Then, when Galileo insisted that Copernicus really did have the right idea, the church put him on trial — twice — and condemned him to a lifetime of house arrest.

Read the full article.

Just War?

Militants attacked a convoy of mini-buses and killed 49 soldiers in Iraq, according to weekend news reports. If it hadn’t been for the number of dead, we might not have noticed. The daily count of killed and wounded no longer shocks us. It is a common story.

It seemed to start off simply enough, this intervention. And there were plenty of reasons for doing what had to be done: an evil dictator, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, regional instability.

But all those excuses, boiled down, equal only this: Oil from the Middle East powers our free market economy, and Iraq sits on the world’s second-largest known supply. Saddam Hussein’s resistance of the western world threatened our financial security. His rumored weapons programs and ties to terrorist groups gave us all the evidence we needed to justify a pre-emptive strike.

Where has the Church been? Some believers have opposed the war. Others have stood on their Sunday soap-boxes and preached the righteousness of violence on behalf of the oppressed.

But violence can never defeat violence. And Christians who support the idea of a "just war" may not be serving the same God that Jesus called his Father.

Read the full article.

Missing the Point

In church one day, I found myself dreaming, looking through the window at a field of cheat grass and Hawthorne trees. A fence separated the field from church property.

On one side (our side): a clean, strong-standing building, asphalt lot, cement curbing, sculpted shrubs, flowering trees. It's our idea of cleanliness, right-living.

On the other side lies 10 acres of "open country" in the middle of the city: a Catalpa, wild apple, stand of Hawthornes. Birds hide their nests beneath the blackberry brambles along the banks of the canal. Blades of grass wave in the late summer breeze.

There's something else across the fence: children.

We talk so much about being a light in our communities, making a difference. But I fear we've missed the point.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Sex Sells


On the surface, it seems American culture is obsessed with sex, but the kind that sells is more about separation than intimacy.

"It represents the lowest level of human engagement," writes John Walsh. "It emphasizes the mechanical, athletic side of attraction and downgrades, or makes redundant, the emotional, tender, quirkily personal territory of relationship that makes us most vulnerably human."

And the results are in: Psychologists say loneliness is the most common problem they deal with in the United States. Depression runs a close second.

We are a people in need of connection, but we live in a land satiated with the symbols of relationship while almost utterly devoid of its reality.

Read the full article.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Realistic Expectations

T.J. Myers says his peers expect him to accomplish great things.

Myers is president of the National Honor Society, president of the chess club, captain of a competitive quiz team and a recognized artist with a backlog of orders for his scroll saw woodcuts. But the Homedale High School senior said he's not interested in taking on the world or becoming famous.

"All I really want to do is go to college, get a job and help people," Myers said.

Myers works a few hours each week, tutoring students for the Boise State University Educational Talent Search program.

"I have this skill with academics," Myers said, explaining why he decided to work with other students. "I should put it to good use and help people."

Read the full article.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What Really Matters?

I write a weekly feature for the local paper: Kids You Should Know. These are students who excel in sports, get good grades, head up community service projects, win awards.

They're good kids.

Something's started bothering me, however, about my weekly interviews. It seems they're all the same. Every star student wants to make a difference, to be remembered. And every single one is following the same path — get organized, stay focused, work hard.

These aren't bad things, but they aren't good things either. They're neutral. How is a person to know if he's focused on what really matters, striving toward a worthy goal?

Read the full article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Stealing Time

Today, I took time to wash the dishes. Took my own sweet time — stole it back from the concerns of a busy schedule. It was a moment of conscious rebellion.

Too often, I consider myself a slave to the duties of work and ministry, forgetting that every moment is a gift from God. And the greatest part of this gift? God gives me complete control, free will. So today, I lived like a king. Took charge.

I ran the water, hot.

Watched as suds spilled over bowl and spoon and glass.

Listened to the tune of muffled chinks and clinks. Glass bumped bowl and spoon tapped glass in a clumsy, underwater dance.

Read the full article.


What is God?

A fire-tailed comet, coursing through the skies above, breathing fire and rock, looking down on us from his throne among the stars?

A sudden storm, scorching the earth with jagged beams, splitting tree, crushing stone, laughing a thunderous guffaw as he dips beyond the horizon?

Read the full article.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Terrible Storm

A kind of terror has struck the community in which I live. A recent spate of violence has neighbors on edge, people hiding in their homes and praying for the storm to pass.

Almost 1,000 students were evacuated from a local school as police stood their ground against an armed man, holed up across the street.

Another man, Sigmund Goode, 21, was shot and killed in broad daylight by a gunman in a moving vehicle.

A passing car pulled up to another vehicle in a busy intersection. Gunfire from the passing car hit the 18-year-old occupant of the stopped vehicle in the face.

Read the full article.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Science of Prayer

My life is immersed in busyness. I claim a way of living steeped in God's loving presence, but my activity proves me wrong. Take prayer, for instance. I know its importance. I've studied Jesus' teaching on the subject. But I forget. I am distracted.

Last night, I came across a series of studies on prayer, and I was reminded again of its effectiveness and my need.

In a 2001 study of women undergoing in vitro fertilization and embryo transfers, the test group (those women being prayed for) had twice as many successful pregnancies as those women in the control group.

A 1998 study on the effectiveness of "distance healing" found that AIDS patients receiving prayer had fewer and shorter hospitalizations than those not being prayed for.

In a 1988 study of 400 patients in the San Francisco General Hospital cardiac care unit, those who were assigned prayer had fewer cardiac arrests, needed artifical respiration less often, and suffered from pneumonia at 1/4 the incident rate of those not receiving prayer.

God is real, and he listens. This is good news.

Read more like this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Student Leader

At Caldwell High School, the title "student leader" is often followed by the name Danielle Taylor.

That's because Taylor, 17, is captain of the volleyball team, captain of the dance team and chair of the Caldwell Mayor's Youth Advisory Council.

Counselor Anita Wilson described Taylor as the kind of student who does everything and does it well.

Taylor said she's just trying to make the most of her senior year and make a difference in her community.

"When I leave (high school), I want to be proud of who I am," Taylor said. "I want people to know they can depend on me. I want them to think that I set a good example and that I was responsible."

Read the full article.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Atypical Athlete

Carlos Rendon is no typical high school athlete.

But the Skyview High School cross country runner said typical isn't what matters. Instead, his focus is on having fun and getting better.

Rendon, who has cerebral palsy, said it took him almost half an hour in seventh grade to run an entire mile. In the last five years, he's cut that time down to just over 12 minutes, and he plans to keep improving.

"It doesn't really matter if you win or lose," Rendon said, adding that he doesn't compare himself to other kids. "It's about how you feel about yourself at the end of the race."

Read the full article.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Success Story

Sonya Ramirez is no stranger to success.

The Wilder High School honor roll student earned a trip to the basketball camp of her choice several years ago through the Tiger Woods Foundation Start Something program. And she was selected this summer to study medical careers in the nation's capital.

She also has served on student council and is working with students in Parma to bring a Leo Club -- sponsored by the International Association of Lions Clubs -- to her own school.

But Ramirez, a junior, said there's no magic key to good grades and opportunities for leadership. It's all about organization and hard work.

