Category Archives: Christianity

Back to the oven

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I’ve been in Wisconsin for more than four months…and have to admit that I have not found a job that would allow me to make enough money to get my wife to quit her job and move up here with me. Therefore, we’ve made the decision to have me move back to Arizona. Apparently, my time wandering around in the desert has not been completed.

Aimee and I are still planning on moving to Wisconsin to partner with Luke and TCF, learn how they are serving their community, and then possibly plant a church somewhere in that region. Our eventual goal hasn’t changed, but we have to take a step back to regroup.

Even though our primary goal has not been accomplished, God has done so many other things in our lives that neither of us see this as a failure or loss. Aimee was able to do so much at her job, gaining a tremendous amount of respect from the executive team at her company. Additionally, this has been a season of emotional growth and healing for me as I have dealt with the death of my mother and other past hurts which have hindered me from making strong relationships with other people.

I have also gained a lot of love and respect for the folks here in the Thorp, Stanley, and Boyd areas. People are genuinely nice, and would do anything for you if something was needed. In less than five months, I have people telling me how sad they are that I will not be staying in Wisconsin. Additionally, Trinity Christian Fellowship is a church with few resources meeting some very large demands from the community. They feed the hungry, visit the sick, and meet other needs. In other words, they are doing the work of Jesus–work that is near and dear to my heart.

Here’s the plan: I have put in my two weeks’ notice at the station. In less than two weeks, Aimee will be flying into the Cities to join me. After staying in Stanley for a couple of days, we will drive to Columbus to attend the National Conference. I will then drop Aimee off at the airport after getting to see family for a couple of days. Finally, I’ll drive back to Stanley, pack up, and drive back to Arizona.

I have made many memories and built relationships with friends I will not forget anytime soon. I would mention names here but don’t want to out of fear I would leave someone out and offend them. Nonetheless, I will miss all of my Wisconsin friends, and promise to visit again soon. As my friend Michael says — it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Until next time, enjoy this sample Arizona forecast.

hot-weather

Category: Christianity, Personal

Making some sense of Ferguson

The events that have occurred in Ferguson have gotten my wife and me to think long and hard about why. We have had a lot of discussions between the two of us about the grand jury results, the protests, and what this means to society as a whole. We’ve seen debates on Facebook and Twitter, prayed, and sought God’s wisdom not only about what was happening, but our response.

But first, a little background about me if you are not familiar with who I am because my friend Luke pointed out that “our starting point matters.” I have usually identified myself as a right-wing, conservative Republican but have grown weary of many in that camp as I’ve seen most of the communication lean towards anti-Obama rhetoric instead of trying to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe that I serve a God who wants to make a difference in all of our lives. White, black, poor, rich, Hispanic…all of our lives. Therefore, I want what I do to reflect that same hope.

So this morning, because I have many conservative friends, I ran across an article with a very heavy right-wing slant ridiculing some young black men about their point of view regarding businesses that had been destroyed by some of the riots in Ferguson. One quote stood out, summarizing what I’ve learned about the actions not only in Ferguson but in many African-American communities in the United States.

Trey opined, “That’s why people loot: ’cause they can’t get no job.”

That quote in the article turned on a light bulb for me. To show you what I am seeing in that quote, however, I’d like to take it a step further: “That’s why people loot: ’cause they have no hope.”

As I mentioned before, our starting point matters. I am a white male living in a middle-class suburb of Phoenix. Because of that, I’d like to point out some of the differences I have with Trey and other young African-American males:

