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April 27, 2009

Thank you, Whitley County!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  If you have seen the YMCA’s thermometer following the success of our Strong Kids Campaign, you saw that it was all the way to the top!  We not only reached our goal, but we exceeded it!  Receiving over $29,000 during a time of such great unemployment and financial struggle is unbelievable, and yet it is not so surprising.  The YMCA’s members are so dedicated and supportive of our programming, and nobody knows better than they do, the benefits received from physical workouts.  Our success goes beyond our facility walls, however.  Whitley County citizens and businesses donated generously to our fundraiser, as well.  We thank you all so very much! 

I also want to thank our members who campaigned for us this year, our Director, Erica Miller, the YMCA staff, and Board of Managers for the efforts made to keep our mission alive:

“To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”


With gratitude,

JoEllen Rush

Strong Kids Campaign Chairman

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April 22, 2009

Listen to the Mockingbird

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and variations thereof,  we learn early.  'Tis amazing how frequently this sentiment reflects the truth, occasionally leading us to believe, somewhat snidely, that there may be no accounting for taste.  Until marketers proceed to perfect their grip upon the human psyche, the familiar adage that artificial, surface beauty penetrates only skin-deeply soothes our self-conscious souls, duping us into the belief that we'll be appreciated for ourselves and an abundance of character lurking beneath the exterior.   

Then, as we drift through the stages of man, advertisers, promoting peer pressure, convince us to purchase just the perfect combination of cosmetics ( "make-up" for deficiencies which we are convinced sorely need "making up", a.k.a. freckles, pimples and wrinkles) aiming for the result of appearing more natural.  We'll risk all to acquire the appropriate skin shade achieved through high-priced travel in pursuit of the sun or purchase of either orange-hue-producing creams or time spent roasting inside booths.  We part with money for the trendiest or most provocative garments   Toned bodies promised through pricey exercise equipment or health club memberships or plastic surgeons as well as hair styles and dyes emulative of celebrities dominate our lives.   

Costumed and body-imaged to the height of conformity, certainly mass appeal and approval must follow.  That's the unwritten rule.  Not always.  Not lately.   

Though involved in a competitive contest, a Scottish person named Susan Boyle emerged an individual...seeming not to fit any mold.  This lady smiled, poignantly felt compelled to laugh at herself, then summoned great courage to allow her spirit to fill an auditorium, quite simply through singing a powerful song to us.  Frenchman Victor Hugo awarded 19th century LES MISERABLES to the reading public, while a modern composer and a lyricist set his story, chronicling the triumph of the human spirit, within the context of a Broadway musical.  Who knew?  One day, Susan would reach far more hearts than either Fantine or Jean Valjean ever won. 

Yes, eyeballs no longer rolled upward, nor did audience members sigh in anticipatory disdain.  A sweet soul's angelic voice soared.  However, an over-eager media commenced immediately to Joe-the-Plumber-ize and second-guess her.   

I dream a dream which allows this lovely, genuine human-being, with her melodies intact, to survive the imminent circus atmosphere and to remain a captivating breath of fresh air.  As publicity-shy, reclusive, southern author Harper Lee gently warned us, via Chapter 10 of her once-in-a lifetime novel:  "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.  That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."


Susie Duncan Sexton

Columbia City

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April 12, 2009

Climbing Jacob's Letter -- whoa there now!

