Never forget

WARNING: There is a video included in this post that contains video footage of the news reports as they broadcast the attack on the second World Trade Center tower on the morning of September 11, 2001. If this is disturbing to you, please do not view the video.

No one will likely forget that early morning on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. How could we? It was the day that, for many Americans, changed the way we lived our lives. Unlike any other day before it, our nation came under attack by a faceless, nameless enemy who sought to do America great harm. And for a time, they succeeded.

I remember that morning. I had gotten up earlier than I normally did, and was sitting on my couch putting my shoes on when I turned on the TV. I wasn’t looking for the morning news at the time. I had actually turned the channel to ESPN to see if there was a status report on Ed McCaffrey’s broken leg from the Broncos/Giants game the Monday night before. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned on ESPN and saw a CNN report of what was transpiring in New York.

I quickly scanned through the channels on my TV to see if this was a big story. Indeed, every channel that was broadcasting was broadcasting the story as it unfolded. I remember seeing the first of the two big towers burning from the top and seeing the black smoke billowing from the top of that building. I remember thinking to myself “how does a fire start way up there?”. I also remember thinking “how are firefighters going to attack that fire?”. As I sat there, amazed at the spectacle before me, and hearing the news reports that there may have been a plane involved in this fire, I watched, stunned, as the second plane hit the second tower. I was without words, and without thought for a moment.

Then it hit me. The security that we as a nation had come to take for granted was being exploited right before our eyes. As the news reports continued to pour in it became evident that evil people managed to infiltrate our country, steal four airplanes and proceed to attack us with them. With an intent to kill, these terrorists successfully carried out the largest single concerted killing attack on American soil to date. We were, in a word, vulnerable.

The reality of the attacks become even more grave later in the morning as I drove to work under a clear blue sky. There was not a cloud above. Neither were there any airplanes. The FAA had grounded all flights in the country so the sky was quiet. I had never seen the sky like that. I live in the middle of the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose triangle so I see airplanes overhead every couple of minutes. Yet on this clear blue morning not even the sound of a prop plane could be heard. It was eerie.

As I got to work I went to my boss’s office because he had a TV. A lot of the people I worked with were in that office watching the news continue to unfold. We heard about a potential attack on the white house and another one on the pentagon. We began to learn of who the attackers might be and what their plan might have been. We learned that all of the planes involved in the attack that day were east coast to west coast non stop flights which meant they were completely full of fuel when they left New York. It also meant that a good number of passengers on those flights were from California.

We learned that a plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania, in the middle of a field. We later learned that it ended up there because some brave men and women would not settle for being taken captive and fought like hell for their lives. Later in the day we watched as the towers fell with people still in them. Workers, firefighters, police officers, good Samaritans… thousands of lives were lost in an instant when those towers collapsed.

We also learned later that there were people jumping from hundreds of feet up to avoid the raging and intense heat of the rocket fuel burning them up. We began to see the damage wrought by the attacks of a handful of evil cowards that sought to do us harm as a nation. But we learned something of supreme importance that day as well.

We learned that we are a country of red-blooded, ass-kicking, proud and strong Americans and don’t take to getting punched in the face that easy. The “great American rally” started that day and brought us closer as a country than we had ever been. Religious lines were shattered, political lines erased, socioeconomic differences set aside. We came together starting that day for the common cause of showing the world that we are stronger than the attackers and more resilient that they thought.

I will never forget that day. I will never forget the fear I felt, for an instance, for my children and the world they would eventually grow up to inherit. I will never forget the sense of vulnerability I felt that morning. I will never forget seeing the men and women who knew they were going to die run into those buildings to save just one more person. I will never forget the people on the ground helping hurting, crying and dying people. I will never forget.

And I will never forget how our country has responded to the attacks. I will never forget the sense of pride I had as an American as people dug deep to raise money for families affected by the attacks. I will never forget the outpouring of people attending churches in the months after the attacks. I will never forget the mass movement by young men and women to join our armed forces for the purposes of fighting this cowardly, faceless enemy. I will never forget the sense of urgency our country felt in living life to the fullest after the attacks. I will never forget what it was like being an American after those attacks.

So today I would ask that you keep the surviving family members of those lost in the attacks in your prayers. Remember the families, remember the losses, remember the rally and remember our country. I will remember that day forever. I will never forget.

Christianity and the church

Since when has Christ been about getting people to church?
This morning at church my pastor showed a video he had put together as a pitch for his newest series that he is teaching. The series is about making church relevant and the pitch basically asked the question “What can we as Christians do to get those from the culture of the world… the unsaved, the student, the businessman, the Muslim (or other religion), the educated, etc … to church?”. As I sat and thought about that question for a minute the answer hit me like a ton of bibles. Stop trying to get people to church and start trying to take church to those people.

When did the focus of the gospel become about getting people to church? I understand the concept… get people to church where they can be fed, be led and be released into ministry. But even in that I am left wondering where the commandment was that Christ gave us to get people into a building.

If a church, as in a building, were so important don’t you think there would have been mention of the synagogue Christ attended in the bible? Or any temple for that matter? The Word does mention they attended, but the importance of the building seems to wane right there.

There is no mention of a specific synagogue or specific temple, and I think that this is because the church, as it is referred to in the bible is not about a building but about the community of believers that are inspired by the Word of God. When Paul wrote letters to the church at Ephesus, Corinth, Phillipi, etc, he wasn’t writing to the members of the First Assembly of God in Christ in that city, or the First Presbyterian Church in that city. No, he was writing to the body of Christ in that city, the community of believers that were gathered there. Somehow church has moved away from being the community of believers it used to be to now being a building where you can worship, pray, cry, hug and do all the things one does when they are “in church”.