  • I believe that if I want something in life, I just need to come up with a plan and work for it. I believe this is possible because of the country I live in. Trey believes that as a black male in a racist society, it doesn’t matter what he does — he is resigned to his role in a lower class than other citizens who aren’t black. Who is right? Well, we both are. First, I realize that if you believe it, it’s either true now or will become true. Second, Trey has some additional obstacles that I will not have to face.
  • I believe now that I have lost some weight, my appearance does not immediately cause people to discriminate against me. Trey believes that many people will see his skin color and make assumptions about being a thug, lying, stealing, and he will not be judged fairly. Once again, we’re both right. Racism is alive and well. It may be hidden a lot more than before, but I believe that racism still influences many to deny opportunities to black people.
  • I believe that if I am pulled over by the police, I will be just fine if I comply with the officer’s directives and obey the law. Trey believes that an officer will already have judged him to be a criminal, and furthermore, his life may be in jeopardy. My own experience tells me this to be true. In addition to the many black friends I’ve had tell me stories about being pulled over for DWB (driving while black), I had an experience that taught me how well things go for me…and how badly they will likely go for others.

I was pulled over about a year ago for having one of the two license plate bulbs burn out. This wasn’t a safety issue — I think other drivers can see me just fine as all the other lights were functional. I thought this was a little picky of the police officer, but what happened next really concerned me after I thought about it. When the officer approached my car, he asked for license (but not registration or proof of insurance). He explained why he pulled me over, and I responded that I will get it fixed. He looked at my license briefly, then handed it back to me and told me to have a good night.

What was concerning to me is that I was pulled over for a minor, non-safety issue, and then he didn’t even run my license or check to see if I was driving without insurance. If this is the case, why bother to pull me over at all? Then I thought — I wonder what would have happened if I was black. Would he have run my license? Checked for insurance? Asked me if the car was stolen? Asked to search my car for drugs? Of course, we will never know, and anything I say is mere speculation. But I’d bet large amounts of money that if I had more melanin in my skin, the officer would have been a lot more critical.

I say all of that to say this: paradigm matters. I can only imagine what a black male has to endure, I can’t say that I know. But here are some topics to think about:

  • When the prosecutor in Ferguson revealed the findings of the grand jury, many whites (including myself, initially) said “see? The officer was justified. Michael Brown was a thug who caused his own death.”
    • Why did Michael Brown have a rap sheet?
    • Why did he steal cigars from a convenience store?
    • I believe it is because he had no hope.
  • When the results were carefully explained by the prosecutor, the crowds demonstrated and rioted anyway.
    • Why didn’t they listen to the reasons for not indicting Officer Wilson?
    • Why did they destroy their own community?
    • I believe it is because they had no hope.

Please think about that statement. What would you do if you have no hope? Would you commit petty crimes? Would you resist a peace officer’s commands if you believed your life was in danger? Would you assault, rape, and kill? I firmly believe I would be a much different person if I lacked the hope that I have.

I want some things to be perfectly clear: I do not expect officers to put themselves in jeopardy by refusing to shoot if their lives are in danger. I do not expect us, as a society, to stop punishing criminal behavior. And I don’t expect that we just excuse bad behavior. However, what society is doing to discourage crime and rehabilitate offenders isn’t working:

  • Almost one third of black males in their 20s are either in prison, jail, parole, or probation.
  • Black men between 30 and 34 are incarcerated more often than any other race.
  • A black man born in 1991 has a 29% chance of being in prison some time in their life. Not jail, prison.

The solution: minorities need hope. They need to feel like society cares for them. They need to feel like an interaction with a police officer is not a direct threat to their freedom and life.

My part of the solution: I will stop acting like a victory has been won when an officer has been exonerated from liability in a fatal shooting. The end result is still a dead man or woman.

I welcome your ideas below to make America land of the free and home of the brave…for everyone.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

Creative Commons license used. Debra Sweet, 2014-Ferguson-GK on Flickr.

National Coming Out Day

When we got up this morning, we both noticed the amount of Facebook posts declaring this to be National Coming Out Day, with an application sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.

This is somewhat of a touchy subject in the Christian community, of which I am a part. After all, the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. No, I’m not going to post the scriptures; we all know what they are if we’re interested. If you claim to be a Christian, and you consider yourself to be part of the LGBT community, you will need to work that issue out between you and God; it is not my role to tell you how to work out your salvation.

