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Archive | April, 2015

Don’t forget to VOTE on road funding May 5

 

A special statewide election will be held on Tuesday, May 5, to decide whether to increase taxes for road maintenance and its outcome will affect every household in Michigan. Some school districts also have proposals on the ballot, but here in Cedar Springs and the surrounding area, we will only be voting on Proposal 1. The Post is rerunning an article we published recently by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which breaks down the proposal, and there is a link at the end for further information.

New study analyzes impact of Proposal 1 on taxpayers

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy published a new analysis of Proposal 1, which voters will be asked to approve or reject on May 5. The proposal increases taxes by $2 billion and aims to dedicate most of that revenue for future road construction and maintenance. In addition to reviewing the proposed constitutional and legislative changes, this new study estimates how Proposal 1 would impact the typical Michigan household.

James Hohman, author of the study and assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate that Proposal 1 would increase the tax burden of the typical Michigan household by about $500 in 2016.

“These estimates rely on assumptions about the average price of gasoline and other factors, but they’re about as close as one can get to figuring out about how much taxpayers would pay if voters approve of this plan to increase funding for roads,” Hohman said.

Proposal 1 would make four changes to the Michigan Constitution: increasing the allowable sales tax rate to 7 percent, exempting fuel purchases from sales and use taxes, prohibiting public universities from receiving revenue from the School Aid Fund and earmarking a portion of use tax revenue for the School Aid Fund.

These changes are “tie-barred” with eight legislative bills that will go into effect if voters approve of Proposal 1. These laws would hike the sales and use tax to 7 percent, create a new wholesale fuel tax of 41.7 cents per gallon and earmark this revenue for roads, increase the state’s earned income tax credit, boost spending on one public school program and create new rules pertaining to road construction projects for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Regarding the proposed wholesale tax on fuel, it is likely that prices at the pump for gasoline consumers will be higher if Proposal 1 passes. Based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average national gasoline price in 2015 will be $2.39. At this rate, consumers would pay about 10 cents more per gallon in taxes at the pump.

“The difference between the proposed gas tax and the current one depends a lot on the price of gasoline. But only when gasoline prices exceed $4.20 per gallon will consumers start to pay less at the pump under Proposal 1,” Hohman added.

The analysis found that the proposed new wholesale fuel tax will increase at a rate that will outpace inflation. The mechanics of the formula prescribed in the law to adjust the tax rate based on inflation ensures that the rate will grow faster than inflation.

“The way the fuel tax formula is designed, taxpayers can expect to see fuel taxation rates rise faster than inflation,” Hohman said.

Even though the earned income tax credit would be increased under Proposal 1 (from 6 percent of the federal EITC amount to 20 percent), low-income households in Michigan may not experience much of a tax benefit overall.

“The average EITC recipient’s tax burden will likely be reduced slightly if Proposal 1 passes, but there will be EITC recipients whose overall tax burden will still rise,” said Hohman.

The full study can be found online here: www.mackinac.org/21128

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues.

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Road becomes runway

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Montcalm County Sheriff Deputies briefly closed M66 in Montcalm County last Friday, April 24, between Lake Montcalm Road and Cannonsville Road so an airplane could take off.

The crop duster, owned by Heritage AG Aerial Application from Lakeview, had to make an emergency landing on M66 on April 7 due to engine troubles. The plane had been parked at a nearby apple orchard, while repairs were made to the engine.

The pilot was able to make a successful take off and M-66 was then reopened to traffic.

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DNR collects walleye eggs for hatchery program

DNR fisheries technician supervisor Ed Pearce flips a walleye into a holding tank on the electro-fishing boat.

DNR fisheries technician supervisor Ed Pearce flips a walleye into a holding tank on the electro-fishing boat.

Volunteer Dick Callen hoists a walleye, to be used for spawning, from a holding pen.

Volunteer Dick Callen hoists a walleye, to be used for spawning, from a holding pen.