To Dear Jacob from Dear Susie: (neither of us shooting the messenger I hope.)  Your beautiful name filled with Biblical allusions running the gamut from purchase of brother Esau's birthright to synonymy with "Israel"?  Well, be advised that "Susie" Is Hebrew-originated also.  Thus, our Judeo-names, selected by our parents, place us squarely upon the same playing field or turf with one another, right?  I shall restore my words into the context within which they were written, as both of us live in a Judo-Christian America which guarantees free speech and, incidentally, welcomes all manner of beliefs and ethnicities.
Please note my use of  the word "presently" which was emphasized in my letter as I consulted the April 13th edition of NEWSWEEK opened upon my desk; I had just concluded perusing a scholarly, thoroughly documented and researched article by Jon Meacham, editor and self-admittedly devout Christian.  Armed with a vast body of statistics (do read the article), his clear vision, with subsequent advice, creates a picture--in the mind's eye--of dwindling church membership. He seems to wish to avert the "Post-Christian" era encroaching upon us. I did not gallop backwards through ancient history, nor even the middle ages, with either or hatchet or a cherry-picker.  I wrote of NOW--and not contentiously. 
Bacon or Mendel, Luther or Henry VIII, Joan of Arc or John the BaptistAlbert Einstein or Robert Oppenheimer--you name 'em-- beckon to us from the past and taught us much, and their instruction and deeds reverberate still today...as do the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Inventions, philosophies, medical discoveries, cures for illnesses, planetary explorations, etc., etc.--all are established and facilitated by those before us in this evolution of mankind.  We reach for the stars, not to dwell among them nor to permanently float upon the clouds, but to better understand our universe and ourselves and to challenge supposed truths within our limited--or limitless--world of reality. Most often, understanding and building upon the past leads to a better future, moving forward.
Yes, often we visit reality only as tourists.  Your sense of reality and mine may differ, and we can only hope to reach a compromise, probably neither of us changing our minds completely for we have both lived, I assume, pretty long lives full of similar and dissimilar experiences.  Our future? The children.  We owe an improved world to them, better than even we were fortunate enough to have enjoyed, by speaking face to face to exchange ideas and truths in a spirit of common-sense sharing. Those moments might happen inside or outside of a church home. Children learn by example.  We both can cite references and can thump paragraphs within the history textbooks we have been handed by those before us, but we must blend these references with our own experiences, and, most importantly' allow current thinking to infiltrate inside our circle lest we simply go round and round with the same old traditions, many of which require adjustment and refreshing.
Neither of us possess a handle on absolute logic; logic may result from engagement in dialogue--still not a sure thing.  No need for either of us to feel smug on that score!  Sides should not be taken nor battles fought over religious concepts.  Aspersions, cast upon other religions, seem unintelligent and dangerous and vainglorious.  You wrote of "making gods of ourselves", yet you catalog all kinds of reasons, most of them from your study of one book--the Bible, as to why you accept the God, with a capital G, created thousands of years ago by humanity, possibly resulting from fear of elements and each other.  Back to square one.  Also, happily, you speak of Christian-oriented scientists; yet you criticize scientific advancement, which holds the potential to alleviate human suffering, in your opposition to stem-cell research in a previous letter.  Let us not toss the word LOGIC about...this skill, mastered by the Greek philosopher Socrates, arose from open-ended questions and answers, deductions occurring after lengthy conversation, welcoming and including all who wished to learn.
I wrote not of "restrictions" (that's your word), but of exclusions, and yes, a false superiority which allows no questioning nor exploration. Those very questions would surely arrive at beautiful, helpful conclusions which would revive enthusiasm for the religious discipline you and I were trained to respect.  Jesus lived at a time not so long ago, but far enough back, that certainly He would be pleased to witness ongoing improvements and alterations maintaining beneficial pace with the world as it is now, filling Earth evermore with love and understanding and acceptance of differences among ourselves.  Every great, meaningful religion survives the questioning.  Do not be fearful of challenges.  Why are you?
"Exegesis" and bioethics" discussions would be enlightening, and I thank you for the invitation.  One question though.  Will there be a question and answer session afterwards or during, as I am maybe at the end (if our voices be hushed, muffled, pooh-poohed, censored) of a long procession of white, Anglo-Saxon PROTESTants, supremely church indoctrinated as well as college educated, and a participant in the game of life and one who welcomes new ideas and fresh approaches from people of varying backgrounds and persuasions?  I have more questions than I can count.  How about you?  Wouldn't becoming more tolerant of differences make this world, while we inhabit it, a far better place to live?  I liken this to Christ questioning the authority of  Roman oppressors, or the materialism of the money-changers in the temple, or His query, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"  Yes, Jesus certainly questioned  voices of authority, misguided or otherwise.  He even questioned himself.  "I am the truth?  I am the light?  I am the way?"  How could you have missed that?  Why have you no interest in the historical Jesus?  He walked among us; why do you wish to take him away from us?
As far as Christ's call to "put out into the deep" (double preposition there--is that an accurate quote?) in the book of Luke, which you referenced in closing?  I admit I am forced to consult one of my 15 Bibles in my religious library, which includes books descriptive of the worlds' great religions and explanations of their similarities and differences, to locate your quotation.   I only guess that since Jesus appeared to walk on water, you either wish me, a mere mortal, to drown...or to plummet to greater depths of thinking?  Well, I would find it difficult to employ logic while submerged in water, nor perched upon a dreamy floating cloud in a blue, blue sky high above our Earth and looking down.  Like it or not, we are both earth-bound PRESENTLY , and this is our responsibility: to live nobly daily right where we live.  Since Bible writings exist for all of us to interpret figuratively, I'll locate the perfect chapter and verse soon to fit my logic, and I shall thump it for you. In the meantime, let us move forward and learn to understand and possibly accept belief systems other than our own. That should keep both of us very busy for the rest of our lives.
Peace Through Understanding and Acceptance and Inclusiveness,
Susan Sexton


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April 11, 2009

In response to 'Diminishing Fervor'

Dear Susie,

First of all I would like to comment on the disconnect between your logic and reality.  You claim that Christianity has lost momentum because of restrictive beliefs, shallow dogma, and "false superiority."  If this is the case, how do you account for the fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.  Because it is, in regards to rules of practice, the most restrictive of all major religions shouldn't it be shrinking the fastest?