"I go to night school right after school, so I can get ahead," Ramirez said. "I get home about 6:30 and do my homework. You think of a person who's always studying, and that's not who I am. I just know how to utilize my time."

Read the full article.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Dog Hater

I hate dogs. I have always hated dogs. The worst kind are farm dogs. No chain or rope or leash. They roam free. As a small child, I was often knocked over by large, friendly, farm dogs. I remember hiding in the Bayberry bushes at Grandma's house. I'd spotted the Irish Setter crossing a nearby field, and I panicked. I couldn't make it back to the house, so I wedged myself into the stiff, scratchy cover. The dog sniffed me out, curse him. He licked my face. I almost cried.

There was the Dalmatian puppy my dad brought home when I was five. She liked to bite ankles. Dad wanted to name her Candy because of her sweet disposition. The irony. I prayed she would die. A few weeks later, God answered my prayer. That last afternoon as Candy suffered in our back yard, barely able to move, I petted her soft, soft ears. Sick dogs aren't so mean, I thought. I was almost sorry when she died.

My dad was always bringing home dogs. Rusty was a Cocker Spaniel with long, matted hair. Copper was a terrier or rat of some kind. We never really discovered which. They killed my pet rabbit and taught me about worms (little, white, wriggling masses in their fecies). I checked my own bowel movements religiously for a year to make sure I hadn't somehow contracted the parasite. Even now, 20 years later, I sometimes check (just in case). They were found dead on the highway with some cheap floozie of a German Shepherd, victims of a very lucky driver (three in one).

For my 13th birthday, Dad brought home a Doberman. We got along ok. She was quiet and well trained. On long walks, neighbor dogs atacked her instead of me. There were others: Shadow, who had a fresh litter every six or seven months; Bear, who attacked a friend in defense of my brother. (Along with the friendship, Bear also destroyed every Nintendo game controller in the hosue. He was put down by the vet before his first birthday.) Chewie wore a plastic dish on his neck and spit out pills for his skin problem. Louis liked our house better than his own. I carried him home (half-mile walk) at least once every other week or so. The Unnamed Puppy was run down by my schoolbus driver (along with two of our cats).

As I'm writing, the dog across the street is yelping. Her bark of welcome sounds more like a response to physical abuse, like the sound a dog makes when hit by a car or a heavy, blunt object. (Don't ask. I just know.)

I'm grown up now and have no dog of my own. Instead, I have certain understandings with dogs I know. Bingo is one of the less intellectual of my new friends. I watch him when the folks are out of town. He celebrates my visits with barking leaps and slobbery whines. I hate slobber. I get impatient and leave the room. Five minutes later, I return. Bingo, pleasantly surprised by my appearance, greets me with leaping barks and whiny slobber. I leave the room. When I return, five minutes later, Bingo goes through the whole act again as if I have been gone for years rather than minutes. We sometimes play this game (so much like Peek-a-Boo) for hours, or at least until Bingo is too exhausted to continue.

Mattie is an old, fat Dalmatian who tolerates my presence. She likes to bark. At her house, I never ring the doorbell. Instead, I lightly tap at the door. She barks in frenzied fashion. As she gains confidence that the house is secure, I tap again. We once tapped and barked to each other for 47 minutes. (Like the boy who cried, "Wolf!" Mattie's barks often go ignored.) She has amazing stamina.

Sometimes, I feel guilty. I wonder: If dogs are man's best friend, is it fair for me (a man) to hate them so? Is it just? Could I unwittingly nullify the prehistoric friendship contract? Then I remember something I saw on PBS and breathe a sigh of relief. In some countries, they eat dogs.

Printer Power

If you buy a Hewlett-Packard printer, and it installs flawlessly, there may be a high school student in Melba who deserves part of the praise.

Charlie Randall, 16, worked on the HP Warranty Incident Reduction team this summer. He focused on problems that could come up during installation of a new printer.

"First, what I had to do was understand the printer," Randall said, explaining that he worked to identify possible problems and recommend solutions to the rest of the team. "My whole goal was trying to save the company money."

Randall was one of about 40 high school and college students who were paid to complete summer internships at the high-tech company's Boise campus. Randall said the experience convinced him that he had discovered his life's calling.

Read the full article.

Monday, September 13, 2004

No Gold Cords

Nicholas Reyes decided in third grade that he would wear gold honor cords at his high school graduation.

But now -- more than eight years later -- the Parma High School honor roll student might not be able to attend the ceremony. He might not even be in the country.

Reyes is one of only 50 U.S. students chosen to take part in the United World College's international baccalaureate program along with young scholars from at least 80 other countries. He leaves today for Wales, where he will spend the next two years at Atlantic College.

Read the full article.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Power of the Youth Ministry Volunteer

I was miserable as a youth pastor. I hated my job, resented my boss, and feared the board, so I got out. But four years later, I'm still at the same church working with the same kids. I couldn't leave, so I changed my role. Now I'm a volunteer, and I discovered something I wish I'd known from the start. Power in the church is something you give, not something you take.

I was young, and this youth pastor position was my first real job. I had vision. I had ideas. I had energy. I had almost entirely no help—my first mistake. I set out to change the world one kid at a time, unaware of the many problems associated with going it alone.

I visited local schools, spent time hanging out at the BMX park, and called every single kid who had visited the church in the last few years. And the program started popping. We went from 10 kids to 100 in those first three years. Meanwhile, the base of steady volunteers grew from one to three. I was already in trouble, but I didn't know it.

Read the complete article here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

By the Numbers: Reflections on War

Numbers crowd 'round, dip their serif tips in national debate, quantify civilian deaths in far-off lands. Scoreboard statistics soften blows, protect our moral rage. Figures are our friends. False friends, they numb us. They cannot tell the story of destruction we have caused. They only count the dead.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Skeletal Research

NAMPA -- A Skyview High School graduate plans to make his mark on the ocean's coral reefs.

Michael Holcomb, 23, is pursuing a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he wants to improve human understanding of how corals build their skeletons. But Holcomb said his interest in the world's oceans started with exploration of Idaho's mountains.

"Trips to the mountains and my fascination with rocks probably first kindled an interest in science," Holcomb said. "My later involvement in the marine aquarium hobby and with the Geothermal Aquaculture Research Foundation in Boise focused my interest in coral."

Scientists estimate that coral reefs support more than 25 percent of all known marine species, but the corals responsible for the intricate, undersea structures are especially sensitive to environmental change. Holcomb said he wants to study how "human-induced changes in the environment" will impact corals.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


NAMPA -- Monica Martin is on a mission.

The Liberty Charter School student said she wants to help change the perception many people have of today's youth.

"We're not here to destroy the world," Martin said. "We're here to make it better."

The recently elected Division 9 lieutenant governor for the Key Club's Utah-Idaho District said community service makes a powerful statement.

Last year, the local club raised money for schools in Kenya, collected clothes for a women's shelter, hosted a breakfast for veterans and put on a music education program for the Nampa Boys & Girls Club, among other projects.

Read the full article.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Political Mind

CALDWELL -- A Caldwell High School student hopes to some day work as a political lobbyist.

But for now, the 17-year-old junior has decided he will settle for the U.S. Senate.

