Leap Year

The Roman dictator Julius Caesar is considered the father of leap year. The ancient Roman calendar system was based on a total of 355 days in a year – a full 10 1/4 days shorter than a solar year, which is the length of time it takes the Earth to make one complete orbit around the sun. To keep the calendar system in line with the seasons, Roman officials were supposed to insert an extra month every so often, but by the time Caesar began to rule Rome, the calendar had gotten seriously out of whack. Caesar consulted with the top astronomers of the day, and in 46 BC he decided to add one day (known as an intercalary day, or leap day) every four years to make up the discrepancy between the lunar and solar calendars. Caesar also took the opportunity to rename Quintilis, the fifth month of the year (counting from March), leaving us with the month we now call July.

Leap year comes around every four years. It seems like it is never February 29. In fact, the Michigan Vehicle Code states that people born on February 29th “are deemed to have been born on March 1st.” So how unusual is it to have a February 29 birthday? In the United States, we have 187,000 who were born on that day. Around the world, that number swells to four million. While the chances of being born on February 29 are just 0.068 percent, for the ones whose birthday is today, they still count.

February 29 gave us Dinah Shore and Tony Robbins. And Jimmy Dorsey and Pepper Martin. If not for people born on February 29 we wouldn’t have Tammy Redencic. Tammy was born on February 29, 1972. Today she is celebrating her 11th birthday. That makes her the same age as her granddaughter.

Think about that one. When Tammy is 50 her granddaughter will be 167. Age really is just a number. The Bible says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). That is why the psalmist prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). February 29 is an odd day. But more importantly, it is your only day – of promise. You may not get another one. So make today count.

Man Steals $135K from ‘Dear Friend’ Moments After She Dies

A man has admitted to stealing $135,000 from the retirement account of a woman whose obituary described him as a “dear friend.” Sixty-year-old Dennis Lordi pleaded guilty Tuesday in Superior Court in Morristown to theft by deception. Prosecutors said Lordi posed as Donna DiLullo to transfer $135,517 from her Prudential deferred compensation/retirement account into his own account just minutes after receiving word that she had died suddenly at age 55.

Authorities said the money was frozen after the theft was realized and is now being returned to DiLullo’s estate. Lordi had been accused by authorities of attempting to steal about $566,000 total in retirement and life insurance benefits from DiLullo, but he admitted only to the retirement fund theft. Prosecutors had alleged that Lordi also accessed DiLullo’s online benefit account and made himself her primary beneficiary of her insurance and pension benefits.

DiLullo, who worked as a probation officer in Somerset County for nearly 30 years, died in her home. Her obituary listed surviving family members and several “dear friends,” including Lordi.

One of the seven deadly sins of the Catholic Church is greed. Jesus said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). Paul called “the love of money . . . the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Gandhi said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

There is a children’s story called The Greedy Mouse. A greedy mouse saw a basket full of corn. He wanted to eat it. So he made a small hole in the basket. He squeezed in through the hole. He ate a lot of corn. He felt full. He was very happy. Now he wanted to come out, so he tried to exit the small hole. He could not. His belly was full. He tried again. But it was of no use.

The mouse started crying. A rabbit was passing by. It heard the mouse’s cry and asked, “Why are you crying, my friend?” The mouse explained, “I made a small hole and came into the basket. Now I am not able to get out through that hole.” The rabbit said, “It is because you ate too much. Wait til your belly shrinks.” The rabbit laughed and went away.

The mouse fell asleep in the basket. The next morning his belly had shrunk. But the mouse wanted to eat some corn. So he ate and ate. His belly was full once again. He thought, “Oh! Now I will go out tomorrow.” The cat was the next passerby. he smelled the mouse in the basket. He lifted its lid and ate the mouse.

Nothing will eat you up like greed. Just ask the mouse. Or ask Dennis Lordi. He thought the $135,000 would buy him freedom. But now he lives in the jail of his own making.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith of Madonna

Madonna Louise Ciccone is one of the most famous icons of our generation. The 57-year-old singer, songwriter, actress, businesswoman, author, director, record producer, philanthropist, and dancer has a reported net worth of over $500 million. Having sold over 300 million records, Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. Billboard ranks her the #2 artist of all time, only behind The Beatles. But what do we know about her faith?

Madonna grew up near Detroit, and says she had a ‘rebel heart” from the beginning. Her mother died of cancer when Madonna was very young. Raised by her father in a strict home, she was never one to embrace the norms of society.

Madonna’s Faith Journey

1. The pop artist was raised in a strict Catholic home. Girls wore dresses at all times, which led Madonna to question her dad, “Will Jesus love me less if I wear pants?” Madonna rebelled against organized religion in general, and Catholicism specifically.