Also, when many of the most vibrant Christian communities are the one's that do not water down the Gospel. 

In regards to your last paragraph, what would be your basis or guide for such conversations?  Unless we seek for the face of Christ, guided by the Scripture and the history of belief in Him, we make gods of ourselves.  Christ didn't question authority, He was the authority, precisely because of the fact that He was the Son of God.
He also did not preach against teaching authority, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice." (Mt 23:2-3)

Also, I would be interested in knowing how some of the greatest scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers in history found the doctrines of Christianity worthy of deep discernment if they are indeed, "very sad and too wasteful of the energy necessary for sincere thought and analysis."

Among these people were Francis Bacon (developer of the scientific method), Rene Descartes (the father of modern philosophy), Gregor Mendel (the father of genetics), Thomas Aquinas (believed by many to be history's greatest philosopher)and men who pioneered many different branches of high level mathematics.  You may want to look into what these men thought about the dogmas which you beleive, "suffers from shallowness and a sense of false superiority."

You raise many questions about the current state of Christianity, and questions need to be raised.  These did not walk lock step when it came to religion, nor do Christian thinkers do so today.  There is so much depth to the faith if you just look for it.  Whether you are interested in Biblical exegesis or Bioethics, the discussions are taking place.  If you are finding shallowness in the faith, perhaps it is a good time to follow Christ’s call to, "put out into the deep." (Lk 5:3)

Jacob Alles

Columbia City

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April 09, 2009

To Pray the Master’s Way

No matter what the denominational banner one is under, believers in Jesus can be unified and agree that the Lord himself gave us a most wonderfully complete model prayer.  This model prayer is most commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer.  It can also be referred to as The Prayer of Jesus, or The Disciples’ Prayer.  Can you just imagine what it must have been like, as one of the original twelve disciples, observing the close relationship Christ had with the Father as He spent those intimate moments in prayer with him?  Wouldn’t you also like to know His secret of prayer?

Scripture gives us a great view of the Lord’s response when the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  (See Matthew 6:5-15 & Luke 11:1-13).  In Christ’s instruction on prayer, we do not find a mantra, nor anything formulaic about His model prayer.  What He does give resembles more of a prayer manner or pattern. 

Without over-analyzing this Prayer of Jesus then, I would like to suggest an easy to remember acrostic.  Just take the letters in the word pray;  P…R…A…Y, and I will identify for you what I believe are the four essentials in meaningful, effective Christ-like prayer. 

The ‘P’ in our acrostic stands for praise.  Notice how Jesus begins with,  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9b niv).  When we declare God the Father’s Name to be hallowed, we are saying that He too, is holy, and most worthy of our praise.  For all those who can rightly call God “Our Father”, we can and must lift our praise to Him, for who he is, the one most worthy of our praise.

The ‘R’ stands for repentance.  Notice in verse 12 of Matthew 6, where the prayer asks to be forgiven of debts, or sins, or trespasses, depending on the translation.  One must be real with, and agree with that holy God that we have offended Him by our sinful thoughts, words, and actions.  Repentance is an act of completely turning away from our falling short before this holy God, and completely turning to Him alone for forgiveness.

The ‘A’ in PRAY stands for ask.  Even though this all-knowing God is completely aware of everything we need before we can ask it, verse 11 states: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt 6:11 niv).  Just like our earthly fathers love to hear our requests as children, so too, does God the Father long for us to express our hearts before Him, showing our dependence on Him.  Once our hearts are in a proper ‘prayer posture’, having entered into prayer praising God, and repenting of our sin, only then can we rightly bring our requests to His benevolent throne.

Finally, the Master teaches us to yield.  This is the ‘Y’ in our acrostic.  We are to yield to His Lordship.  Do you acknowledge Him as Lord over your life today?  We do well to see that it is His kingdom that we are to pray for, and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

In closing, as we prepare to join together in prayer as a Nation on the National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 7th, let us put into practice this manner of praying the Master’s way.  May we all remember that only God is worthy to rule in our hearts, only God is worthy of all our praise, only God can deliver us from evil.  May I add that His motivator is love, No one else has ever displayed such a measureless love as God has, and He has displayed it in its fullness in Jesus Christ, His one and only Son. 

Pray on!  And lift your praise…To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25 niv)


Mark C. Kolwicz 

Columbia City


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Diminishing Fervor

Jesus of Nazareth--one of the original free thinkers.  People, particularly Americans, seem to have forgotten that important fact.  Christ, the rebel and iconoclast, questioned authority and practiced inclusion of all while embracing those most marginalized.