A committee of American Legionnaires selected Nick Schossow to represent Idaho this month at the American Legion Boys Nation in Arlington, Va.

Schossow, one of 96 high school representatives from across the country, will play the role of a senator in the educational experience.

"We have to write a bill to go," Schossow said. "I'm going to write mine on lifting the embargo on Cuba."

Read the full article.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Computer Whiz

KUNA -- Ernest Dunlap figures that he spends at least five hours a day on the computer.

So when the Kuna High School student heard that a Nampa senior community needed a volunteer to teach computer classes, it seemed a natural fit.

Dunlap led one-on-one tutorials with residents of the Maryland Village Apartments for almost two months, demonstrating how to access e-mail or search for information on the Internet.

"It was fun to go over there," Dunlap said. "Some of them wanted to find their prescription drug shipments. Some of them wanted to look up old bands. Most of them wanted to e-mail their kids and grandkids."

Read the full article.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Cemetery Switch

CALDWELL -- Joe and Dolores Harper didn't want their daughters to worry.

The Nampa couple, whose children live out of state, made their own funeral arrangements more than five years ago, purchasing a crypt at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.

But a recent decision by the cemetery means the Harpers will have to start over. And they're not alone.

More than 30 local families recently discovered that crypts they purchased at the local cemetery won't be built.

Each family paid thousands of dollars for prime locations in a proposed mausoleum at Hillcrest. Some selected their spots more than five years ago, and several are still making monthly payments.

In at least one case, a loved one who died has been waiting in a temporary crypt for three years.

But a letter from Manager Doug Reinke dated June 25 said the families will have to find a different location for their loved ones.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Mariachi Man

CALDWELL -- A Caldwell student is one of the state's top high school viola players.

But Henry Olvera didn't choose the stringed instrument, and he's never taken lessons. Caldwell orchestra teacher Gini Rosandick needed a viola for the high school orchestra, so Olvera agreed to play.

"I handed it to him the first day of school," Rosandick said. "It was sink or swim. He swam."
Olvera first started on the violin in fifth grade, and Rosandick said he was one of her beginner students that year. But Olvera wasn't just any student. He had a gift.

"He has a fantastic ear," Rosandick said. "He hears things in a way that is different from most people."

Read the full article.

Slavery Quilt

KUNA -- A Kuna teen's project may benefit a local museum.

Bryanna Reimers told the story of American slavery with a quilt. Now she wants to donate the piece to the Idaho Black History Museum.

The quilt -- completed two years ago -- traces the history of slavery in America.

Reimers said she found pictures depicting different aspects of slavery, from slave ships to punishment and the underground railroad. She printed the pictures "backwards" onto iron-on transfers, which she used for squares on the quilt.

Maxine Robertson, Reimers' grandmother, said making a quilt was a particularly appropriate way to tell the story of slavery.

"They used quilts on the underground railroad," Robertson said. "A quilt hanging on the fence or on the clothesline told (escaped) slaves if it was safe and which way to go. It was the pattern in the quilt."

Read the full article.

Good for a Girl

NAMPA -- When it comes to playing baseball, Cassie Thompson isn't just good "for a girl."

The only female player in Nampa's Babe Ruth baseball league prep division excels in the traditionally boys-only sport. This season she was hitting .321, 13 games into the season and had an on-base percentage of .457.

Coach Curt Sukeena said the South Middle School student is just plain good.

"Cassie is an outstanding player," Sukeena said. "She is our starting second baseman, and is -- in my opinion -- the best second baseman in the league. She rarely makes an error and has started at least four double plays."

Read the full article.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Medical Scholar

NAMPA -- Leticia Aguila still has another year of classes at Nampa High School before graduation. But she's almost done with her first year of college.

The Nampa junior has earned 27 credit hours by choosing high school courses that offer concurrent college credits.

"I'm trying to get my first year of college out of the way," Aguila said, adding that she would like to earn a Spanish minor in college, which could tack on extra time to her degree.

Aguila characterizes herself a procrastinator, but when it comes to planning for the future, this local student started early. The 16-year-old said she decided a few years ago that she was interested in pursuing a medical career, adding that the field offers job security.

"People are always going to be hurt or sick," she said, "and I want to help."

Read the full article.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sacred Rhythms

The world never stops. Its citizens scurry from home to work and back with barely time to breathe in a frenetic freeway rush of activity. Climbing the corporate ladder requires extra hours, so even sleep is sacrificed to the gods of success. Those removed from the work-a-day world whirl through meetings and projects of clubs and causes. Or they focus their time on leisure activity, the great oxymoron of modern society.

Activity is addictive. And like any addiction, there are consequences. The symptoms of life’s staccato speed are universal: headaches, depression, loneliness, irritation, shallow relationships, mountains of debt in the frenzied pursuit of bigger and better. What will it take to regain perspective, return to sensible living? Where does rapid-fire, war-torn living end?

Read the full article.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Surprised by the Moon

A plane in the sky sighs as it passes from sight, just beyond the treetops. A cricket chorus sings the setting of the sun. We stand in the driveway, kicking rocks and waiting for the moon. But twilight takes its time on a warm spring night. Colors fade until, surprised, we spot the stark white crescent silently hanging above us in the dark.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Photo Finish

NAMPA — A Skyview High School student will represent Idaho this summer in a national competition for commercial photography.

Kyle Levinger, a junior, won the chance to head to nationals with a first-place finish at state.

But his teacher, Sue Lindsay, said the state win was unexpected because of Levinger's age, adding that the prize usually goes to seniors.

"I was a little surprised," Lindsay said, "but not really. Kyle has a special gift."

Read the full article.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Single-party System

NAMPA -- The end of the Republican primary leaves Canyon County voters with few choices in November.

In a state that consistently votes Republican, only a fraction of local races will be opposed in the Nov. 2 election.

But Jasper LiCalzi, chair of the Politics and Economics Department at Albertson College, explained that Idaho's de facto, one-party system doesn't eliminate voters' ability to choose.

A county Democratic Party official added that the shortage of opposition candidates is no indication of weakness in quality. Chuck Evans, county chairman for the Democratic Central Committee, said each of the party's three candidates in local races are strong enough to win.

Read the full article.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Condor Queen

NAMPA — A girl in Idaho came up with a plan to save the California Condor.

Sara Riggins, a 7th grade student at Nampa Christian School, said lead shot in dead animals as well as poisoned meat set out for other predators killed many of the now-endangered birds.

She said state governors should prohibit the use of lead shot in bullet manufacturing.

Riggins chose to study the condor after hearing about an essay contest on television. She did Internet research and visited the World Center for Birds of Prey. The Boise center has 19 pairs of California Condors.

Riggins wrote up her ideas and sent them to a contest headed by Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. And she won a trip to San Diego.

Read the full article.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Bruised Sky

A swift wind pushes past the roses, leaves pink-tinged petals scattered across the lawn. Baby pears, still white-green, cling to the ends of waving branches while water drops drip from the corner of the carport roof. A cat, cornered by the rain, waits in the woodpile, eyes the shadowy undersides of purple clouds, hovering overhead, out of reach and glaring grim.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Suburban Nights

The crickets are back, singing outside my window. They serenade the night sky, slowing as the temperature descends. A next door dog barks once, drags his chain in a circle, settles in. The neighbor's window flickers blue. A streetlamp on the corner adds an amber glint to pebbles in the road. And in front of every house, black-shadowed sedans and pick-up trucks parked close to the curb.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Music Scene

NAMPA -- A local ska band dreams of putting Nampa on the map.