2. She has never formally affiliated with any religion or church. “I didn’t affiliate myself with any religious group,” she said in a recent interview. “I connect to ritualistic aspects of different belief systems.”

3. Madonna is loosely Jewish. Though she asserts, “I have not converted to Judaism,” she has studied the mystical offshoot of Kabbalah for 20 years. She hears the Torah every Saturday and says specific Jewish prayers as a personal habit.

4. The entertainment icon embraces many religions. Asked why she wears a cross, she said, “I like crosses. I’m sentimental about Jesus on the cross. Jesus was Jewish, embraced all people. he rattled a lot of people’s cages,” she told interviewer Brian Hiatt. Madonna has dated Brahim Zaibat, a committed Muslim and sought wisdom from a variety of faiths.

Defining Madonna’s Faith

1. Madonna is postmodern. As such, she rejects any one tradition’s claim of objective truth.

2. She is syncretistic. That means she blends a variety of world views while rejecting strict dogma and theology.

3. Madonna is the author of her own religion. She says, “I practice something deeper than religion, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” She has fused her values of individualism with a rejection of the rules of Catholicism, and has largely embraced mystical aspects of Judaism. In short, for Madonna, her faith is what she finds authentic at the time.

About the Author

Adam Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family. He likes to play guitar and construct LEGO kits with his son. Adam and Jennifer are the proud parents of one boy and two girls.

The Rushmore Report: The Sad Story of Delonte West

Delonte West was the first round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 2004. In his nine seasons in the NBA he earned over $16 million. Out of the league the past two years, West was spotted in a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant parking lot in Houston Monday night – eyes glazed, stumbling aimlessly, wearing a hospital gown and no shoes. A fan recognized him and asked, “Are you Delonte West?” to which he responded, “I used to be, but not anymore.”

This is the sad story of Delonte West.

The budding star out of Greenbelt, Maryland played his college ball for St. Joseph’s, earning All-American honors in 2004, prompting the Celtics’ decision to draft him in the first round. He received an enormous signing bonus and a guaranteed contract. But never living up to his NBA expectations, the 6’3″ guard never stayed with any of his five teams for more than three years.

His downward spiral has been well-chronicled. One night he was pulled over by police and arrested for carrying three unauthorized weapons. He was said to have had an affair with LeBron James’ mother during his stint in Cleveland. He has overdosed on pills and cut himself to the point of extensive bleeding. He was diagnosed as bipolar, but claims that was an overblown assessment. He fights depression and suicidal thoughts. His substance abuse addiction has cost him his entire $16 million.

Twelve years ago, Delonte West was a rising star in the NBA and made more money in his signing bonus than Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain made their entire careers. And now he appears homeless, disoriented, and lost.

Is there any hope for Delonte West? The Bible gives a resounding “Yes” to that question. God is the Great Hope of fallen men. Jeremiah said, “You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back” (Jeremiah 8:4). God is the Great Hope of fallen men. Solomon wrote, “The righteous may fall seven times but still get up” (Proverbs 24:16). God is the Great Hope of fallen men.

Muhammad Ali said the key to success was to get up more times than you go down. Few men have known more failures than the legendary Johnny Cash. Not long before his death, he reflected on his life. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Delonte West has lived on the mountain and is now in the valley. But at the age of 32, he has so much still in front of him. But it is unlikely his story will end well unless he meets the Great Hope. Anything short of that and the next story written on the former star could be the last. That is the sad story of Delonte West. We must pray that someone, anyone, who really cares will tell him the story of the Great Hope – while there is still time.

Bob Dole Endorses Rubio – Trump Should Send Him a Dozen Roses

The “establishment” has spoken. Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole has endorsed Marco Rubio for president, now that Jeb Bush has dropped out. “Now that my good friend Jeb Bush is no longer running, I’m supporting Rubio,” Dole told ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein in an interview for Powerhouse Politics.

“He worked for my ’96 campaign in Dade County, Florida, and so I’ve had an acquaintance with him way back in ’96 when he was a hard worker. As much as I love John Kasich, you know, Rubio is probably a better candidate. And he’s young.” Dole added, “He wants to grow the party as opposed to Cruz. I don’t know what he wants to grow.”

The former Kansas senator also had something to say about front runner Donald Trump. Saying Trump could effectively secure the nomination with a sweep of Super Tuesday states next week, Dole said, “Then I think you start printing the inaugural invitation. If Trump has a good day on Super Tuesday, it’s going to be hard to deny him the nomination. And if reality sets in and he’s gonna start counting enough delegates, we’ve got to hope he’ll be a good president. But he’s got to start acting like a presidential candidate and tone down the rhetoric and don’t insult anybody.”

