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.