In the same way third wave ska revolutionized the California music scene in the early 1990s, members of Remote Confederation say they want to start a music revolution in Idaho.

But it won't be an angry revolt. These Skyview High School musicians characterize their performance as positive.

"It's not angry rock," Jordan Tafoya, 18, said. "(We want to) make people happy with our music."

Tyler Bedell, 15, agreed. He said the band provides a fresh contrast to the angry punk style offered by many area groups.

"We don't like screaming about death," Bedell said. "No screaming."

Read the complete article.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Michelle Couldn't Hear

At Boise State's spring commencement today, the university president asked for a moment of silence. We waited, almost 10,000 of us, packed to the rafters. The band played a slow rendition of "America the Beautiful," and as it ended, a man yelled. The shout — muffled by bodies and distance — sounded something like a cap gun, a far-off explosion, small but distinct. He let loose a second time and then a third. He was calling a name. Michelle.

Another voice joined his from the opposite end of the pavilion, and then — a sudden swelling — the building was filled with a chorus of calls for Michelle and her classmates.

I'm still haunted by the moment, filled as it was with longing. Thousands — trapped in their seats — reached out with their voices, a compelling cacophony.

Had we been closer, we never would have been so bold.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Parallel Play

In worship, Sunday morning, I realized that I like these people, but we don't have much in common. We stumble through each song. We have trouble getting along so much of the time. There are so many negative feelings that I associate with this group. But washing over it all, I feel love. Inexplicably, I do love them.

In this love, however, I continue to experience frustration as well. 1) It seems we are more interested in programs than people. 2) There is so little opportunity for communion with each other as a part of our worship. 3) Physically, all our attention is on the platform. We are so separated.

Monday, May 03, 2004


GREENLEAF -- Crystal Patrick said her brother's death of leukemia four years ago changed her life.

Now the student at Greenleaf Friends Academy is working to make a difference for others.

"I was really selfish," Patrick said. "Now I want everything to be for people who need it. I can make do with what I have."

Patrick started a community service project to collect toys for patients at St. Luke's Children Hospital.

"I thought how all the kids when my brother was sick, they didn't have a lot of toys," Patrick said. "There are a lot of kids who are in isolation."

She explained that these children cannot share toys with other patients, which creates a constant need for new toys at the hospital.

Read the full article.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Driving to Kansas

My brother finished his first year of college this week. I’m driving to Kansas today to pick him up and bring him home for the summer. It’s a long drive from here to there, so I plan for the shortened week I’ll face on my return. There are things that have to get done, and time keeps ticking into the future. That’s where I spend much of my days — in the future, thinking, planning, strategizing, worrying. But I don’t believe that’s where I’m called to live.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Jesus asks. Later, he offers this advice: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It’s advice that makes sense, but I find it’s almost impossible to let go of my plans and petty concerns. God calls me to live in the now and experience life as He created it — one day at a time. Instead, I race ahead, looking to what comes next, concerned by my preconceived notion of what may or may not occur. And I too often miss the treasure God has created for me in this moment.

God, help me to grow up. Teach me to calm down. Guide me in your love. I desire Your peace, but I don’t know how to get there.

Find more like this at Barclay Press.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Who Needs a Million?

There’s a billboard in town that tracks how many millions of dollars wait to be won in each week’s Powerball lottery. The number’s been over 100 the last two times I passed. It seems excessive. Even $1 million is more than I’m on track to make in a lifetime of work at my current salary. I’ve tried to calculate how I might spend the money (assuming I bought a ticket and won), but I tend to run out of ideas after the first $100,000 or so. Maybe I lack imagination.

But then I’m reminded of a commitment I made just over two years ago. While reading a book on simple living, I felt God’s call on my life for total surrender. I realized I’d given of my time and interests, but I had withheld my finances. Not consciously. I tithed regularly and donated as I could. But when I reviewed my expenses, I noted that close to $2 out of every $3 I earned were earmarked for costs associated with owning a home. I couldn’t remember God promising me a house or making it a priority that I have one. And I know there’s no record of Jesus — raised as the son of a carpenter — taking time to prepare a residence on earth. So I sold it.

And something interesting happened.

I suddenly had more money than I knew what to do with. I had not yet developed the discipline of giving, but God — always patient for me to pay attention — opened my eyes to genuine need in my own community. Then, this last year, God helped me take the next step, and I reduced my hours at work so I might have more time to pursue Him, to discover what God created me to be, to experiment with living.

Read the full article.

It's not Christmas

It’s not Christmas, so I feel safe uncovering my true feelings on most holiday pageants. They’re cheesy: recorded music, poor drama, cheap costumes.

But there’s something we love about having kids up on stage even when the presentation is less than professional. I wonder if this might serve as a metaphor for our spiritual lives and the ministry to which God calls us.

We can’t remember our lines. We get distracted and lose focus.

A boy picks his nose. A girl cries and is carried off by her father. One child plays with the ears of another child’s costume.

So many Christians are like the younger children who enjoy the songs and feel important being up front. Sometimes, there’s fighting over who gets to hold the baby. There’s a slightly older group that thinks about levels of responsibility and resents those bigger speaking parts or prettier costumes. They are impatient when others don’t do it right. And there are those who are bored and disillusioned, silently asking, “What’s the purpose? Why do we make a spectacle of our foolish immaturity?”

Read the full article.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Frog's Visit

Typing at my computer, I sit next to the basement window with a view of the sky and the lawn above. Sometimes, I have visitors — dead leaves from last fall, a plastic bag on the loose, bits of bright green clippings from the mower, a dandelion struggling toward the sun. And once, there was a frog.

I might have failed to notice, but he jumped against the window, gently knocked two times, then three. And as I watched, he slowly climbed the wire mesh screen, inserted tiny legs in small square holes and pulled, straining for the top. He fell and stayed so still that I lost track, went back to typing until he knocked again. He stopped and sat astride a leaf and stared in silence as it rained.

I’m not quite sure that I can do the moment justice. It seems that I too often miss the beauty of the everyday. I focus on computer screen, my link with other places, other people, other things I have to do. But God, in His wisdom, all the while is whispering in my ear to look away from monitor, just for a moment, and marvel in what He has made. In the midst of my busy-ness, God intervenes, invites me for a walk in the garden.

“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine being.” Romans 1:19, 20 (The Message)

Read more at Barclay Press.

Mom Died from Cocaine

NAMPA -- Alysia Baxter, 14, lost her mother to a cocaine overdose almost nine years ago. But the Destiny Christian School freshman refuses to use her past as an excuse not to excel.

"I did not know at the time what the lesson of my mother dying would be," Baxter said, "but I am learning a lot of lessons now."

She credits the Nampa Boys and Girls Club for many of those learning experiences.

"They taught me my dreams were attainable," Baxter said, adding that the local club provides her an opportunity to help others.

Baxter said she first attended the club because her dad made her go. But now, she's a recognized leader at the local organization and is one of five state finalists for the Boys and Girls Club State Youth of the Year Competition slated for Thursday.