As many anglers know, much of Michigan’s inland-waters walleye fishery is supported by hatchery-raised fish. What many don’t know is that the source of those fish—the Muskegon River, below Croton Dam—is supported by hatchery-raised fish, too.

“There’s not a lot of natural reproduction in the system,” said Rich O’Neal, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist who oversees the Muskegon River watershed. “We’re getting very low production in the river. We’re not sure why, but we think water velocity or water temperature could have something to do with it. We know we get good natural reproduction further upstream.

“There are 3 to 4 billion eggs laid here when they’re spawning, but we’re just not getting fry production.”

It took a stocking effort to rebuild the Muskegon River population after it collapsed in the 1960s. O’Neal said sea lamprey predation—the preying of one animal on another—on adult walleyes was part of the problem, but alewife predation on juveniles also was a factor. “We saw that all over the Great Lakes,” he said.

O’Neal estimates the population of the Muskegon River spawning run at 40,000 fish, about 18,000 females. Most are migrants.

“There’s about two fish per acre that remain in the river,” he said. “The rest move down to Muskegon Lake or out into Lake Michigan, as far north as Bay de Noc and down to Indiana. It’s been that way since the earliest tagging studies in the 1950s.”

Muskegon River walleyes spawn over a period of three weeks to a month with most of the activity taking place in a 12- to 14-day period, O’Neal said.

“Water temperature is the key,” he said. “They start at 37 to 38 degrees, by 40 they’re really starting to move, and around 45 degrees is peak spawning.”

It took a three-man electro-fishing crew, led by Ed Pearce, the fisheries technician supervisor out of the DNR’s Plainwell office, a total of five trips to the river to capture the necessary brood stock. The first attempt, in late March, turned up too many fish that weren’t ready to go. But by the end of the month, the fish had ripened and the crew spent four days spread over a period of about a week to collect the eggs.

It was challenging, Pearce said.

“Last year the river was at flood level, but this year we’re bumping bottom,” said Pearce, who led the crew in a 17-and-a-half-foot johnboat with a 115-horsepower jet drive outboard that can run in mere inches of water. “We couldn’t fill the live well with water, so we couldn’t haul as many fish as we’d like.”

The crew runs a generator that creates direct current sent between the booms on the front of the boat, stunning the fish, which are netted by DNR fisheries personnel standing on the bow.

“It makes the fish twitch,” Pearce said. “It draws them to it. We can shock down to about 6 feet within a 10-foot radius of the booms.”

How the fish react varies, Pearce said.

“Some will be completely knocked out for 10 minutes. Others are just tickled and they take off.”

When a tub of fish is collected, the boat crew brings them to the bank, where a five-person crew from the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery takes over.

Fisheries biologist Matt Hughes leads the operation. The fish are divided by sex, and then paired off for spawning.

Two workers strip the females’ eggs into pans by pushing on the fish’s bellies, while another massages the male to get it to release milt. The milt is collected in a bottle of water, is circulated, and is dumped into the pan of eggs. Fertilization is almost instantaneous.

Males and females are matched one-to-one in order to promote maximum genetic diversity, Hughes said.

After the eggs are fertilized, they’re transferred into a 5-gallon bucket—along with other fertilized eggs—that is filled with river water and a fine clay particulate to keep the naturally adhesive eggs from clumping together. Every five pans, the bucket is dumped into a fine-mesh holding pen in the river to allow the eggs to harden. After 60 to 90 minutes, the eggs are put into the transport trailer, which is filled with water from the hatchery, and they’re disinfected with iodine to make sure contaminants aren’t introduced into the hatchery.

“The goal this year was 50 million eggs,” Hughes said. “We go through about 250 pairs of walleyes to collect them. We go until we get our target. We can usually get them in four days, but you don’t want all the fish coming at the same time. We don’t have enough room in the hatchery to take them all at once. We can only hold around 10 million fry at one time.”

