Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thoughts on our Current Situation

I finally have a free evening at home which has been nice to relax and take it easy. With that being said, I thought I'd do another blog post. On this blog I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the current times in which we are living and would welcome any readers thoughts or feedback.

These are definitely very interesting times in which we are living. At the end of Friday February 19 the Dow Jones Industrial average was valued at the same value it was back in October of 2002. It has come a long way down in a matter of 6 months. As I read in an recent article in the Wall Street Journal analysts and experts don't really see a bottom right now. That is quite unsettling. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average is by no means the only indicator of what is going on in our economy I find that it gives one of the best and most easily accessible ways of tracking the overall confidence of Americans. Just as analysts and experts don't see a bottom in the Dow this seems to be the consensus for the overall economy as well. Right now, the prevailing discussion in the news and in politics is the economy and how we are going to fix it. There are all sorts of opinions and ideas out there right now whether it be from the left or the right. I find the discussions to be quite interesting which is why I am putting my opinion in this blog.

For starters, we are one month into the Obama Presidency and I am very thankful for a new President in office. The last eight years were quite incredible to say the least. We saw a President who led us into a war in Iraq that was deceptive, misleading, and cost of thousands of American lives and billions of taxpayer money. Along with the Iraq war we saw the Guantanamo prison that represents everything that America is not supposed to represent and we saw the creation of the Homeland Security Dept. and Patriot Act that severly repressed personal civil liberties. To top it all off we are in the current financial crisis. I will not be so ignorant or biased to lay all the blame for this current financial crisis on the Bush Administration but they can not be totally spared either. During the last few years we have seen very little regulation of Wall Street and we are now painfully seeing the results.

The Obama Administration comes in with a heap of problems that it is facing. Obama is tackling some very heavy issues right now. Of course we just saw the huge stimulus package passed and now there is heavy discussion in regards to the Auto Industry and the Housing crisis. There are many out there saying right now that the current stimulus is very flawed and the plans for housing rescue and auto bailout are flawed. Some will say that this whole mess should work itself out by letting the market do its thing on its own. My question is if we continue that train of thought with deregulation how far and deep can we go without any intervention. I think Obama said it well when he mentioned that all businesses are contracting, layoffs are being made, which in turn causes the consumer to hold back and start spending less. All of this leads to a viscous domino effect to where there is no stimulus coming from any sectors of the economy. To me it makes sense that when you have all of this contraction there has to be some positive jolt coming from somewhere and that would be the Federal Government. Also there has been heavy criticism of the recent plan for housing relief. The current plan would seek to lower interest and alter mortgage payments for current homeowners facing foreclosure. The Obama Administration would work with lenders on helping to share losses on these loans. Their is backlash as to why the taxpayer should be responsible for homeowners in this mess. Shouldn't they reap the consequences. This might be easy to say but when people say this how much do they realize that the more these foreclosures continue to happen and the more housing continues to drop this affects everyone. Failure to help stem this crisis will cause everyone's home and property values to decline. I'm not so sure that people will not want help then when they are telling the Government to not help those currently in crisis now.

I've only touched a little bit on the issues and kind of skimmed the surface on the current financial crisis. As I mentioned before if the experts an analysts are having a hard time figuring out this current situation then I would definitely fall into that category as well but I have tried to share a little bit about how I feel about the current situation. This past fall when Obama ran his campaign I really felt like it was a movement led to bring about change. I like many other young voters latched on to this enthusiasm and hope. It made you want to be a part of something that could make a difference. While I know that Obama and his Administration is not perfect and they are probably making errors and mistakes as we speak I have to give them the benefit of the doubt so far. They are trying to tackle these weighty issues and work for the people who elected him into office. It will definitely be interesting to see things continue to develop. I welcome your thoughts or feedback on this. Have a good upcoming week.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A new blog post!

Well it has been a little while since my last post and I figured it was time to finally update this thing. Quite a bit has happened since June 11 but I won't bother you with all the details, I'll just put up a few highlights of what is going on in my life since my last post.