Read the full article.

No Time

The world never stops. Its citizens scurry from home to work and back with barely time to breathe in a frenetic freeway rush of activity. Climbing the corporate ladder requires extra hours, so even sleep is sacrificed to the gods of success. Those removed from the work-a-day world whirl through meetings and projects of clubs and causes. Or they focus their time on leisure activity, the great oxymoron of modern society.

Activity is addictive. And like any addiction, there are consequences. The symptoms of life’s staccato speed are universal: headaches, depression, loneliness, irritation, shallow relationships, mountains of debt in the frenzied pursuit of bigger and better. What will it take to regain perspective, return to sensible living? Where does rapid-fire, war-torn living end?

A doctor from Australia, now living in Seattle, suggests a solution. Christine Sine writes of a different way in Sacred Rhythms: Finding a Peaceful Pace in a Hectic World (Baker Books, 2003). And she starts with her own experience: “I was so busy being zealous for God that I did not take the time to renew and replenish my spiritual life,” Sine writes. “I ended up in the hospital.

“I spent time reflecting on what had brought me to that place and how I could have avoided it,” she continues. “The underlying cause was a viral illness, but I am convinced that my body rebelled against my fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle. I had abused my body. I had lived in a state of constant spiritual arrhythmia . . . . Now I was paying the price.”

In just over 230 pages, Sine offers a challenge to Christians in the western world. She asks them to stop for a moment, diagnose the arrhythmia of their own lives, and seek out the proper rhythm established by the Creator of life itself.

Sine recognizes that separation from the world — in most cases — is neither desirable nor possible. She insists that we need balance: “a rhythm that both paces us through the everyday and sustains us through the mountain passes.” And she spends considerable space selecting and explaining disciplines intended to restore a healthy focus to our lives and balance existence in the world with a spiritual perspective.

Celebration: “Christ is meant to break the power of the eternal winter of our souls and bring festivity and celebration to our lives.”

Prayer: “Intimacy does not develop from a one-sided monologue.”

Relationship: “We know that the darkness is dispelled and the dawn has come when we can see in the countenance of another the face of Christ.”

Sabbath Rest: “For the Jews, Sabbath is fundamental to life and to both their spiritual and emotional health. It is the culmination of the week, the day that gives purpose to all other days.”

Christ’s message, according to Sine, is not one of guilt or condemnation. Instead, God longs for His creation to rediscover the gift of life He gave in the garden. It’s not a duty. It’s not a space in time waiting to be filled by human activity. This gift of life is opportunity and only the beginning of what God has in store for those who seek Him.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Death on a Farm

I found a dead cat in the hay. It was late last summer. I was sorting boxes in the barn while my mom visited with a neighbor at the gate.

It’s not so unusual to find death on a farm. Coyotes kill the ducks, and chicken eggs sometimes fall from makeshift nests. So I wasn’t surprised. Instead, I pondered the juxtaposition of my silent discovery with the sounds of life from just outside.

I remember hearing a dog — barking from across the field — and children laughing. Barn swallow hatchlings cried for food while a sheep bleated below. In spite of tragedy — no matter how momentous — life goes on. I found in this moment both peace and encouragement.

Read the entire article.

Friday, April 23, 2004

This morning, thinking about what it means to minister, I remembered a thought that came to me eight years ago. I was struggling with the measures we use for outreach activities in the church. We count commitments. The argument goes something like this: “We count people because every person counts.“ It sounds like a great bumper sticker slogan, but if that’s what ministry is about, I reasoned, than Christ commissions salesmen. Back then, I refused to think of myself as God’s salvation huckster. I still find the idea repulsive.

My focus must be on letting God have His way in me rather than trying to push my way on others. I’ve seen the church commercial with it’s cheap grace: “You can have all this for a quick, repentant prayer and no payments for the rest of eternity! But wait, there’s more! Act now and receive quality Sunday morning programming for your entire family!”

That’s not what I need, and it’s far from what I desire. I want to meet God. I want to know Him. I want to follow Him. I want to die to self and live in Him so that I might have life and have it to the fullest. In turn, I hope that others will glimpse Christ alive in me and begin to recognize their own hunger for what is real rather than that which is easy or cheap.

“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” John 12:25, 26

Find more at Barclay Press.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

More than 100 Americans have died in Iraq this month. And suicide bombings in Basra Wednesday along with continued battles in Fallujah leave the conflict with no end in sight. Our “war on terror” is not going well, and Congress is holding simultaneous hearings on how much more we’ll have to spend as well as what went wrong. The pre-emptive strike — hailed as an operation of surgical precision — has ended in a quagmire.

In the beginning, it seemed this was the only sane method for removal of a madman. Using force to capture Saddam made sense. Now, we’re committed. Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic announced they’ll withdraw their troops within the next few weeks, and Poland may join suit. Meanwhile, we have close to 135,000 fighting men and women in the region with thousands gearing up for transfer to Iraq.

I don’t know what will happen next, and I don’t have any good advice or words of wisdom. But Jesus — in His introduction of God’s Kingdom — offered us another way.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Here is a different kind of pre-emptive strike. We respond to those who would make us victims by offering more than they require. It seems like foolishness, this loving of enemies and prayer for those who persecute, and it runs counter to my personal concept of equity. But Jesus understood the weight of His words. He called us then and now to a holy revolution. And He made it personal when he instructed us to begin by loving our neighbors.

“Christ didn’t say, ‘Love humanity as thyself,’ but ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ and do you know why? Because your neighbor, by definition, is the person nearby, the man sitting next to you in the underground who smells, perhaps, the man next to you in the queue who maybe tries to barge ahead of you, in short, your neighbor is the person who threatens your own liberty.” Luciano De Crescenzo

Source: Daily Dig

Find more at Barclay Press.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I help to cover politics for the newspaper in Nampa. Today, I interviewed a local man, a profile. He seeks a legislative seat. He’s anti-tax and wants to bring more jobs to Canyon County. He spoke of education and construction and the elderly. And while I jotted notes, I thought how similar this sounds to all the rest. Each one defines his character according to accomplishments. Each list — the same — with clubs and causes, offices, endorsements. Individual aspects are accounted relative to others, a blobby shape at best. The only differentiation comes from what’s been done and what’s opposed. We have fences but no foundation.

And what about me? I too am guilty of self-image by comparison. Instead of seeking Christ’s character, I create a rubric for success, assess myself by personal performance and how much better or worse it is than that turned in by others.

This is not the way of truth.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

A metaphor. Spiritual growth, the discovery of personal purpose, can never come from comparison, one branch to another. I have tried to define my being by what I do. And all this time, I had it backwards.

Find more at Barclay Press.
NAMPA--If students fall short of state standards on a test this week, they might get to switch schools.

Public schools that miss the mark two years in a row may be required to offer students a choice of where to attend as soon as next fall.

The standard is measured -- in part -- by what percentage of a school's students test at or above grade level in math and reading on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. Students statewide are taking the test this week.

More than half of Canyon County schools missed the standard last spring. But local school officials said this week there is no reason to worry.

Superintendent Vaughn Heinrich said most of the Vallivue schools in question made the list because they did not test enough students last spring. He said the schools missed participation standards but met state performance requirements.