Some of the fertilized eggs are sent directly to the Platte River State Fishery, where they’ll be hatched out and sent to northern Michigan rearing ponds. Others go to a tribal facility. The rest go to Wolf Lake, where they’ll be hatched and reared. Some will be directly stocked into bodies of water while the majority will go to rearing ponds, where they’ll grow to fingerling size before they’re stocked.

“We typically get around 70 to 80 percent fertilization,” Hughes said. “Our goal is to produce 12 million fry for rearing ponds and direct plants. Eggs take 17 to 21 days to hatch. Fry are held one to five days. We start putting fry out to ponds by the third week of April, and we’re finished by the second week of May.”

The fish are stocked in lakes and streams in the southern two-thirds of Michigan. (Walleyes for northern Michigan stocking projects come from similar egg-takes at Little Bay de Noc.) Among the waters stocked is the Muskegon River, where, after a few years, those walleyes will be collected to serve as brood stock for that year’s egg-take.

For more information on Michigan fisheries, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Those of the forest

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Following the life of Snowshoe, a hare, in the book Those of the Forest, is joy in discovering natural history without textbook dryness. The novel about the life and times of this northern Wisconsin animal describes ecology in an enjoyable manner and it applies to where we live.

Wallace Byron Grange published his book in 1956 and it continues to sell for good reason. The story is about the events in Snowshoe’s world and introduces the reader to animals, plants, weather, climate, geology, changing seasons, and how all are intricately intertwined. It is a fascinating excursion into nature niches.

The accuracy and depth of Grange’s content exposes the reader to ecology without bogging one down. It simply takes us with Snowshoe through the forest, fields, and wetlands. The journey describes real inhabitants and their behavior where Snowshoe works to survive and it applies to wild places near our homes. Descriptions of plant and animals associations create a mental image of the natural community for Those of the Forest. It heightens awareness of what we can discover when we explore outdoors and prepares us for spending time observing the real world though personal exploration with our families.

We live farther south than snowshoe hares but most characters in the book will be familiar neighbors. Amazing aspects of the occurrences from the distant universe and the sun are revealed in the lives of those that have come and gone over the ages of Earth’s history, in this one small locality where Snowshoe lives. The coming and going of glaciers shaped the land and set the stage for Those of the Forest during the past million years. Five billion years of formative history for life are portrayed in the lives of those in the story.

Habits of specific birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, snakes and others are woven together in a manner extraordinarily well. Whether it is obligate internal parasites or more casual parasites like mosquitoes, their role and impacts reveal the challenges living things struggle with daily. Hormone fluctuations and breeding behavior influenced by Earth’s movement around the sun are subtle and also drive Snowshoe’s color change from brown hair in summer to winters white.

I first the read the book in 1975 and have read it twice since. I have been careful not to reveal too much about Snowshoe’s experiences that could spoil the novel’s story. Re-reading is like watching a good movie repeatedly to discover new details missed during previous viewings. It will be helpful to have flower, tree, insect, bird, and mammal field guides or computer apps at hand to look up species that you might not know. I led a walk at Ody Brook Sanctuary this week and introduced participants to new unknown wildflowers and it provided a similar thrill of reading about the many species encountered when reading Those of the Forest. The book will undoubtedly introduce some unfamiliar species and details of their lives.

Search the Internet for the title or author and enjoy reading this summer. Best of all, it will help you discover nature niches when you take your own outdoor explorations.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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Red Hawks move to 2-0 in conference action

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The boys track and field team went on the road and handed a tough Forest Hills Northern squad a 73-64 defeat.

“We knew coming into their home place, we had to open up and put up big performances in the field events,” said Coach Jeff Myers. “Our boys responded to the challenge. Not only did we accomplish what we needed in the field events, our depth in the distance and hurdles helped us to victory. We also found ways to earn points in the open sprint events,” he added.

