Frozen pipes and innocent blood He stood staring at the display of heat tape and pipe foam wrap, wishing he had protected his water supply line before it froze and split. Too late. Prolonged sub-zero weather caught him by surprise. The damage was done. It’s no fun having water pipes freeze and break, but the rules of physics that make that happen also keep the Great Lakes from dying. Water is most dense at 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s above freezing. As it freezes, water gets less dense, and actually floats on warmer, denser, water underneath. If this were not true, ice on fresh water lakes would sink to the bottom, killing all lake life. Instead, the ice effectively insulates the water underneath from solidifying. Because ice expands (becomes less dense) rather than contracts when it freezes, roads are disintegrated by freezing-thawing temperature cycles, and frozen pipes break. Nothing stops ice from expanding. It’s the way it works. It’s a rule that always works whether we like it or not. There are other rules like that – rules that work because that’s the way Earth is designed to work. Gravity is like that. Someone’s weight doesn’t matter; if they jump up they will come back down. Gravity. It always works. There are spiritual rules that always work too. One of those rules relates to shedding innocent blood. When Abel was killed by another family member his blood cried out from the Earth that had received it. A curse on mankind resulted (Genesis 4:8-12). We also invoke a curse on ourselves from the innocent blood of our children killed in abortion. God’s judgment fell on nations because of their shedding innocent blood, and we will be no exception. See 2 Kings 21:16, 24:4; Psalm 106:38; Proverbs 6:16-17; Isaiah 59; Jeremiah 7:6, 19:4, 22:3-7, 26:15; Joel 3:19; Jonah 1:14. Whether we like it or not, God’s rules always work.
Social Security and Black History Month In February, our nation honors African Americans by celebrating Black History Month. Recognizing our shared history is one way we can affirm our belief in freedom and democracy for all. For more than 80 years, Social Security has helped secure today and tomorrow with financial benefits, information, and tools for people of countless backgrounds and ethnicities that make up our richly diverse country. One of our popular tools is the online Retirement Estimator. With it, you can plug in some basic information to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits. Different life events or choices can alter the course of your future, so try out different scenarios such as higher and lower future earnings amounts and various retirement dates to get a good prediction of how it can change your future benefit amounts. You can access it at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html.
If you find that helpful, we have a number of calculators to help you prepare for retirement at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/calculators. We also pay disability benefits to people with medical conditions that could prevent them from working for 12 or more months or result in death. If the disabled person has dependent family members, they may also be eligible to receive payments. We pay disability through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program, for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to be eligible, and the Supplemental Security Income program, which is a means-tested program for people who are 65 or older, as well as people of any age, including children, who are blind or have disabilities. Widows, widowers, and their dependent children may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more about retirement, survivors, and disability benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits. Social Security is with you through life’s journey, helping secure today and tomorrow for you and your family. Visit us at www.socialsecurity.gov/ people/africanamericans. Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WOW, WHAT A WEATHER WEEK IT WAS… in the span of seven days we suffered a polar vortex of sub-zero temperatures in the minus teens, howling winds that created winds chills in the minus 20s, more than 12 inches of snow and drifts that closed roads and white-outs that made the freeways into parking lots by hours on end. Then at the beginning of the week the vortex headed back to the north pole and warmer air, clouds and rain washed the snow, salt and sand away. Drifts and piles of plowed snow were transformed into puddles that soon raced to low spots to create floods. Now ice clogged creeks and rivers are raging torrents carrying debris out to the big lake. Mother Nature is still in charge, and Punxsutawney Phil notwithstanding, spring will get here in its own good time and right on schedule. Meanwhile, we survived nature’s best thanks to the great service of all those that stood on duty and on guard at the worst of times, police and firemen, public works, medical personal, utility workers, all served their community as needed. Thank you, folks, for a job well done. Thankfully, we all got a respite of sorts with a rainy thaw this mid-week with the Big C weather forecast on the front page predicting more typical February climes for the weekend and beyond.
MYSTERY CREATURES… I was half-watching a TV program “Mysteries at the Museum” a week or so ago. It didn’t even register what it was about till the end when the narrator mentioned the “Dewy Lake Monster” and a museum in Dowagiac. Hey, I thought, I fish Dewey Lake! What monster? With a little research I turned up the story that reports of a 10-foot tall swamp monster in the Dewey Lake area back in the 1980s. There were even drawings and paintings made up, stories in the local papers and organized search parties. Of course, no swamp monster was ever found, but there were a few paw prints found and photographed. There is a Dewey Lake Monster website and a Facebook page, with all sorts of comments and tales of sightings but no proof. I suspect every town has some sort of unresolved mystery that creates some sort of furor and then the dust stirred up settles down. One of my first stories I covered for the Record was the search for a “Black Panther” sighted in the vacant field next to the Waffle House (now Mill Creek Charlies). Police Chief Bart Rose and Deputy Vic Bianchi were dutifully beating the bushes for panther signs and I was dutifully trying to get them in the same photo frame on my Polaroid. Chief Rose headed back to the police car and motioned me to follow. This was reported by a couple kids and is likely a prank he said. Let’s go in the Waffle House and have a coffee, he offered. I put the story in the Record and updated it a couple times as more sightings dribbled in and then it just died out. The only real black panther sightings were at Panther Stadium during the