Christianity's currently documented loss of momentum, as well as dwindling church membership, potentially may reverse if historical, geographical, literary, governmental, economic, cultural, psychological, societal, real world connections would be established.  Questions ought to be welcomed, discussions encouraged, and the supernatural minimized.   

Presently, church dogma suffers from shallowness and a sense of false superiority--very sad and too wasteful of the energy necessary for sincere thought and analysis.   

Many of us sorely miss the religious life for which we once may have held an honest enthusiasm and reverence.  We seek to explore the limitless possibilities for meaningful conversation and dialogue regarding mankind's need for structure and boundaries...but, most vitally, the human desire for independent thinking, which is neither a threat nor a crime.  Then, church attendance would seem comforting, stimulating, and plausible.

Susie Duncan Sexton

Columbia City

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April 06, 2009

Stop the madness, stop the comparisons

Stop the madness?  Message to newscasters, magazine editors, fashion pundits, and entertainment gossipmongers:  Please, please refrain from forced comparisons stacking up fabulous Michelle alongside fantastic Jackie, both portraits of perfection revealing two distinctly differing, spectacularly mesmerizing personalities. Do not minimize the allure and limitless potential of Mrs. Obama, downgrading her charms to retro-competitiveness with Mrs. Kennedy. Each person's unique sense of style, intellectual capabilities and joie de vivre enhance our country's reputation as well as achieve legendary status for these ladies even as we once witnessed decades past and are watching admiringly now.

Susie Duncan Sexton

Columbia City

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April 01, 2009

The Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bishop John D'Arcy has committed his life to the service of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Jesus Christ which it represents. Recently he issued public statements on the dangers and immorality of embryonic stem cell research. In response several catholic people have publicly expressed their disagreement with the bishop on this issue. Some have even referred to their dissent as a, "difference of opinion," with the the leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. They make the claim that embryonic stem cell research should be allowed and promoted, because it will help to save tens of thousands of lives and improve the lives of people with Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other diseases each and every year.

However, these catholics need to be more honest with themselves. This is not a mere a clash of personal opinion. 

In order to provide clarity, let us examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say. According to paragraph 2270 (CCC), "Human life must be recognized and protected absolutely from the moment of conception." Because embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction and death of human embryos, it violates this nonnegotiable teaching of the church. The catechism is clearer still on the issue of medical experimentation that does not respect the life and dignity of each human. "Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject's physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate avoidable risks." (2295 CCC)  

These are not the new stands or personal objections developed in recent years by one man, one bishop. In fact, the catechism cites the Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles c. 70AD on the great importance of protecting the life of unborn embryos (CCC 2271). For catholics, these teachings are the clear uncompromising voice of the church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit in teaching truth for nearly 2,000 years.

Perhaps some don't accept the catechism, the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. Even so, it is clear through expounding this train of thought that stem cell research cannot morally justifiable. If because embryonic stem cell research helps to save and improve lives, it should be allowed despite the fact that it requires the destruction of human embryos, we must examine other life saving policies based on the same criteria.
Let us forget for a moment that adult stem cell research is the only stem cell research that has provided working treatments and realistically potential cures for the diseases mentioned above. Let us pretend that destroying human embryos by the thousands is able to, without the considerable doubt that exists, cure everyone with these diseases, thus making it both permissible and desirable to do so. Are we not then required to apply similar logic to other possible life saving cures? 7% of people in the world are universal organ donors. Each year over a thousand people in the United States, and untold numbers around the world, die waiting on organ transplants. Unlike embryonic stem cell research, organ transplants are a scientific and time tested method of saving lives. If the government were to sponsor doctors to harvest the organs of each universal donor, either voluntarily or without consent, these doctors would be using their great skill and scientific know how to save nearly 30 lives per donor. All total over 63 million lives would be saved by using the universal donors of the US alone. Perhaps we should be concerned about the UD's experiencing pain during the process. No worries, scientists and doctors could simply and painlessly put these UD's into induced comas.  

If it is sinful, as some have said, for scientists not to do embryonic stem cell research, why is it not sinful that gifted scientists and those in power are not authorizing this use of universal donors? 

By simply making a utilitarian judgment based on the number of lives that could be saved, we open ourselves up to the allowance of acts even more heinous than the abduction, objectification, and disposal of universal organ donors. If we begin advocating the use of human beings as a means to an end what will be the marker as to whether the purpose is legitimate or not? Will you? Will I? Will public opinion? How about the government?
If you acknowledge that life begins at conception and that an embryo is just as much a human person as you or I, we cannot accept destroying (killing) these human lives. If you deny the person hood of these individuals that is a different debate altogether. Regardless, a catholic who takes such stances finds themselves not at a difference of opinion with Bishop John D'Arcy, but at odds with and speaking out against, the clear consistent teaching proclaimed by the Catholic Church and its true guardians for over 2,000 years.

Jacob Alles

Columbia City


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