Who are you American Christian?

I am a walking oxymoron. I don’t fit into others’ preconceived idea of what it means to be a Christian in the United States of America. Allow me to provide some background before addressing the crux of this post.

I came to faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour while serving in the US Army at Fort Greely, Alaska. After leaving the service and marrying my Army-brat bride, we attended a multi-denominational Charismatic Bible school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. We graduated with a Diploma of Practical Theology which later converted to an Associates degree. As a couple, we served as youth pastors in a non-Denominational church in a small white community outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. That church was highly involved in local and state politics.

Departing there with some GI bill money expiring soon, I returned to school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a private Charismatic school with a great degree of cultural and racial diversity compared to the small town we had just left. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts. My major was Church Ministries: Pastoral and minors in Church History & Systematic Theology.

I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at Ashbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was a Methodist school that aligned itself with the conservative wing of that denomination. While attending, we joined a church plant out of World Harvest Church. We began helping in Children’s church at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, Kentucky. I dropped out of seminary after a family illness and the financial stress seminary placed on my family. Eventually, we would lead two kid’s church services as well as my being the TV/Radio editor for the church.

We relocated back to my home state of California eventually attending the local Assembly of God congregation. While my wife worked in the nursery, I began teaching the Adult Sunday School class and taught an occasional Sunday or Wednesday night service. My wife would eventually become the Children’s church director and supervisor of the food pantry outreach on Fridays.

All of this is shared, not to inflate myself over others, but rather to demonstrate our participation in the body of Christ. We have been in the trenches and have taught believers from the cradle to the grave. I have gone to school for theology and have done practical ministry as well.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I see many believers in America ascribing allegiance to things of this world over the precepts of Christ. Some of the things which have contaminated the Christian faith in America and are cultural residue are guns, Republican devotion, personal rights over community concerns, and neglect of those suffering injustices.

The arming of Christians and their vapid defense of having firearms is in direct contradiction to the gospel. Jesus came to give hope and admonished Peter for taking up a sword at his arrest. A painting of our savior brandishing a firearm or assault weapon has no place in our places of worship yet many do bring firearms to worship regularly. We are to reflect His image to a hurting world, but what do we show them when we carry weapons of execution instead of extending arms open for embrace.

Devotion to the Republican party has weakened Christian impact on those around them. I am Pro-Life, but I am also Pro-Love, and Pro-Character. The current leadership of the Republican party lacks the compassion/character of our Savior and denigrates people regularly. They mock and instill fear as a way of securing votes. The current resident of the White House smiled while awkwardly holding a Bible after gassing protesters calling for an end to racial inequality.

The pandemic of Covid 19 has brought out a level of selfishness among Christians in America that is also astonishing. The Golden rule given by our Savior states “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Wearing a mask has become too much to ask for many believers. We want it our way instead of being selfless and sacrificing for the well being of others.

Finally, the continued disregard for the ongoing, neverending suffering of injustices by those whose skin color is not white is not a cause of concern for far too many American Christians. They get upset when someone says “Black Lives Matter” and respond with “All Lives Matter.” Jesus told of the shepherd who left the 99, to go and save the one. Nobody says all don’t matter, but people of color are hurting and affirming they matter should not offend. He gave all for all. Their pain is His pain and thereby, my pain too.

Lord, break the church in America free from the cultural bondage it has so willingly embraced. Help it to be a place of love, acceptance and caring for a hurting and needy world. May we once again be a beacon in the darkness. Amen.

Attitude of Grattitude

I have a co-worker that can be counted on to complain about almost anything and everything. Almost everyday, they arrive with curses and complaints about someone cutting them off or some “idiot” that did something to them. I kid them and welcome them with “Hello sunshine.” It really is our decision what we do with what happens to us. We can choose to accentuate the positive or dwell on the negative. I hear the doom and gloom spilling out of the tv and remember I have a loving wife and a job. I have good health. My son may play his music loud in his room, but he is home and not a runaway. I may have bills, but fortunately I don’t have bill collectors banging on my door. I may not live in a mansion, but I have a roof over my head and utilities that work. I am not homeless and have food to eat. I remember doing mission work in the mountains of Mexico and seeing how grateful the people of the village were. They had dirt floors and drafty dwellings. Their church was made up of rocks and the pews were nothing more than 2 x 4s, but they were happy. Philippians 4:11 says ” I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” For the majority of our 19 years togehter, we were vagabonds for Jesus. One year in Kempner, TX after we got married. Two years in Dallas, TX for bible school school. Four years in Aledo, TX as youth pastors. Three years in Tulsa, OK for college at ORU. Four years in Wilmore, KY for seminary and then work. We now have a place we aren’t renting and though it isn’t our dream home, it’s ours. We may have a teenager that can be moody or rude at times, but he is also principled and willing to go against the crowd when he thinks they are wrong. I am grateful to the Lord for the life he has given me and the wonderful things in my life.

Friends are friends forever.

As we journey through this life, I find it interesting how some people are constants in our lives and others are there only for a season and then are gone. I have one friend that has remained a constant in my life since high school while others have drifted away. I have been in churches from Texas to Oklahoma to Kentucky and had some very dear friends I made along the way. As time and distance have separated us, some I could call and pick up right where we left off while others I will probably never hear from again. I am grateful for those that are, have been or will be among those I call friend. Thanks for sharing a laugh or cry. It is good to know that others are on the journey and we can help shoulder one another in times of joy and despair. Friends are friends forever.