Heinrich said the district paid close attention to every student when testing this fall and has easily surpassed the state participation standard.

"I'm not feeling uncomfortable," Heinrich said, adding that Vallivue has worked to fix the problem. "It would be premature to panic."

Jay Hummel, Nampa's assistant superintendent, pointed out that even if some schools miss the target twice, giving students a choice is something the district already does.

"We have open enrollment," Hummel said, explaining that Nampa students can apply for any school in the district. "We believe in choice. We've got lots of schools. We're able to provide some options."

But there are limits. If there is not room for all students who choose to transfer to a certain campus, priority is given to low-achieving, low-income students.

But they don't have priority over students in the attendance area, so they won't bump students out of their home school.

Caldwell Assistant Superintendent Chuck Randolph said some local schools will go on school improvement plans in the fall. But he said missing state standards for adequate yearly progress does not make for a bad school.

"It would be instructive if you would take a look at our lowest-achieving school and look at the multitude of things they have going," Randolph said. He cited before and after-school programs that mean more than two hours a day of extra instruction for many students.

Randolph said these students show marked growth over the course of the year. But he pointed to Caldwell's highly mobile population, which means the district often does not have long to work with a student.

"People have to understand the deficit a kid is in if this is his third school in one year," Randolph said. "No apology, we take in (whoever) comes to the front door."

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I log on to the Internet late at night to play chess. In between moves, I check my e-mail, read the news, and think. It’s quiet here at the end of the day. But peering through computer screen — mystical aperture — brings close the noisy conflict of a war-torn world.

Hamas vows vengeance. Warnings of a terrorist attack. 127 New York passengers injured when one train bumps another. A boy who died in an oven.

My life seems small.

I pray that God will use what I have, that I might be a harbor of peace and a vessel filled from streams of living water. I pray that I might be a friend to the afflicted, a living message of hope. I know I have no such store of good things for I, too, am impoverished. But I pray.

And I remember His words: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . . nothing will be impossible for you.”

I pray for change.

Find more at Barclay Press.

Monday, April 19, 2004

NAMPA -- When students in Business Professionals of America elected their state president this year, they didn't know his age.

The more than 1,200 high school members at the state convention chose Vallivue sophomore Kevin Tucker, making him one of the youngest state presidents in Idaho's history. And next year he plans to campaign for a national office.

Shari Webster, assistant adviser for the Vallivue program, said that is typical for Tucker.

"This student is absolutely driven," Webster said. "He's just a little bit ahead of his time, but he's able to handle it."

Tucker also placed first against all competitors at the state contest for legal office procedures.

Webster said she tried to dissuade him from entering the event because she knew nothing about the subject, and wouldn't be able to offer much help.

"I feel guilty about it now," Webster said. "He got on the Internet. He bought a book. I gave him sample exams."

And he won.

"I used a legal dictionary," Tucker said, explaining that the competition requires students to draft legal documents such as a power of affidavit. "They grade you on send-ability."

Tucker said the best part of winning the contest and being elected state president is the visibility it brings to the Vallivue club.

"My goal is to let more people know what BPA is, getting more community involvement," Tucker said. "It's one of the best student organizations."

Tucker said Business Professionals of America helps students build skills necessary for success in business with a focus on community partnerships.

Part of his job as state president includes working with other officers to create a statewide community service project.

"I'd like to do something with the Special Olympics," Tucker said.

And the student officers will plan and preside over next year's state convention.

"We've started to throw around ideas for the theme," Tucker said. "I have to make a script for everyone, what we're going to say."

Webster said that won't be a problem for Tucker.

"He has every single ingredient for a successful leader," Webster said. "His responsibilities are awesome, but he can do it."

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.
I've heard the Christian myths. They start in Sunday School.

1) Christians fold their hands and close their eyes to pray. It keeps us from distractions.
2) Christians don’t run in church because this is God’s House.
3) Christians love everyone, “But don’t worry,” I was told. “You don’t have to like everybody.”
4) Christians go to church on Sunday.
5) Christians are always happy.
6) Christians don’t get angry, and they never hate, “Unless it’s the devil. You’re supposed to hate him.”
7) Christians don’t do drugs or smoke or drink. And most really good Christians don’t bowl or dance or listen to rock ‘n’ roll music either (though that’s mostly OK with God nowadays).

I started learning young, and every year, I’ve added one or two or five or ten. Until — just recently — I found a truth that didn’t fit the rest.

God created me, and He made me in His image.

The very character of Christ, therefore, is buried in the rubble of my busy, broken life. Tinged with sin and covered in the shadow of selfishness — at the center of my being — is God’s reality, the person I am meant to be.

Transformation, then, is not to something rigid and correct as myth or rule would have it. God does not give us Sunday straitjackets to limit life and force a church-day smile. Instead, He leads me into peaceful, carefree joy, more deeply myself than I have ever been. He makes me what I am designed to be, separate from the world of jump-on-the-bandwagon activity. He sets me apart in a church that too often defines itself according to the myth of comfortable conformity.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Find more at Barclay Press.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

NAMPA -- Every year, thousands of dollars from the Mercy Community Sale help Nampa kids.

Proceeds of the sale have built a skate park, funded Boys and Girls Club programs, helped Syringa House and purchased materials for Nampa classrooms.

And kids know it. Sale organizers estimate that more than 100 local youth will volunteer at the event this year. Hundreds more have donated silent auction items and signed up to represent their schools at information booths in the Idaho Center mezzanine.

Event organizer Lynn Borud said at least 50 high school students will work through Friday to set up the sale. Saturday, Nampa High School football players will help people carry out their purchases.

After it is all over, more than 1,200 youth will take part in a free, thank-you concert for the community on Monday.

"We believe in the theme that 'all kids are our kids,'" Borud said. "We've been trying to partner with them. You can't put a value on a grassroots community campaign where people give back. They feel great about giving back to the community."

Jay Hummel, assistant superintendent of the Nampa School District, said the district benefits from the sale at least twice. The spotlight on what schools are doing is priceless.

"Teachers and kids are working really hard to do some great things," Hummel said, adding that the Mercy Community Sale provides a showcase for some of the innovative ideas in Nampa classrooms.

Schools also benefit financially. The Nampa Schools Foundation receives 25 percent of the sale's proceeds.

Jerry Jutting, chairman of the foundation, said the money goes back into Nampa's public school classrooms.

"We had 99 grant requests (from teachers) this year," Jutting said. "We were able to fund at least part of 55 of them."

The foundation has funded teacher-initiated projects, curriculum and supplies to the tune of a quarter-million dollars since its inception 10 years ago.

"A lot of teachers are asking for pretty basic things," he said. "That shows you how strapped our budget money is. We try to fill the gaps."

Hummel said money makes a difference.

"Every year, it's huge," he said. "The money comes back, and it goes very close to the kids, to the classroom level. It's a wonderful help."

If you go

The Mercy Community Sale will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Idaho Center, near the corner of Can-Ada and Franklin roads. Admission is free, but organizers encourage donations of non-perishable food items. Donated food qualifies the donor for a chance to win a 1991 Ford Aerostar.

Schools and youth-serving organizations will be featured in the Idaho Center mezzanine.