However, as Christians, we have the next part completely messed up. If someone else says they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, what does the Bible say we’re supposed to do? Alienate them? Tell them they are “wrong”?

I may not be the brightest Biblical scholar out there, but my Bible commands Christians to love everyone. Period. That commandment comes directly from Jesus. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Jesus. I’m just the messenger.

For a few months, we had two women attend our church. Even though they never told anyone their sexual orientation, most everyone (myself included) assumed they were lesbians. They were a foster family, and had several children they were taking care of. I only got to know one of them. She was from Chicago, and we playfully fought about which team was better (Cubs or White Sox). She seemed to have a great heart, and I enjoyed talking to her.

Rumor has it that people called the church to complain about them. They couldn’t believe we let lesbians in to our church! Apparently these people forgot to read that whole “love everyone” thing.

Fortunately, our pastor gave the correct response. When people complained about lesbians in our church, he responded by saying “good! Those are the people we want here!” He never took the occasion to preach at them, but instead saw this as an opportunity to preach on love, grace, and acceptance. After all, we all have sinned…who are we to look down on someone else just because we think they are sinning? Is my sin “worse” than what I think a lesbian’s sin is?

This year, National Coming Out Day has taken on a lot of momentum because of a rash of recent suicides. High school and college-aged people are being harassed by classmates because they are either professing to be part of the LGBT population or have expressed confusion about their own sexual identity. Bullying is wrong, no matter what the reason. The fact that many have taken their own lives speaks to the prevalence and intensity of the type of intimidation faced by youth in this predicament.

Therefore, on National Coming Out Day, I am taking this opportunity to talk to any Christian that uses the Bible as a reason to not treat LGBTs with love. Jesus has commanded us to love everyone. End of discussion. If you are one of those people calling the church to protest lesbians in your congregation: stop it. Read the Bible, and tell me where it condones this type of behavior…it isn’t there. If your child is bullying a classmate with a confused sexual identity, it is your responsibility as a parent to teach your kid differently.

One more thing: if your motive for harassing LGBT individuals is so they will change…think about what you are doing. Do you think any gay person is going to change just because you treat them badly? Is a lesbian going to reconsider her sexual identity because you don’t want her and her partner to be married? No one has ever been attracted to Christianity because we cajoled someone into changing. They will know we are Christians by our love, not our intolerance for what we perceive as others’ sin. It’s time to realize that we are called to love others, not judge them.

I welcome constructive criticism and conversation below.

A Sad Day in Kenya

My church, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, has believers that are not just hearers of The Word, but they also put their faith into action. One of the ways that we’ve done this is to partner with Huruma Children’s Home in Kenya. There have been many people from Cornerstone that have not only given their money, but have also made the trip to Kenya to assist this amazing ministry, run by a woman named Mama Zipporah. This woman, with her husband Papa Issac, have adopted over 150 children. But what’s amazing is that they not only house and feed these children, but they teach them as well. Since I haven’t been to Kenya (yet!) to witness this, I can only imagine what this looks like from some of the pictures I’ve seen from there.

I first became aware of Huruma when Caroline, Mama Zipporah’s daughter, came to our church for a few months last year. I can’t say that I spent a lot of time with Caroline, but she made an immediate impact on me. There was something so kind and graceful about her…it wasn’t just charisma, but she possessed a gentle, peaceful, and loving spirit. A truly Godly and beautiful woman.

Earlier this year, Mama Zipporah had also visited us. Because of the size of our church, and the amount of people I saw talking with her, I only had a chance to shake her hand and wish God’s blessings on her and Huruma. But it was immediately clear where Caroline got her spirit from; her Mama had the same loving spirit.

Since that visit, Cornerstone has been a huge part of Huruma, adopting children, providing financial support, and also physical labor. Our pastor and his wife were recently there, along with many other church members…some of which have stayed months. Huruma is definitely part of our family.