Sympathy for the longsuffering fan.

Yesterday, I saw my beloved Chargers once again fall short of winning it all. It’s nothing new as they have never ended the post-season winning. My friend Marilyn, at whose house we watched the game, is a longtime Steelers fan. She turned to me afterward and said, “I know how you feel.” I had to correct her and say, “No, you don’t, because your team has won the Super Bowl.” Unless you are a Titans, Panthers, Falcons, or Seahawks fan you don’t know how I feel. Each of these teams have made one appearance in the Super Bowl and lost. On the other hand, I have no idea how fans of the Bills, Vikings, Bengals, or Eagles feel as they have been multiple times without winning it all. Then there are the fans of the Browns, Jaguars, Texans, Lions, Saints, and Cardinals that have never even been to the Super Bowl. Besides being a Steelers fan, she also roots for the 49ers which hardly seems fair since they have 10 Super Bowls wins between them. Every team in the AFC West has won a Super Bowl and a couple have won it twice while my Chargers have yet to win the big one. I appreciate the sympathy, but to be a fan of the Chargers is to know what it means to never win it all. I remember in the 90s hoping I would live long enough to see them make it there. They did and were smashed by the 49ers. Now I hope that before I draw my last, I will see the Lombardi trophy hoisted by my team since the days of Dan Fouts and Air Coryell, the San Diego Chargers.

Reflecting on years past.

A new year is always a great time to look forward and think on years past. In 1969, I was the baby of the family until October when my younger brother came on the scene. In 1979, I was in middle school and trying my best to be cool. In 1989, I was in the last year in the Army and engaged to Renee. In 1999, I had just finished with my degree at Oral Roberts and working at Walmart doing overnight stocking while working part-time as a web designer. That brings us to 2009 and it is amazing how I am back working in Barstow, a town I desperately wanted to escape as a teenager. I have been married to Renee 19 years next month. Twenty years after leaving the Army, I work as a contractor overseeing environmental websites for them. I don’t know what the next 10 years will bring, but I know in whom I trust. Thanks Lord for an amazing adventure filled with friends, family, a variety of locations, and your everlasting, unconditional love.

Yelling at the TV….

This time of year you can always here me yelling at the TV for one reason or another. This weekend, I was yelling at the referee’s call in the San Diego-Denver game that gave what was clearly a fumble back to Denver helping decide the outcome of the game. I really enjoy watching the Chargers play, but I hate watching them lose. At least the Angels are giving me plenty to cheer for right now.

The verdict is in….

Yesterday was a trip to the eye doctor and the doctor concluded that I need two pairs of glasses. I could have gone with bifocals, but tipping my head back and forth in front of the PC all day did not sound appealing. So instead, I will have my computer/reading glasses and prescription sunglasses for driving(distance). Losing my hair didn’t make me feel old as I began losing it in my 20s. Getting gray hair didn’t make me feel old as I saw that as just getting wiser. Having to switch to glasses after never having worn them my whole life, makes me feel old. I know most people that have worn them their whole life have no sympathy for me. Twenty plus years of staring at computer screens has finally caught up to me.

Olympic Rant!

I enjoy watching the Olympics and have always been a fan. I saw the torch relay in 84 and 02 and attended the Olympics in 92 in Barcelona. That said, I hate that NBC refuses to show the big ticket events live on the West coast. I have been watching ESPN News to see results right after the events finish. Unfortunately, NBC feels we aren’t worth showing it live. Not even the record breaking 8th gold medal event by Michael Phelps was shown live. Instead, we wait 3 hours to see a race that I already know the result of. Shameful! Take down the stupid LIVE logo and quit telling me “Coming up live” Bob Costas, because it’s a lie.

What a night to be a Laker fan! – Part 2

OK. So the season is over now after a beatdown of the Lakers by the Celtics. That was the worst I have seen the Lakers get beat in a playoff. It wasn’t even close. So now its time to turn to baseball and hey at least the Angles won last night.

After the massacre had ended, we went out to the movies. Tuesdays is $5 night after all. We went to see The Incredible Hulk. This was a much better movie than the disaster a few years back. It had the right blend of the TV show and the original comic plus the required cameo by Stan Lee. It also had Lou Ferrigno as a security guard and a clip of the Courtship of Eddie’s Father with Bill Bixby in it. Nice to see a nod to the TV show which also had the theme song and the Lonely Man piano song also. The Iron Man tie in and Avengers tease was nice too. Great action and pacing so I liked it.

Next up: Hellboy II(per Jesse) & Batman: The Dark Night!

RANT! – What a night to be a Laker fan!

I haven’t had my enthusiasm for the Lakers swing so much in a single game as last night’s loss to the dreaded Celtics. I went from mountain top high after a great first half having watched the Lakers dominate Boston. In the end, I was left wondering why I even cheer for the Lakers. I grew up in Southern California cheering on the great Lakers teams of the 80s and was thrilled when they won 3 titles in a row at the turn of this century. What drag to watch them fold in the second half and watch the Celtics celebrate. I just hope they can make Boston celebrate on their own floor by at least winning on Sunday and sending the series back to Boston.