We don’t talk about gun violence, no, no!

There are many things that the church is very vocal about like the value of unborn life and freedom of expression of our faith in public. However, our silence on gun violence is abhorrent. We will march and protest for some things, but when people are killed by the blight of guns in our society, we sit on our hands or label those who call for action idiots.

Let me provide some background for my belief that we must do something about America’s gun addiction. As a toddler, my parents had a hand gun in the home until they found me playing with it in the middle of their bed. After high school, I joined the Army and learned to handle multiple weapons. I also accepted the Lord while serving and lost all desire to take a life using those same weapons.

After leaving military service, I went to Bible school in Dallas, Texas. At that time, a lone gunman drove his truck into a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas shooting fifty people and killing twenty-three. One of the survivors was our pastor. He became an advocate for gun ownership and still preaches with a firearm on his hip.

Five years ago, another gunman opened fire on a music festival from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada killing sixty and injuring hundreds. I walked by this location multiple times while attending conferences over the years in Las Vegas. Had I been attending a conference during that fateful night, I might have been a victim as well.

There are more guns in the United States than there are people. More guns is not the answer. Texans have more licensed weapons than any other state yet have five of the worst mass shootings since 1991.

Unless you are an ambidextrous marksman, owning multiple firearms and more than a dozen rounds is excessive. If you say it’s for hunting, recent numbers show about 15 million hunting licenses issued which makes up less than 5% of the United States population.

I ask these questions of all Americans and especially the church. How many weapons are enough? How much ammunition is enough? Why do gun manufacturers continue to profit from tragedies as gun sales spike? How many innocent lives must be lost to gun violence before the church says something?

Keep fighting

The Big C, cancer attacks our lives in our own bodies or the ones we love. I lost my mother to lung cancer several years ago. My mother-in-law is in the midst of her battle with cancer. Renee recently underwent surgery to remove cancer and the surrounding organs it was impacting. My best friend is dealing with his father’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Whether we like it or not, cancer will impact our lives in one way or another. Let’s not stop fighting it in every way possible.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I Timothy 6:12 NKJV

Who can it be now?

The 80’s song by the Australian band Men at Work comes to mind as loss once again comes knocking on our door. The longer we exist on earth, the more frequently this unwelcome visitor appears at the threshold.

I lost my parents in 2009 and 2017. My father-in-law passed in 2014. Recently, two classmates passed as well. In November, I had to put down our 16 year old feline family member after being diagnosed with renal failure.

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law called to inform my wife that their younger brother was no longer with us. He was only 46 years old, but had lived with diabetes since childhood. My wife looked at me and said “now there’s only 7 of us” referring to the four members of our family, her sister and spouse, and her mom.

While longevity is certainly what we all wish for it does come with this caveat. The longer you live, the more frequent visits from loss will occur.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬14 NKJV

“That’s not a movie.”

I said that to my father as he lay paralyzed on his left side from a stroke in a hospital bed in Lakeland, FL on the morning of 9/11. It was a day of loss and selfless sacrifice by 1st responders rushing into danger to try and save lives.

As we honor their sacrifices and remember the many who are departed, I wonder how many more times I would have repeated that phrase standing next to my pops as we observed events of the recent years. We have seen a callous and uncaring police officer kneel on a man’s neck until he expired. We have seen over a half-million of our countrymen pass from sickness. We saw the sitting president whip a crowd into a frenzy to prevent the certification of his successor.

The many selfless acts from that day 20 years ago have been replaced by so many selfish acts of today. The death of a man of color unjustly does not prompt outrage by all and some are more outraged by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The mandating of a life saving vaccine causes people to object to their individual rights being trampled instead of seeking to stop a pandemic. A large portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged because their guy lost despite no evidence to support their allegations. My way over others is most important.

John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Matthew 7:12 says “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” MSG

Let’s set aside our selfishness for selflessness!

Shrinking my social footprint

I bit the bullet and opted to reactivate my FB account. However, in doing so I chose also to reduce the number of “friends” as well. Having been unfriended myself without notice, I am certain their will be unintended hurt feelings. It is an odd thing how we allow people we have shared a common experience with at some point to have continued access to your life. Does being a classmate, coworker, sharing a common interest or bloodline mean I grant you continuous unending visibility of the details of my life?

If anyone is upset about no longer being a “friend” on social media, my apologies as that wasn’t my intention. I just realized I had allowed far too many people a window into my life. I spent a year away and during that time, only a handful made contact. Some on social media were only in my life for a short period and have not been a continued presence since our paths separated. I am still available should they decide they need to talk, but most didn’t miss me while in my exile.

If my life touched theirs in some significant way on our journey to eternity, it gives us so something to talk about at journey’s end. I am not pursuing large numbers of followers or friends and hope those that remain are there to contribute to my life and not just stand by and obseve.

End my self-imposed exile?

Almost a year ago, I exiled myself and deactivated my Facebook profile due to the divisiveness and vitriol it was injecting into my daily life. I do miss seeing photos of family and friends as well as sharing in their triumphs or comforting them in times of loss. However, the stances some “friends” would have expressed over the wearing of masks, the election and subsequent insurrection are not missed.

I joined that social platform to reconnect with others and share things about our life such as birthdays, trips or prayer requests. I found myself confronted with views I found troubling and contradictory to the faith I live by. When I spoke to those contradictions, I was told I thought I was better than others and attacked. I do not think I am better than others, but silence on wrongs is something I should never do nor advocate others to replicate.

So I sit and ponder whether to reactivate my account on that platform or continue my exile. Do the pros outweigh the cons of doing so?