Dole said that if Trump were to become president, the real estate mogul might “surprise people with his performance, especially if he surrounds himself with qualified and experienced advisers. He’s got to understand the presidency is – it’s an overwhelming position and you can’t do it alone, and you gotta have qualified people with some experience. You can’t bring in all the outsiders,” Dole said. “He is a pretty smart guy. He might surprise a lot of people.”

Then with his typical deadpan humor, Dole concluded, “I’d be happy to be his adviser.”

Here’s my take. I love Bob Dole – I always have. But he just drew the picture we have already been looking at for months. First, in his endorsement of Marco Rubio, he talked mostly about Donald Trump. That’s the biggest reason Trump is winning. He is all anyone talks about – the media, his opponents, and even those who endorse his opponents.

The second truth Dole just opened up for all the world to see is that the Republican establishment is clueless and totally adrift. No one personifies the establishment more than Bob Dole – former senator, former senate majority leader, former vice presidential candidate, and former presidential candidate. And in this unpredictable political year, I can predict one thing with certainty. Bob Dole’s endorsement of Marco Rubio means only this: Rubio can count on Dole’s vote in the Kansas primary, and maybe his wife Elizabeth’s.

If Marco Rubio wants to become president, the first thing he needs to do is send out a memo to anyone considered part of the Republican establishment. It should say something like this: “Dear Mr. Establishment, thank you for your 30-50 years of honorable service to our country. Now, for the sake of the country, please, please, PLEASE, do not endorse me, do not say anything good about me, and if you love America, put your considerable political weight behind the candidacy of Donald J. Trump. Do it today. Do it NOW!”

Donald Trump already has the momentum. Now, Dole’s endorsement for Marco Rubio may have just sealed the deal.

The Rushmore Report: Trump’s Secret Weapon against Clinton – How He Will Win

The 2016 presidential race is fluid, with 27 more states holding primaries and caucuses by March 15. So a lot can change. But as of today, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the clear leaders in their parties. And while it’s true that everyone does better against Clinton in head-to-head match-ups than Trump – Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, and Carson – The Donald has one secret weapon. No one is talking about it, but it just might win him the White House.

In a word – enthusiasm. His voters are passionate. I give you one day as a case in point. On Saturday, February 21, elections were held in two states, and this tells you all you need to know. That day, Republicans voted in South Carolina, while Democrats voted in Nevada. The media reported that Trump won by 10 percent while Clinton won by five percent. And that’s true . . . but it’s not the main story.

On the same day, in two states of relatively equal size, this is what you didn’t know. Clinton got 6,000 votes while Trump garnered 300,000. Said a different way, of all those living in South Carolina, 6.2 percent voted for Mr. Trump. Of all those living in Nevada, 0.2 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton.

In Iowa, the second place finisher for the Republicans won more votes that the winner has had in any election – ever! And again, his name was Donald Trump. Overall, voting among Democrats is down by 22 percent versus four years ago, while Republican voting is up 22 percent.

Sec. Clinton has a deficit among young voters, white voters, and those who care a lot about honesty. But that’s not what will beat her if she loses. Enthusiasm is on the side of the Republicans, especially if the nominee is Mr. Trump.

Hillary Clinton won’t lose to Bernie Sanders. She won’t lose to Donald Trump. But she will lose to enthusiasm. The result is that someone will be inaugurated into the presidency on January 20, 2017. But his name won’t be Hillary Clinton. It will be Enthusiasm.

The Rushmore Report: What You Didn’t Know about Steven Spielberg

Steve had a goal. He could see what he wanted right in front of him – the studio buildings that led to his dream. But a formidable force stood in his way: a stem-faced security guard at the entrance to Universal Studios. Steve refused to be deterred. Dressed in a suit and tie, he marched forward. He carried his father’s briefcase, even though it held only a sandwich and a few candy bars.

Then came the moment of truth. The guard made eye contact. With Steve’s mind focused solely on his goal, he swallowed his fear, gave the guard a casual wave and kept walking. To the young man’s surprise and relief, the guard waved back. With that, Steven Spielberg walked through the studio gate and into his destiny.

For the rest of that summer young Spielberg – with the blessing of an accommodating studio executive – impersonated a movie industry professional. At summer’s end, having gained an immeasurable on-the-job education, Spielberg embarked on a film-directing career that has yielded hits such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., and Munich.