Winning events for the Hawks were: MavRick Cotten in the 100m dash, 110m and 300m hurdles and long jump; Austin Sargent in the 800m and 1600m runs; Taylor VanDyke in a league leading 6-foot jump in the high jump; Remington Sawade in the pole vault, and Caden Burrows in the shot put and discus.

Gaining much needed valuable points was John Todd (second in the long jump, 100m dash and third in the 200m dash); Sargent and Sawade in the 400m dash; Alex Douglas (third in the 110m and 300m hurdles); Nikc Jackson (third in the high jump); Todd and Jacob Hooker (second and third in long jump); and Jaron Spencer (second in the shot put and third in the discus).

“We faced a big challenge tonight. We gave up 20 points in the relays. However, we can fix things to make them quicker,” stated Myers.

Last Saturday, the Hawks visited the 12-team Warrior Invitational at Chippewa Hills HS. The boys faced chilly conditions and wind, yet persevered to finish third. Winning events were Cotten in the 110m hurdles; Sargent in the 800m and 1600m runs; and Sawade in the pole vault.

Earning medals were Mike VanAssen in the pole vault; the 4x400m relay team of Lane Gott, Sargent, Sawade and Todd; Cotten in the long jump, VanDyke and Todd in the high jump; Spencer in the shot put and discus; and Sawade in the 400m dash.

The boys continue OK Bronze Conference action on Monday as they head to Greenville before concluding the week with the annual Red Hawk Invitational.

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Lady Red Hawks Tepin, Weiler, Marvel take firsts in track

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The Red Hawk Varsity girls track traveled to Forest Hills Northern On April 21, and lost by a score of 94 to 41, to even their OK Bronze record to 1 and 1 and overall record is now 3 and 1.

Tara Tepin and Kenzie Weiler took two individual first places. Tara won the 100 and 300 hurdles, and Kenzie won the 1600 and 800 meter runs. Allyson Marvel earned the other first place in the pole vault.

In 2nd place was Allyson Marvel 100 hurdles; Mackenzie Rugg 400 meter dash; Ellie Ovokaitys 3200 meter run; and Kaley Louck 100 meter dash.

In 3rd place was Allie Colley Shot put and Discus; Allyson Marvel 300 hurdles; and Hannah Heintzelman 800 meter dash.

On Saturday, April 25, the team traveled to Chippewa Hills, for the Warrior invite. The team scored 86 points and placed 5th in the big school division. Tara Tepin earned two first place finishes in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles. Tara also anchored the winning 1600 meter relay team with her teammates Kaley Louck, Hannah Heintzelman and Mackenzie Rugg.

In 2nd place was Allyson Marvel Pole Vault and the 400 meter relay team of Kaley Louck, Tara Tepin, Jenna Zoeman and Mathilda Stocke.

In 3rd place was Hannah Heintzelman 800 meter run, and Allyson Marvel 100 meter hurdles.

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Late freeze impacting spring lawn care

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DIG-Late-freeze-impacting-spring-lawn-care(Family Features) Despite the official start of spring, much of the northeast remains covered with snow from the harsh, record breaking winter storms. In addition to being frustrating, late freezing can actually cause extensive damage to your lawn.

The lawn care experts with TruGreen know the proper techniques that must be taken to keep your lawn away from freeze damage. Here are some tips to help yard owners do what they can to help their lawns recover and have a green spring and summer.

Watch for snow mold: Extended periods of snow cover create ideal conditions for snow mold to develop and spread. The damage can be most severe in areas where snow had been piled or accumulated due to drift. Snow mold symptoms begin as small spots 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Grasses are generally matted within the patches. In some cases, small brown or black fungus may be visible on the grass blades. There are different varieties of snow mold; gray snow mold has a slimy appearance and may expand up to 2 feet with a gray-white halo, and pink snow mold patches are typically reddish-brown and then tan. Fortunately, even when damage appears widespread, your lawn can usually recover quickly from gray snow mold with a few practical steps. However, pink snow mold can cause more serious and long-lasting injury to grass roots and may require more homeowner intervention, especially if cool, wet weather continues in the spring.