Fomentor in chief

The chorus of this song echoes in my mind when I think of the fomentor of the recent attack on the US Capitol.

Kick ‘Em Out by X-Sinner

You’re late every day,
Move over, outta the way,
Throw it away, you’re thinking of yourself,
You’re tired, hit the shower,
Sit down, take a break,
You’re playing a game you’re never gonna win.

You said, “I don’t like it, I don’t like it,”
Kick ’em out, kick ’em out,
You’re just another freak trying to tell me how to live,
Kick ’em out,
Kick ’em out.

Big house, fancy car,
Long green, you’re a star,
You got it all; you’re dying a slow death,
Good looks knock ’em dead,
You let power go to your head,
You’re in control, they do whatever you say.

You say, “I don’t like it, I don’t like it,”
Kick ’em out, kick ’em out,
You’re just another freak trying to tell me how to live,
Kick ’em out,
Kick ’em out.

Check out, time to pay,
Don’t get another day,
Had a chance; you threw it all away,
Too late, over and done,
You’ve lost, you could’ve won,
You turned him away when he was knocking at your door.

You said, “I don’t like it, I don’t like it,”
Kick ’em out, kick ’em out,
You’re just another freak trying to tell me how to live,
Kick ’em out,
Kick ’em out.

No turning back

Giving a commitment to follow Jesus involves turning away from one’s past and embracing the promise of redemption through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. You pursue holiness and conformity to the message and lifestyle he demonstrated for us. You understand that it is through His pardoning of our sins that we are able to stand blameless before a Holy God. We have no ability to cleanse ourselves from the ugliness and corrosion of this world on our own. He cleanses and then empowers us to overcome as we rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.

Yesterday, we returned to visit the congregation that we met in when I was a GI and Renée was a high school student. It was a bit of a time warp and also a bit of a reckoning on how far we have traveled on this journey of faith. The message was one we had heard 30 years ago and the cultural influence was also dated. Although our faith sprang from that soil, it could not grow there now. There were political statements made that we didn’t agree with and mocking of Covid19 that was troubling as well. Add to that a pistol packing pastor and we all knew that we were making our only and possibly final visit amongst them.

An Indian missionary penned the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” which concludes with the line “no turning back.” I don’t think we can return to where we once were after committing to follow Jesus. We aren’t who we once were and cannot turn back the clock to do what we once did. Growth involves shedding of old ways and conforming to the image of the Savior.

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”
Romans 12:2 AMP

A heritage of service

When it comes to military service to this country, there is a significant heritage in our family. I was told growing up that on my mother’s side, I descended from John Paul Jones, father of America’s navy. Closer to my generation was my father and siblings service to our country.

My Uncle Jim served in the US Coast Guard while my Uncle Bill, Harry, Ray and Ed all served in the US Navy. My father chose to join the US Marines straight out of high school. He met my mother while stationed in San Diego and spent a year of my early life in Vietnam at Khe San during the Tet Offensive. He was reassigned to Barstow, CA where he exited the service and raised my brothers and I.

I chose to enlist in the US Army at 19 years of age to escape Barstow only to return twice to train at nearby Ft Irwin National Training Center. I also participated in the Cold War exercise REFORGER(Return of Forces to Germany) in 1987 to keep East Germany and the Warsaw Pact at bay. My younger brother would follow Uncle Jim into the Coast Guard and served 10 years while I left the Army after only 4 years to pursue ministry. Later in life, he joined the Oregon Air Guard as well.

Additionally, I would meet and marry an Army brat whose father retired from the Army and was a member of rival unit where I was stationed at Ft Hood, TX. My best friend Jim enlisted in the Navy serving 30 years and retiring as a Command Master Chief.

Many of us have taken the oath pledging our lives to the defense and protection of our countrymen. Serving the United States of America is our heritage!

Booting the Bully

On November 7th, the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States was called by all major news outlets after it became clear he would secure the electoral votes necessary to be declared President-Elect. This signaled an end to the term of one of the biggest bullies to ever hold the office. This person denigrated so many people and mocked those that opposed him. He attacked anyone who dare to question his lack of leadership and even used the military to gas peaceful protesters to stage a photo op where he awkwardly held a Bible in front of a church he did not attend to pander to people of faith.

I have never liked bullies and have taken a stand against them many times in my life. I took on the biggest kid in my elementary school when he knocked my friend’s mouth into a water fountain. I cornered a kid who had been stealing my younger brother’s lunch money and ensured that stopped. Later as a teacher, I called out students who caused a boy with a learning disability to break into tears when they placed a lock on his locker. I also walked my son to the house of a neighborhood kid that threatened him with a knife to confront him in front of his parents.

The Bible is clear on how we are to treat others. The golden rule in Matthew 7:12 says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) The defeat of someone who in no way exhibited concern and kindness toward others has been a reason to rejoice for many. Sadly, there are many in the church that are mourning it. The character of our nation’s leader matters as many said during the term of his predecessor who committed infidelity while in office.

I have been a Republican since I began voting yet I have not voted for their candidate in several elections. That doesn’t mean I have voted for the Democrat candidate either. My faith informs who I vote for or who I don’t vote for. We are in the world, but not of the world. Christ said as much before Pilate after his arrest. People of faith should participate in elections, but never compromise on the standards heaven calls us to hold.

I hope and pray the incoming President will restore civility and kindness to the highest office that have been sorely lacking the last four years. I may not agree with every policy he implements, but I will welcome a change in tone and a departure from bullying.