A live auction will take place during the last hour of the sale.

"Teachers and kids are working really hard to do some great things." -- Jay Hummel, Assistant Superintendent of the Nampa School District

To help

The Nampa Schools Foundation receives 25 percent of the money raised at the Mercy Community Sale, but the non-profit organization also accepts individual gifts.

To make a donation, contact Reese Verner at 465-1720 or mail it to the Nampa Schools Foundation at P.O. Box 874, Nampa, ID 83653.

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, April 12, 2004

CALDWELL -- Idaho's top-ranked competitive climber placed 20th at the National Bouldering Championship in Sacramento, Calif. last month.

Caldwell resident Matt Fultz is ranked 33rd nationally among all male competitors in the American Bouldering Series.

And the 12-year-old Syringa Middle School student started climbing only two years ago on a dare from his dad.

"My dad wanted to see me climb," Matt said, adding that his father offered him $10 to ascend a 47-foot climbing wall at a local sporting goods store. "And I got hooked."

Matt said reaching the top was a big deal because he hadn't believed he could do it.

"I was scared of heights," he said. And climbing helped him face this fear. "I wanted to try it again."

So Matt started climbing regularly and then to compete.

This time of year, Matt said he practices for competitions at least three hours a day.

"Comps are coming up, and I've got to train."

The sixth grade student took 8th place in the Open Men's competition at Club Sports in Tigard, Ore. in February. A month earlier, he placed first overall in a Nampa competition. Both events are part of the bouldering series.

And in the U.S. Climbing Big Sky Region, Matt has placed first in every single event and is ranked first, overall, for all male competitors.

Steve Fultz, Matt's dad, said his son works out at home about five hours a week and climbs at the Nampa Recreation Center for three hours a day.

"He climbs in here for hours and pushes himself," Steve said. "Something's got to drive him, and it's all internal. That's something I don't see in a lot of kids."

Matt agreed that he's different from his peers. He said he's quieter than most students, and the amount of time he spends training means he doesn't have many opportunities to develop friendships with kids his own age.

"Most of my friends are in their 20s," Matt said. "I have friends at school, but my closer friends are climbers. There are not that many kids who climb competitively in Idaho."

But Matt said his personality is perfectly suited to climbing.

"I'm pretty introverted," Matt said. "I like to be on my own. No one else is really motivated to climb indoors as much as I am. I'm usually the only person climbing, and I'm there for hours at a time."

Find more at the
Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, April 05, 2004

CALDWELL -- A local family is fighting the war in Iraq with balloons, more than 2,000 of them so far.

Dennis and Sharon Horst, of Caldwell, started sending balloons to their son when he first arrived in Iraq this January. Christopher Warren, stationed out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, makes balloon animals for Iraqi children in the Balad, Iraq hospital.

The Horsts say Warren started making the colorful creatures for his own three children.

Warren -- a radiology technician -- wrote in a February e-mail to his parents that his talent with balloons helped break down barriers with the injured Iraqi children.

"We had no way to get them to understand we were not here to hurt them since all their lives they have been told we are the enemy," Warren said. "I pulled out my bag of balloons and went to work."

Warren also told of a 14-year-old patient named Mariwah.

"She is paralyzed from the waist down from a rocket attack," Warren wrote in the February e-mail message. "When we got here and took over the hospital, she never smiled."

Warren said he taught Mariwah to make her own balloon animals.

But the number of injured children has taken a toll on Warren's balloon supply. He traveled to the country with 1,500 balloons, and his parents said they have mailed another 500 to 600.

"He sees children daily," Sharon said, adding that the work of her son proves there is more to the situation in Iraq than what most people see in the news.

"He always seems to be in good spirits," Dennis said.

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, March 29, 2004

NAMPA -- Bobby Powers is going to nationals.

The Nampa Christian High School student was named the 2004 Idaho State Scholastic Chess Champion two weeks ago.

Now he's thinking about Florida. Powers will represent Idaho at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this August.

"I'm hoping to be in the top half," Powers said. "Top 10 would be amazing."

But first things first.

Powers said he can't spend much time on chess right now because of baseball season, and he's thinking about running for class office.

"Some kids at school know me as the chess kid," Powers said. "It's not the only thing I do. People don't realize I also won the golden glove award on my J.V. baseball team."

And Powers said he'd like to run for student body treasurer because it seems a good fit with his interest in math.

Then he'll have time to focus on the tournament.

He said the biggest part of getting ready will involve raising money so he can go.

Each state winner receives a $100 stipend to help cover costs, but Powers estimated the eight-day trip could cost more than $1,000.

"I'm hoping to pursue private and team coaching," Powers said. "We're hoping for sponsors too."

And Powers' mom, Bonnie Powers, said the trip will be well worth it.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. Bonnie pointed out that there aren't lots of kids who play chess competitively in Idaho, so many of the state's younger players know her son.

He's been a guest speaker at several local elementary schools and has coached as well.

"It gives him a chance to be a positive role model," Bonnie said. "There are a lot of little kids who look up to him."

Bobby explained why he values chess.

"A lot of kids have the stereotype that chess is the geek sport," Powers said. "But it's kind of like the golf of board games. It's one of the few chances you have to test your wits."

Find more at the
Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, March 22, 2004

NOTUS -- Students in an art history class have almost completed a mural at Notus Elementary School. And they've uncovered some of the town's secrets in the process.

The high school students say they've found stories of wagon trains, forgotten businesses, death and even a dance hall.

High school teacher Daylene Petersen said the town's renovation of an old building into a new community center offered an opportunity for her class to create a mural illustrating Notus history.

But developing the art required research.

Students read books on Idaho history, visited the Canyon County Historical Museum, combed through old yearbooks and even interviewed old-timers.

But when the research was done, the community center wasn't. The class then got permission to start work at the elementary school.

Lupe Delacruz, a senior, said the school was a natural location for the mural.

"(The school had) a lot of murals before," Delacruz said. "When I was in third grade, there was a fire." Because of smoke damage, many of the old paintings were painted over.

Delacruz said each student artist developed a portion of the mural. She painted the portrait of a woman and her son at the top of the creation.

Petersen said visitors often mistake the woman for Sacajawea, but Delacruz said the mother is actually Marie Dorion, the native-American wife of a scout who worked for the Hudson Bay Fur Company.

During a raid on Parma's Fort Boise, Marie's husband was killed, so she set off with her children for the safety of Portland, Ore.

"She made it to the Blues before her provisions ran out," Petersen said. She killed her horse for food "and tucked her boys into a cave."

Then she set out, snowblind, to seek help.

"Her story was really interesting," Delacruz said, "how she survived, feeding her kids horse."

And Delacruz said her research also turned up mention of a dance hall.

"We never had a picture of it," Delacruz said, "so we guessed what it looked like."

Lucas Graham, a junior, said it was sometimes difficult to determine how buildings should look because of fires and reconstruction over the course of the town's past. He completed a painting of a service station with a domed roof.

He said the building still stands, but the dome is gone.

"I live two houses down from this building," Graham said. "They turned it into a produce shop."

He said he finally found a photo of the original structure in the back of a high school yearbook. But it was black and white, so he had to look for clues such as the stucco finish to determine coloring.