Get raking: Homeowners need to take action as soon as snows melt and the ground begins to warm to prevent snow mold from causing permanent damage. Use a simple leaf rake to rough up the matted grasses around the snow mold patches. This will improve air circulation and stimulate new grass growth. The recovery should be fairly quick and routine lawn care should be all that’s needed to bring a lawn back to good health. In some cases, applying a fertilizer can accelerate the recovery.

Lower mower on first run: Once the snow is clear and you can mow your grass, try lowering your lawn mower blades for a closer cut for the first mowing of the season. This can help to improve air circulation and stimulate new grass growth.

Plan ahead: It’s never too early to plan ahead for future lawn care. Yard owners can take precautions in the fall to prevent a reoccurrence of snow mold next spring. The fact is, snow mold damage is likely to reoccur if not managed. Practice proper mowing practices throughout the season and keep mowing until the turf stops growing. Going into winter, tall or improperly mown turf grass provides the ideal climate for snow mold development. It is also important to clean up leaves in the fall and manage thatch accumulation with aeration if necessary.

In addition to these tips, remember that you should never apply any lawn care product to your grass, shrubs or trees until you determine if it’s the right treatment for your yard’s specific needs. Once you do, you’ll be ready to enjoy the fun of living life outside with your family and friends all season long.

For more tips for a better lawn, visit www.trugreen.com.

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Create a healthy ecosystem in your yard

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Ruud Morijn - Fotolia.com Invasive weeds, such as the Purple Loosestrife, can out-compete native species.

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Ruud Morijn – Fotolia.com
Invasive weeds, such as the Purple Loosestrife, can out-compete native species.

(StatePoint) This season, help promote a healthy ecosystem by learning to identify and control damaging plants and insects in your yard.

Information about common invasive species and backyard invaders is now being offered by Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE):

Invasive Plants

Invasive weeds can out-compete native species, changing the local ecosystem. Many varieties, first introduced as flora to plant in gardens, can be confused with similar, native varieties. Here are two common damaging ones to watch out for:

• Purple Loosestrife, native to Europe and Asia, is found in most states. One plant can produce more than two million seeds annually.

• Native to China, the Tree-of-Heaven was widely planted as an ornamental plant for many years and is often confused with other trees having similar leaves, such as black walnut, butternut, and most sumac.

Invasive Insects

Invasive insects can also have a severe negative impact on native species by out-competing them for food and resources. Many also cause and carry disease and prey on native species. Two common ones to look out for include:

• Emerald Ash Borer, native to Asia, is prominently found across the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeastern United States. The larvae do the most damage, killing ash trees by feeding on the inner bark.

• Zebra Mussel, native to lakes in southern Russia, is found in hundreds of waterways throughout the United States. The species commonly clog water intakes, damage boats, and can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow on rocks, swim rafts, and ladders.

Backyard Pests

Did you know native plants and insects can cause damage too?

• Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Left untreated, Lyme disease infects the joints, heart, and nervous system. After time spent outdoors, check for ticks, especially in and around your ears, inside your belly button, behind your knees, around your waist, on your scalp, and in your hair.

• Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus. While most people may show few symptoms, 20 percent of people develop a fever along with headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Follow the “three Ds” to protect yourself: Drain standing water; Stay indoors at Dusk and Dawn; Dress in long-sleeves and pants; and use DEET-based mosquito repellent.

• Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can lurk in backyards. Almost 85 percent of people develop a rash when they come into contact with these weeds.

Control poisonous weeds long-term by carefully digging out the plants while wearing waterproof gloves or treating with a pesticide.

Defend your local ecosystem by identifying exotic plants in your garden or yard. Spot invasive weeds and insects in your area? Let your county extension office know, which may have a monitoring and management program in place.