I already mentioned in an earlier post about going to California early in the year but I was able to go out two more times in 2008 which was pretty awesome. The second time I went out was in July to attend the wedding of Tim and Sunny Arakawa. It was a very short trip but it was worth it to see two really great people get married. My third and final trip was in September where I had meetings out in San Francisco for my job. Before the meetings started I was able to spend a week with my brother Norman and his wife Joelle. The highlight of that time was being able to attend a youth conference called Southwest Youth Conference that my brother was in charge of. I have been to the last two conferences and this one was another powerful blessing. Just a quick plug but you can still listen to sermons from that conference on http://www.audioverse.org/ While on the topic of travels the last trip I will mention is back in June I was able to go out to Arizona with two of my buddies for a few days. We spent the time enjoying the Scottsdale area by playing golf and we also went up to Flagstaff to see some of the sights up there. It's kind of funny because we picked the hottest time of the year to go out there and play golf. One day it got up to 115 degrees! Needless to say we were able to play on courses that were very cheap at that time of year.

Life here in Tennessee is going pretty well. I am always busy at my job. We are entering another hectic time where we have to close the books out for the year and meet all of the tax deadlines and so forth. I am sure all that are reading would love to hear all about the details of this but I will spare you for now. To summarize though, I am still enjoying my job and am very thankful for it. I have been working at the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference for 2 years now. Kind of hard to believe. Just one more point about my job, for those of you who don't know I work as the Assistant Treasurer at the Conference. In this position it is very interesting to see how the economic challenges that are facing our nation is affecting the work of the church. Thus far we are very thankful because we have not seen the giving fall off and we are still seeing a slight increase for which we are thankful. It will be interesting to see how the coming months develop in the economy.

I continue to remain active in my local church in Gallatin, TN. I serve as church treasurer, elder, sabbath school superintendent, and sabbath school teacher. It keeps me very busy but I really enjoy it and am thankful to be there. We have a somewhat small group averaging about 50 in attendance on Sabbath. We are looking forward to 2009 as we are hoping to hold 2 lay led evangelistic campaigns. We look to get some good work in the community and Bible studies going before the meetings as well. I also lead out in prayer meeting on Wednesday nights and we are finishing going through a book entitled "Preparation for the Final Crisis" by Fernando Chaij which is availabe at your local ABC. After we are finished we will begin studying the book of Revelation.

I look forward to the new year and to what will lie ahead. To all who are reading I hope you had a happy New Year and that you will have a good year ahead. I am posting a few pictures from my trips below. Enjoy.
The pictures from top to bottom are as follows:


1. We are posing before playing 36 holes of golf on Sunday.


2. I am about to tee off on one of the holes at the The players championship course in Scottsdale, AZ


3. With my brother Norman at the Southwest Youth Conference at Pine Springs Ranch in Southern California.


4. A group of us who attended the meetings in San Francisco by the beach.


5. An overlook of San Francisco


6. Preaching at my home church in Gallatin, TN


7. Me with my sister April and my brother Norman.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Golf Adventure





Last week my good friend Adam Littell and I went out to Long Hollow Golf course in Gallatin, TN and played 18 holes. We had an interesting round to say the least. We both had our ups and downs on the course. After all, that is the way golf usually is. At one moment things are going great and then before you know it things have quickly fallen apart. I am posting some pictures below along with some videos that I hope will illustrate the ups and downs of the game. I am glad that I brought my new digital camera as we were able to capture some humorous parts of our golf round.






You will notice here that I am laughing because this is hole 11 and I just hit the ball not only over the water but into the bushes behind the hole.












This picture illustrates my dilemma. Here my ball is buried underneath the bush. Here is the video of my shot from underneath the bush.






video



As I mentioned what you just saw was hole #11 where we shot across the water and I was in the bush. As I mentioned before, golf is a game of ups and downs which is nicely illustrated by the next hole which we also videoed. This hole goes back in the direction we came from so we were shooting back across the water. It is hard to see in the video but if you notice carefully you will see that Adam's shot skips across the water and goes to the other side. In case you don't see it, our comments on the video will make you very aware of what happened. Enjoy this video.