Yesterday, I received some sad news. Brian Wurzell, our worship leader, informed us on his blog that Papa Issac had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Not only is this the loss of a father and husband, but for Huruma it’s also the loss of the man that donated the land to build their home. Papa was also the strong male figure for everyone at Huruma…what a tremendous loss this is.

With apologies to Brian for almost direct copy and paste from his blog, here is what we’re requesting from you:

1. Pray for healing and comfort for Mama Zipporah, Caroline, and everyone at Huruma.

2. If you have a blog, Myspace page, etc., please help us get the word out about Huruma. Donations are badly needed, and they will be wisely used.

3. Give! Link below is for donations.

Thanks for your time reading this, the prayers that you’re saying for Mama and everyone at Huruma, and your donations.

Category: Christianity, Personal

Music Video…sorta.

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One of my favorite songs…and has been known to move me to tears. Yeah, Bubba’s a softie…but you already knew that, didn’t you?

Category: Christianity, Music

Steve Harvey Introduces Jesus

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Ran across this one, thought you might like it.

Category: Christianity, Video

Another fun thing at Cornerstone

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Hey y’all…hope you’re doing well.

Cornerstone’s young adult ministry, Camber, is hosting an appearance by Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs. I got to see him once a couple of years ago at another church…and I gotta tell ya, to see him speak is something else. Not the usual “oh, look at me, I can do stuff because of God” speaker, but someone that is truly motivated by what he IS. Thursday, April 24. No time is listed yet, but probably around 7ish. Bubba sez go see him if you can. If you want more info, check out Nick’s website, www.lifewithoutlimbs.org. Bubba sez God bless.

Monday at Random

Howdy folks. Unca Bubba here, sayin howdy and hope y’all had a great weekend. Today is going to consist of the same mindless drivel you’re used to by now. Hope you enjoy it.

Right now I’m on lunch break listening to a 70s/80s mix of R&B and disco…fun stuff. George Clinton’s Atomic Dog either gets yer toes tappin’, or you ain’t been checked for a pulse lately.

Got to see the Dbacks win on Saturday night 6-2 over the Dodgers. A truly fun game for several reasons: 1) the Dbacks are in a tight playoff race, 2) they won, 3) because of the rivalry between the Dbacks and Dodgers fans. No one was hurt, security wasn’t involved, it was simply a bunch of fans rooting for different teams that didn’t get out of hand. There were about 100 Dodgers fans congregated in the same section chanting “Lets go Dodgers!”, which caused the Diamondback fans to chant “Beat LA!” I think those are some of the most fun moments in sports…

Janet Jackson, That’s The Way Love Goes. Nice, quiet stuff for work.

You know, Bubba has been on da internets for a long time. The first time Bubba got online was 1996, and I’ve seen a lot. However, I’ve been doin a lot of thinkin about some of the stuff I see about Christians over the years. And lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of it is because one thing that Christians love to do more than anything else is tell everyone else how to run their lives.

Why?

What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks gives us the right to outlaw certain types of bars, or get in an uproar about pornography? Why are we so concerned about gay marriage? Are we so good at cleaning up OUR backyards that we have the spare time to tell others how to do it?

Now, I know there are a lot of Christians reading this right now thinkin “uh-oh, Bubba’s gone off the deep end! Get him to church ASAP!!!” If you’re in that crowd, calm down and take a deep breath. No, I’m not visiting strip clubs, downloading porn, or anything like that. I don’t even think any of those are good options. I’ve made up my own mind, and none of those are right for me.

The gentlemen that founded our nation some 231 years ago were Christians. But they did not set up a Christian nation. They founded a nation where you could be a Christian, a Jew, Muslim, Zoroastrian, or whatever else you wanted to be. In other words, our founding fathers built this country on the principles of FREEDOM, which is also what the Christian faith should represent. Instead, Christians are known as some of the most freedom-killing people in the world.