For more lawn and garden tips, visit www.DebugTheMyths.com.

By being aware of invasive species and other pests in your area, you can help support native species and a healthy ecosystem in your own backyard and neighborhood.

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Money and Politics: We Need Change Now!

 

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

I’ve seen a lot over my decades in politics, and not much alarms me. But I have to be blunt: Money is poisoning our political system.

The people who matter most to a representative democracy—the ordinary voters in whose interests elected politicians are supposed to act—feel they’ve become an afterthought in the political process. The tidal wave of money washing over our elections, with no end in sight, is causing Americans to lose faith in the system.

Oddly, many politicians see no problem. They don’t believe that they’re selling their votes, or even that money influences their behavior.

While it is a rare member of Congress who would change his or her vote because of money, there is ample evidence that when donors contribute heavily, they have a disproportionate influence over the legislator; that’s not “corruption,” but it means that the opinions of average citizens are diminished when it comes to policy-making.

Thanks to a series of Supreme Court decisions over the last half-decade, we’ve seen a surge in campaign spending that is beyond the ability of journalists and regulators to track. This money purchases attack ads that saturate the airwaves with scant clue as to who is funding them. And, it pushes our politics toward the extremes, emphasizing ideological purity, unremitting partisanship, and a political culture that exalts confrontation over consensus building. In other words, it cripples representative democracy.

So what can we do? The first priority is to find ways of boosting prompt financial disclosure—to trace the source of campaign spending on behalf of candidates and incumbents before an election so that voters know who is supporting whom, and can match candidates’ positions on issues with the interests of their financial backers. Disclosure done after elections is meaningless.

The second major reform is to make public funds available for financing campaigns, thus amplifying the contributions of ordinary Americans, freeing candidates to spend more time on substance rather than fundraising, and letting them engage more fully with voters rather than donors.

The odds of action are not encouraging. Yet, I’m heartened by something Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters in New Hampshire the other day. “You’re going to have money dumped in this election cycle that’s going to turn off the American people,” he said. “There’s going to be a need and a movement to try to control the money in politics.” Let’s hope he’s right.

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You are stuck with you

 

 

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

On a visit to my hometown, I took the time to drive by the house that had been my childhood home. It was largely unchanged except that it seemed so much smaller. Surely, the house, and what I thought had been a sprawling front yard, had shrunk over the years. But the neighborhood itself had gone to seed.

Homes were completely abandoned. Once beautiful yards were overgrown. Everywhere I looked I saw the same thing: dilapidated, deteriorating, run-down houses. So what happened? It was a failure of vigilance more than anything else. Everyone moved out or moved on, and homes that aren’t lived in break down.

The same can be said for our hearts. By “heart,” of course, I’m not speaking of the cardiovascular system, but the mysterious, inner person. The admonition from the Hebrew sage goes: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” He was addressing the spiritual center of the person, for the heart can become as overrun as an abandoned home, as fallen into disrepair as a forsaken neighborhood if one doesn’t stay with it. And I mean exactly that: you have to occupy that space, living at the center of who God has made you.

It’s tempting to run away from who you are, moving out and moving on, but at the end of the day (literally and metaphorically) you have to come home to yourself. And home will not be a very pleasant place if you haven’t taken care of the space, if you have no center—no core—if you haven’t taken care of where you live. Put bluntly, you are stuck with you; and if you have let your heart go to seed, how can you ever be happy occupying a place like that?

Chris Hurst, a young songwriter from Nashville, asks this question: “How do you break a heart?” He answers, “You abandon it. Slip out in a moment of weakness and vulnerability; when it has turned its back. Leave it lonely. A heart cannot be crushed, pierced, or gagged. It must be neglected. Then and only then will it break.”

Guard your heart and you might learn to love the person God has made you to be and the life he has given you to live. Give your heart the attention it deserves, and you just might discover a wonderful place to call home.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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