Centuries ago, the aging Caleb had a goal – to finally claim the fertile land God had promised decades earlier. To achieve his dream, Caleb had to face daunting obstacles. The first was to overcome his fear. Once he did that, the Scripture says, “Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15). Do you feel like you are fighting a war? Jesus came to give you rest (Matthew 11:28). In the words of John Donne, “He that fears God fears nothing else.”

As a young man, Spielberg had a goal. And he used his knowledge, skills, and drive to achieve his dream. As an old man, Caleb had a goal. Certainly, he had courage and drive, but he also had God’s purpose and empowerment. Imagine what you can accomplish for God when he gives you both purpose and power!

 

The Blessing of Old Age

“Hope I die before I get old.” Those were the words sung by Roger Daltrey in 1965. The founding member of The Who was 21 at the time. At 72, he must not be old yet, because he has yet to die. Is getting old really that bad? Try telling that to Yuichiro Miura, who climbed Mount Everest at age 70. Or George Brunstad, who swam the English Channel at the same age. Naval officer Grace Hopper became the first female rear admiral on the United States Navy when she was 79. Margaret Haggerty was 84 when she ran a marathon on all seven continents.

Many of the heroes of the Bible did their best work in old age. Moses was 80 when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Abraham was 100 when his son was born and Jacob was 90 at the birth of his son. Noah was 120 when he started building the ark.

The Bible has much to say about old age. “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31). “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12). “Even in your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4). “They still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).

The most godly man I know is 85. The most godly woman I ever knew was still blessing my family at 86. My pastor is almost 80. My best Sunday School teacher taught the Bible well into his 80s. God uses old people.

But when I think of the elderly, I think of Blanche. I wish I knew her last name. We only talked once. The year was 1975 and she was 93 at the time. On a Saturday morning, our youth group went to Blalock Nursing Home in Southwest Houston, where we sang to the senior adults. Blanche was among them. After one of our songs, she woke up, pointed her finger at me and said, “God is calling you to preach.” That was the totality of our lone conversation. Three days later, she died.

Does God use old people? God especially uses old people! Here’s your exercise for the day. Find someone old and call them, visit them, encourage them, thank them, and bless them. They are God’s greatest gifts, with wisdom and insight waiting to be unwrapped.

George Washington Turns 184 Today

If he had not died on December 14, 1799, he would be celebrating his 184th birthday today. On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the second son from the second marriage of a colonial plantation owner. An initially loyal British subject, Washington eventually led the Continental Army in the American Revolution and became known as the father of the United States. George Washington’s legacy has endured a long process of untangling myth from fact. The famous cherry tree incident never occurred, nor did Washington have wooden teeth. Known for being emotionally reserved and aloof, he was concerned with personal conduct, character, and self-discipline but was known to bend the rules if necessary, especially in war. Although Washington was undoubtedly ambitious, he pursued his goals humbly and with quiet confidence in his abilities as a leader.

During this election cycle, Republicans are asking, “Who’s the next Ronald Reagan?” Democrats are asking, “Who’s the next John Kennedy?” A better question might be, “Who’s the next George Washington?” Let’s consider three traits demonstrated by our first president that we sorely need in national leadership today.

  1. George Washington was an humble man. In his first inaugural address, he said, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” He declined “any share in the personal emoluments” or monetary gains for himself. Never intoxicated with power, in his second inaugural address, he subjected himself to “the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.” He could have been a king; he chose to be a president. The Bible says, “Be completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2). Humility was perhaps the most significant character trait of our first president.
  2. George Washington was a man of self-discipline. In her book, Meet George Washington, Joan Heilbroner describes a man of incredible self-discipline. She quotes him as regularly challenging himself, “Undertake not what you cannot perform.” He said, “It’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” No one farmed harder or fought harder than George Washington. He outworked his staff and outlived his contemporaries. Every day was filled with purpose. George Washington was the embodiment of self-discipline. Paul said, “God gave us a spirit of self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7), a spirit demonstrated daily by President Washington.
  3. George Washington was a man of high character. In 1788 he wrote to his trusted confidant Alexander Hamilton, “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain the character of an honest man.” In leading the War for Independence, he extolled his soldiers to “display the character appropriate to Christian soldiers.” Though gifted as a leader, statesman, and military genius, what mattered most to George Washington was not to win the battles of war, but the battles of the heart. Paul told young Timothy to “pursue righteousness” (1 Timothy 6:11). That was a pursuit that filled George Washington’s life.

President’s Day was created to honor the first president of the United States. Was he our greatest president? The answer seems obvious; without him there would have been no others. So as we celebrate the man who would be 184 years old today, let’s do so, not with another statue or monument, but by committing to being the kind of people worthy of the sacrifice of the man who gave all he had to create a better country than the world had ever known.