I have always enjoyed golf because it is just you and the golf course. Golf is really the most individual sport out there that I can think of unless you make it competitive with other people which I try not to do. As I mentioned there are lots of high and low points when playing but it is those moments like on the video of our teeshots across the water that keep you coming back. Hope you enjoyed the post.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Still, Still with Thee

This past week I came across a cd by the King's Heralds quartet and on that cd is a song that I now consider to one of the prettiest songs I have ever heard. The song is entitled "Still, Still with Thee" by Harriet B. Stowe written in 1855. What is interesting is that the author of this hymn is the same lady that wrote the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin". A book that made a huge impact at the time in regards to the whole issue of slavery. She authored over 30 books. She wrote this hymn after meditating over the passage in Psalms 139: 17-18 which states, "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with thee." The hymn is hymn#498 in the Adventist Hymnal. I am posting a video below which has a different melodic arrangement than the traditional hymn. The arrangement on the video below is also the arrangement that the Heralds sing and is absolutely beautiful along with of course the lyrics. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Travels & Updates

It is time to do an update on the blog. This past week I have been in Grand Rapids, MI, Atlanta, GA, and Montgomery, AL. To say that I was exhausted last night would be an understatement. I have actually travelled quite a bit in this past month. It started by going out to Loma Linda, CA to do some certification training for my job. I had a really good time out there. I was able to stay with Norman and Joelle who were very good hosts. We went down to Los Angeles one day and went Griffith Observatory along with seeing some other things in LA. We also celebrated Joelle's birthday and we also heard some very good musical performances throughout the week as well. It is always good to be out in Loma Linda as I feel at times that it is like a second home. I have been there many times now since Norman has been out there. It is hard to believe that Norman has been there for around 8 years now.

As I mentioned above I have been in some other places as well besides CA. Last weekend we were in Grand Rapids, MI. We were there because I sing in a quartet composed of members from the Nashville area. Our leader, Marc Walwyn is a cousin of the person who was in charge of this Youth Conference in Grand Rapds. I think that our songs went well. Our favorite song to sing is "O When Shall I see Jesus" It is our favorite because it portrays the urgency of seeing Jesus come back again and the melody and harmonies portray that sense that urgency along with of course the words. The speakers at the Youth Conference were Keith Gray, (Youth Director for the Southwest Region Conference) Alden Ho, Dane Griffin, and some other presenters who I was not familiar with. Alden Ho had some pretty good presentations. His topic was on the nearness of the coming of Christ. I think that some of the things he presents and sources that he has need to be studied a little further by those who are listening but his overriding presentation is very good. If anything he is getting people to be serious about the times that we are living in.

We finished the weekend by going to my sister in law's parents house for breakfast in Berrien Springs. We spent a good amount of time observing a project that Dr. Damsteegt and Laurel Damsteegt are working on. This project is based on the Great Controversy theme on DVD format. It starts with the prophecies predicting Christ's coming to the Earth the first time and goes all through the Christian church all the way down to eventually the current times we are living in. It is very well done with lots and lots of research that has been done. I was very impressed. A new release is being made but once it hits the Adventist Book Center's I would strongly encourage you to buy it.

As I mentioned I was also in Atlanta, GA and Montgomery, AL this week. I went to Montgomery to finish up my certification training because I did not get all my hours in CA. I was only down there for Friday morning but it was interesting to revisit the place where I started my working career. I only lived down there for 5 months but I have alot of memories there. In Atlanta, we had Southern Union Treasurers meetings. I have to say that there are many challenges that face our church financially but we are not even seeing the tip of the iceberg of the challenges that we will face in the future. One thing we discussed though is the rising cost of fuel and the reimbursements we are paying our workers and how we are keeping up with the rising costs. Economic issues will obviously affect finances in the church and it will no doubt be interesting to see what happens in the future as we face more and more challenges.

To finish things up I thought I would share a few things in relation to our family and things happening here in Tennessee. Our family is very excited for April who will be graduating from Highland Academy in 3 weeks. This will be a very special event for her and we are very proud of her. In regards to Highland that is an item that I would solicit those who are reading your prayers. We are facing a change for a new Principal and also there are some fairly large financial challenges facing the school. On another note, I have been attending the Gallatin SDA church since December when their church Treasurer passed away unexpectedly and I took over duties as Treasurer. The church is small but friendly with a few young people. Recently the church had a nominating committee and I was humbled to accept a position as an Elder in the church. As I said I am humbled by this position because I know that there are tremendous responsibilities in being an Elder in the church. I have no experience but I am excited about the things God can do at Gallatin. There are 3 elders and we are all in our 20's. I am excited about that because I have a lot of respect for the 2 other elders and I think we are on the same page on alot of issues and I believe that God can do some great things if we will just let Him lead. I realize this has been a long post but there is alot to update after 2 months. I will try to not wait so long for the next post.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quite A Week