Sophomore Caitlyn Peterson said students have worked on the mural since last year. And she said the hands-on project has made local history more interesting for her.

Graham agreed.

"All these things have happened," Graham said, adding that this mural might serve as a reminder that communities change. Even now, he said, new people are moving to town and building new homes, making history.

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, March 15, 2004

MARSING -- When Maria Paramo first moved to Marsing, she didn't speak English. But now she's the president of the National Honor Society and plans to earn a medical degree.

It was hard work that did it.

Marsing teacher Juanita de Leon said she first had Paramo in a class for students with limited English.

"She was my hardest worker at that time," de Leon said. "She was always questioning. I knew she would be something big. I know she's going to make it."

And Paramo said the work didn't end with mastering a new language. In her first year of high school, Paramo had to re-take pre-algebra. But she didn't want to fall behind, so the next year, Paramo took two math classes -- Geometry and Algebra.

Paramo also took on key leadership positions. Along with National Honor Society, she is also the president of Marsing's Future Hispanic Leaders of America.

Paramo said the National Honor Society provided Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for needy families this year. Club members went trick-or-treating for canned food for the first round. At Christmas, students used their own money to purchase gifts for a local family with nine children.

The club's next project will be painting the playground equipment at the city park.

As president of the Future Hispanic Leaders of America, Paramo helps organize the town's upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration. She said the event will include children's games and food.

Paramo said she is also keeping an eye on the future, and hopes her success will spur on others like her.

"A lot of Mexican students think high school's enough," Paramo said. "If kids see more Hispanic students going to college, they're going to want to go to, because they'll know it's possible. It's kind of like opening doors for them."

Paramo said too many students give up when success takes little more than effort.

"I think that's how kids fail," Paramo said. "It's not because they're dumb. They just don't do the work."

And she added that family support is what has kept her working toward success.

"I'm really lucky to have my parents," Paramo said. "They've always been there for me. They're going to be proud of me. I'm going to be the first in my family to graduate from high school. You just have to be determined."

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, March 08, 2004

NAMPA -- Rebecca Richards had a hard time speaking in front of people, so she joined debate.

And after only two months of competition, the Liberty Charter School sophomore is winning awards. Richards took second out of more than 30 competitors in her category at an Idaho Falls event, and she will represent her school at a national qualifier competition in Jerome, Idaho later this month.

"I pretty much didn't know how to speak," Richards said. "I'm not a very outgoing person."

But debate coach Joanna Hicks said Richards -- a straight-A student -- has changed.

"Every single time she participated in class, I would have to say, 'Becca, I can't hear you,'" Hicks said. "It's been phenomenal growth."

Hicks said it also helps in competition that Richards is a likeable student.

"She has a perpetual smile and such a warm, genuine demeanor," Hicks said. "Judges like her. They believe her, trust her. You can't imagine her lying."

Richards competes in Lincoln-Douglas debate, which requires her to know and be ready to defend either side of an argument. At one competition, she presented her case six times with each debate lasting about an hour.

Richards' topic is environmental preservation vs. economic development. She started the year believing in preservation but said her research has helped her appreciate the merits of development.

"It's good to look at something both ways," Richards said. "It helps you (realize neither side) is always perfect."

Richards said debate is important because you have to be able to present your ideas to people.

"Speech is the way people associate with each other," Richards said, and in her experience, being able to share ideas results in greater courage.

How debate helps

Rebecca Richards, a student at Liberty Charter School, said debate has helped her think and speak more clearly. She said students who compete in forensics and debate will benefit in the following ways:

Learn to present ideas publicly.

Gain confidence.

Practice study of an issue from multiple perspectives.

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, March 01, 2004

NAMPA -- A nationally-syndicated radio celebrity used to be a boy who wanted a horse.

Political pundit Michael Reagan visited Nampa's Ronald Reagan Elementary School Thursday, and he told stories about growing up with a father who would be president.

Michael said his favorite memory of his dad started with a golden palomino.

When Michael was still a boy, his father told him a man he knew had bought a horse as a Christmas gift for his son. But the horse wasn't ready for the boy, so the man had arranged for the Reagans to board and train it.

Ronald asked Michael to help him work with the animal. Michael said it didn't seem fair. He had begged for a horse for Christmas.

"I was really, really mad," Michael said, "but I did it."

He said they spent 45 minutes a day. Ronald used a long rein while the horse circled with Michael on its back. And Michael said he loved the palomino. He named it Rebel.

But the day came -- just before Christmas -- when the horse was ready, and Michael's dad told him the man would come for the horse that evening. He asked Michael to go make sure it was ready.

Michael said he cried "crocodile tears," but he did it. And when he got to the stable, he found Rebel with a red bow on his neck and a card:

"Merry Christmas Michael. Love, Dad."

Michael Reagan took questions from kids about his age and the flight to Idaho and the names of his brothers and sisters. He is 58, the flight was delayed because the plane's cargo door would not close, and he has three siblings.

And he talked about having a father who does not remember him any more because of Alzheimer's.

"Things happen to us," Reagan said, "and not everything that happens to us is good."

But he encouraged students to make the most of every situation.

"Holding grudges is going to hold you down," Reagan said. "Don't use excuses to fail. Look at the things that happen to you, and learn from them."

Students honor former

president Ronald Reagan

Students at Nampa's Ronald Reagan Elementary School presented Michael Reagan with a birthday card for his father Thursday. Former President Ronald Reagan turned 93 last week.

The students also presented a school T-shirt, a framed photo of the school and a U.S. flag they had autographed.

Michael Reagan told students the gifts would be added to a display honoring his father at the Young America's Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I honor (these gifts) in the way you honor my father," Reagan said.

Find more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Monday, February 16, 2004

PARMA -- The weekend of Audrey Black's death, she was doing things for the people she loved.

She helped wait tables for a Valentine's dinner at Parma Church of the Nazarene. She called home and left a message for her mom. "I love you," she said. Audrey, 13, and her younger sister put lipstick kisses on a home-made Valentine. And then she was gone.

A fast-moving train struck a wagon carrying two girls riding on hay bales Saturday. Audrey was killed; her sister, Riley, critically injured.

Al Showalter, chief deputy with the Canyon County Sheriff's Office, said the two girls were visiting their grandparents.

"The family decided to move some horses to a nearby pasture," a sheriff's press release said. "As the horses were led north across the railroad tracks on a gravel lane, a train was spotted approaching the crossing."

The sisters were riding in a wagon behind a tractor driven by Clarence Derrick, 79. Investigators say signals to alert Derrick went unheeded. The tractor crossed the intersection, putting the trailer in the center of the tracks when the train struck.

Witnesses said both girls were thrown more than 100 feet.

Riley, 8, was taken by helicopter to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where she was in intensive care Sunday. A family member reported Riley is expected to recover.

Audrey, an honor roll student at Kuna Middle School, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The family has not yet made arrangements for a memorial service.

Dianna Wynia said her granddaughter often came to visit on weekends.

"She was so grown up for her age," Wynia said. "She loved to come out to the ranch."

And Wynia said she hopes something good might come out of the tragedy.

"It has to mean something," Wynia said. "She loved God. She was an angel."

Find more at the
Idaho Press-Tribune.