The Rushmore Report: 18 Very Religious Celebrities

There are a few Hollywood celebrities who have been known for their strong religious convictions through the years. Pat Boone comes to mind. I’ve known Pat for several years, and have never known a man more solid in his faith. He has told me some great stories about other strong believers from his era (1950s – present). But there are still many famous actors who have strong religious beliefs. Here is a sampling of those celebrities.

Evangelical Christians

1. Candace Cameron Bure – The star of Full House (both the old and newer versions) is the brother of Kirk Cameron. Candace speaks in churches, writes about her faith, and endorses Christian causes. She says her faith in Christ has helped her with such personal battles as bulimia.

2. Angus T. Jones – The boy from Two and a Half Men has become an outspoken crusader against the “filth” of the show in which he once starred. Jones tells churches he would only return to acting for “a few different productions that, like do kind of Bible-based stories.”

3. Stephen Baldwin – A member of the famous Baldwin acting family, Stephen told Fox News, “I have no regret about speaking out about my faith.” The actor said he thinks his strong religious faith has a negative impact on his career.

4. Denzel Washington – A devout Christian, Washington is the son of a Pentecostal preacher and a member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ for over 30 years. He reads the Bible every morning. He told Christianity Today, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit. I know it’s real.”

5. Roma Downey – Along with husband Mark Burnett, she said she “was tired of cursing the darkness,” so they started LightWorkers Media. They produced the miniseries The Bible in 2013. Downey said, “I wanted the focus to be all on Jesus.”

6. Kirk Cameron – In his autobiography, he says a girlfriend told him about Christ and he experienced a “life-changing encounter with Jesus” and says he was “born again.” The star of Growing Pains has emerged as the leading actor of Christian films.

7. Tim Tebow – Perhaps the most well-known Christian in America, the former football star is a self-professed virgin who is waiting for marriage to break his virginity. Tebow speaks to large Christian gatherings around the country.

8. Tyler Perry – The filmmaker has been an attender of T.D. Jakes’ megachurch, and has established a close relationship with the pastor. Perry is a big donor to the church and supports their outreach efforts.

Roman Catholics

1. Mark Wahlberg – One of Hollywood’s most popular actors, Wahlberg takes his faith so seriously that he has placed in his bedroom a crucifix art piece that is a replica of the real one in the Vatican. He reportedly keeps a bottle of holy water by the side of the cross. He and his family attend daily mass.

2. Jim Caviezel – The man who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ built a chapel in Malibu, California, called The Church of the Holy Family. Mass is performed in Latin every morning, and the women are required to cover their heads.

3. Patricia Heaton – The star of Everybody Loves Raymond has stood up for Christian causes. Outspoken about her faith, the actress says, “Jesus said, ‘Don’t be ashamed of me now or my word or I will be ashamed of you at the end of time.'” She speaks often of God’s love demonstrated through the Person of Jesus Christ.

Mormons

1. Donny and Marie Osmond – Perhaps the most famous Mormons in America, the singing brother and sister have been advocates for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for decades. Though opposed to same-sex marriage, both have come out as friendly to gays and lesbians in recent years.

2. David Archuleta – The rising vocalist put his career on hold to serve as a Mormon missionary. The star of American Idol left his career behind so he could fulfill his two-year commitment to the church.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

1. Prince – Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, the singer became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001. As a younger man he joined with others of his faith in knocking on doors, inviting people to his church.

Buddhists

1. Richard Gere – A practicing Tibetan Buddhist, Gere told Frontline, “People often ask me what is it about his Holiness and ultimately the only thing that I can really say is you feel safe.” He speaks of the “maybe many hundreds of millions of lifetimes of world systems of lifetimes.”

2. Tina Turner – A longtime Buddhist, Turner told Artemis, “I feel that chanting for 35 years has opened a door inside me, and that even if I never chanted again, that door would still be there. I feel at peace with myself.”

Scientology

1. Tom Cruise – His devotion has been reported to have led to the breakdown of his marriage with Katie Holmes. In 2005, he shocked fans by criticizing former co-star Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to relieve her post-partum depression, holding to the Scientology belief that psychiatry is a “pseudo science that kills.”

Kabbalah

1. Madonna – Raised a Roman Catholic, in 1996 she became a devout follower of Kabbalah, a mystical offshoot of Judaism. She has been known to dilute her children’s orange juice with specially blessed Kabbalah water and often wears white because they attract positive energy. She uses her religion to “become a better person.”