This past week has definitely been a week of ups and downs. Tuesday, February 5 was a day filled with excitement. After all, it was Super Tuesday where people across the nation would be voting in the Primary elections including the state of Tennessee. I was looking forward to watching the returns that night after I had voted. As I was watching the returns the night quickly took a change of pace from election coverage to warnings about storms that were ripping through Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. There seemed to be bad storms in Kentucky and there was already reported damage in West Tennessee. Around 10:00 there were storms that were coming through Sumner County. This storm ripped through Castalian Springs, TN just east of Gallatin and eventually made its way up to Lafayette, TN in Macon County which is about 30 to 40 minutes east of us in Portland. As I was watching the news that night I knew that it was bad and there were already reports of devastation but who could've imagined waking up the next day to the absolute carnage that was in Macon County. The whole event was very unsettling as all of this destruction was quite near to where we live and it just goes to show that none of us are safe. One can never tell where a tornado's path will take. I preached yesterday at my home church in Portland. I couldn't help but mention of how easy it is to feel very secure and take life for granted when we don't have tommorrow guaranteed. After all, things were just fine for the people just one county east of us before the destruction hit. The fragility of life is quite a concept to ponder. With all this being said, I am thankful that our community was spared the destruction of this storm but our hearts go out to the people affected by this storm. I am posting a link of a video that I believe sums it up quite well.
http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=special0304








Friday, January 25, 2008

Updates

I have not posted a blog in over two months so I will try to update as best I can. I have just finished another exhausting week at the office, the last two weeks have been around 60 hour workweeks and it doesn't seem to be getting any better in sight. The reason being is that we face deadlines for employee's taxes, tax deadlines for trusts, closing out the year, preparing for an audit, pretty much everything hits at once at this time of year. It often seems that my whole life is work, as at times I will get home around 10 p.m. and then just turn around and do it again the next day. It is not always this bad but I would solicit your prayers as it has been intense lately. I hope I am not sounding as though I am complaining though because it must be said that I do enjoy my job especially when it is not this hectic but part of the reason is not only all the year end and tax deadlines but I had missed a fair amount of work in the previous weeks.

In December I was able to go to my 5th GYC in Minneapolis, MN. The meetings were very good although I wish I could have heard more of the seminars. I am listening to some on audioverse and I would like to get an IPOD so I can listen to them on my commute to and from work. Christmas was great because Norman and Joelle were here for Christmas. We had a very good time and there is a short video clip on www.normanandjoelle.blogspot.com that shows some of our experiences over Christmas. At the beginning of January I was able to attend the Southern Union Ministerial Meetings. These meetings were also very good. I went to as many preaching seminars as I could attend because I do that every now and then in the conference here. Mark Finley, Derek Morris, and others had very good seminars on preaching. I also went to an excellent seminar on revitalizing small churches by Shawn Shives who is a pastor in Georgia. (Father of Jason Shives.) Last weekend my sister April and I attended SEYC. It was a jammed packed weekend but it was very good. Jeffrey Rosario and Matt Parra were the main speakers. Both gave excellent messages which will be on www.audioverse.org I was very happy to see Tim, Sunny, and Adrian who were doing recording for audioverse. It was almost like GYC as I saw other good friends such as Justin McNeilus, and other good friends from Southern. I was happy to see how the spirit of SEYC is still very strong and has grown to be much bigger than we started with a simple idea after the GYC in Ann Arbor, MI. I was also happy that April could get a glimpse of some very positive things that are happening there at Southern Adventist University. So with all of these meetings it has put me behind at the office but it was all very much worth it.

It is good to be busy and have lots of things going on but at the same time it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to be able to get away from the pressures of every day life. May it be that we all take the time to have time to ourselves and to have meaningful time with the Lord. On that note, I hope that this weekend will be restful and relaxing for all and that you have a wonderful Sabbath. God bless.

Aaron