I am too busy worrying about my relationship with God to worry about homosexual marriage, the adult video stores in downtown Phoenix, or whether Brandee has to wear pasties at the local topless club. Legislating morality does NOT work for several reasons. If you have any doubts, ask yourself why Prohibition failed so miserably.

As Christians, we didn’t change because God gave the ten commandments to Moses, or because we have Bibles in our houses. Knowing God’s law did NOT make us better people. The only reason we are changed because of the power of God, and the sacrifice that Jesus, God’s son, made for us by dying on the cross. If all of this is true, why would we ever think passing laws could save anyone?

Do you really want to change the world? Start with your own corner. Clean up your own backyard. How does someone know we are Christians? By our LOVE. Therefore, love your neighbor. 1 Cor 13:4 states that love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant. Therefore, meet your neighbor where he/she is. Be patient. Do not brag, don’t be arrogant. The only reason Christians are forgiven is because He chose US, not the other way around.

I’m sure I’ll post more on this one because this is where my passion lies. Until then, Bubba sez love your neighbors, enemies, and friends…and God bless.

Ending with: Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel, Tavares.

A Father’s Grief

For a minute, please put away whatever opinion you have on the US military operations, and please take the time to read this story. I am not trying to sway you one way or the other. This is a human interest story only.

My friends at Blue Star Chronicles found an article in the Dallas Morning News about Roy Velez, a Christian who has lost two sons in the United States’ war on terrorism. It is a lengthy article, but well worth your time to read. Please read the article, and then scroll down.

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Because I am a Christian and a previous caretaker to a family member with a severe mental illness, I feel like adding my $0.02.

Both sons were human. They made mistakes in their lives. However, both were men of character, answering the call of their country without looking back. Even after losing his brother, Andrew went back to Afghanistan to continue to serve his country. At a time where he could have said “I won’t serve” without anyone questioning his character, he honored his commitment to his country, even over the objections of his father.

The reason for hiding my observations with empty space follows. As you read in the story, Andrew was not killed by enemy fire, but a self-inflicted gunshot. Some would cheapen Andrew’s character, saying that he made the decision to take his own life. Some Christians would even question his salvation because of his manner of death. I say that both groups are absolutely wrong.

There are a lot of soldiers who suffer mental illnesses as a direct result of the totally unnatural rigors of war. Adults that aren’t old enough to have attended their fifth high school reunion are watching close friends violently murdered, killing other human beings, and enduring many stresses that no human should ever have to endure. I believe that war induces mental illness in two ways. Sometimes it is caused directly because of what the soldier experiences, while others already have a chemical imbalance that predisposes them to illness. War is merely the trigger to set off what is already in place biologically.

My ex-wife has several mental illness diagnoses. Sometimes she is a wonderful, generous person with a big heart. However, I’ve also seen her at her worst. Yelling, hitting, destructive, and also extremely suicidal. During lucid times, she has expressed the opinion that suicide is nothing more than a person’s decision to end their own life. But if someone’s brain causes someone to end their own life, isn’t that indication enough that their brain is not working correctly? If your arm is broken, your brain tells you that it’s broken, and that you need to get it fixed. If you’re having trouble breathing, your brain tells you that you need to get medical attention. But if your brain is broken…how would you know to get help? The fact is: you don’t.

Andrew’s brain was broken. We don’t know if he had a predisposition towards mental illness before he went to war, and it really doesn’t matter. His brain had suffered injuries because of experiencing combat and the loss of his brother, injuries which turned out to be fatal. The manner in which he met death does not make his sacrifice any less heroic than his brother’s.

If you are a Christian reading this and you question whether or not Andrew is going to heaven…don’t. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that suicide nullifies the payment that Jesus made for his sins, and the notion that it does was invented by man. If I’m wrong (and God knows that I frequently am), please correct me. And if you’re not Christian, save the “organized religion” crap for someone else.

Please continue to pray for their father that he would experience many blessings for the extremely noble way he has handled these tragedies.

Category: Christianity, Military