I am not part of the Christian church because on Sundays and Wednesdays I go to Jubilee Christian Center. I attend that church, but I am a Christian, a member of the Christian community, the collective body that calls itself by the name of the Son of God. I don’t need a building to tell me that I am Christian. And neither do new believers.

In our zeal and zest to win souls for Christ I think us Christians are losing the breadth of the greatest commandments we were given by Christ: Love God, love your neighbors, love yourself, preach the gospel.

Why should we have to convince anyone of the love of God?
When is the last time someone had to convince you to go to the grocery store to get food so you and your family could eat? It seems stupid to even ask that question. We already know that if we need to get something to feed ourselves we go to where the supply is and get some.

Yet we as Christians are constantly trying to convince people that they need to stop living the way they are living and they need to go to church so they can be saved. Or we constantly try to get people to attend a church service with the hope or prayer that by attending that one service they will miraculously and immediately give their hearts to God and become a Christian. If we preach the gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, why would there be a need for convincing? It is the good news.

If someone is hungry spiritually they will find food. If they are yearning for love, real love, they will seek it out and eventually they will find it. They don’t need to be convinced that they need love or that they are hungry. They just need to be shown where the source of the supply is.

Imagine if a Christian actually did what Christ commanded and loved someone, regardless of their skin color, political affiliation, sexual orientation, lifestyle, age or cultural heritage. What could happen if we showed someone the love of Christ? And if they see it, and get hungrier for the blessings of God, what are the chances that they will seek a source of replenishment? Do you think you would need to convince them to go to the store to get the resource they’d need to be fed?

Yet we push on people as though they are some number, some statistic that would look good on a sheet of paper as we stand before the gates of heaven and the Judgment of God. “Look Father, I saved this many souls. See?”. Why do I see God looking on that and responding with “And how many of them did you love without cause, as I have commanded you?”.

Where is all this coming from?
I am really not sure why I have such an issue right now with Christianity as usual. I am just getting more and more turned off by how much of the bible we expect everyone else to learn while we choose to live outside of that covering. We are children of the most high. He is not only our God, he is our Father and our King. We don’t need to convince anyone they are royalty. We only need to show them that they are loved by the King like we are loved.

But in order to do that we need to come to grips with the fact that that we are loved. And not for our works or souls won or church days attended or offerings given. We are loved because it pleases God to love His creation. He wants fellowship with us and wants us to bask in the love and mercy and grace and abundance and blessing that only He can give.

God’s love is so much bigger than any person can imagine, it is bigger than words and bigger than anything we could ever even dream. But no one who doesn’t know this will ever learn this if we, His chosen generation, continue to focus on putting a warm body in a chair while we completely forget to show them what love is, and specifically what God’s love is all about.

It is my hope and prayer and desire to learn what it means to be loved by God. I struggle with this as much as the next guy. I know I am loved, but I sometimes wonder if the wretched person I am can separate me from that love. A part of me still wonders if God can really love a person like me. Most of me knows, however, that He loves me more than anything else in the world. I am the apple of His eye and He would willingly die for me.

In fact, He proved that He would on Calvary. Now if I could only wrap my head around how to show others that the same love God has for me he has for all I would so be able to put some feet to this disdain I have with “winning souls” and get to the business of loving my neighbor.

When Christians go crazy

This morning at church my pastor told us of a story about a pastor in Illinois that was shot dead in front of his entire congregation this morning. Very little news was offered about this at the time but more information surfaced later that has brought about a little more information:

Investigators have charged a 27-year-old man with first-degree murder in the shooting of a pastor at a church in Maryville, Illinois, authorities said Monday.

Fred Winters, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, was shot and killed during an 8 a.m. service Sunday, and the attacker and two members of the congregation suffered knife wounds in the attack, authorities said.

Incidents like these are very difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I know that times get tough. I know some people have mental issues which would make something like this make sense to them. But I still get so flabbergasted by things like this because they make absolutely no sense to me at all.

Truth is I don’t want to understand this. My heart goes out to the minister’s family, those that were hurt directly by the incident and those that were affected both directly and indirectly by the incident. For those Christians out there that might be reading this, this is not a call to hole yourself up in your home and stop going to church. This is indeed an opportunity for you to put your faith into practice and step boldly into the throneroom of you God. Fear cannot be allowed to take hold of anyone in this.

I would ask that you join me in praying for that church, the pastor’s family, the suspect, his family and everyone else that this has hit.

National athiest day

A recent line of text caught my eye. It read FLORIDA COURT SETS ATHEIST HOLY DAY. Intrigued, I had to read more.

In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed!”.

The lawyer immediately stood, objecting to the ruling saying, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”

The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.”

Of course, as I read this, in the form of an email, I couldn’t help but think about the disparity between the two sides of the house, if you will. On the one side you have a group of people that vehemently and adamantly deny the existence of God and attempt, at every turn, to dissolve any potential for anyone to believe there is a God. They tend to call those that believe in God fools, dependent and weak because of some cosmic need to have a higher power to lean on.

Then on the other hand you have a group of people that vehemently and adamantly declare belief that there is a God and, at every turn, attempt to convince everyone else that God is not only very real but loves them very much. These people often refer to atheists as fools or weak or rebellious.

So as cute as the little story was I am left with this odd feeling that it misses the point. At the end of the day will there be a place for name calling in heaven? Is there a place for it now? If you are an atheist and you have no God to pray and you do it all on your own what business is it of yours to place a label or judgement upon those that believe in their God?

And if you are a Christian then there is no place for judgement at all among you. Judgement is reserved for the Lord.

Yes, I know I let my tongue get the best of me from time to time. But I honestly can’t but think that God doesn’t want us to call those that do not believe like us “fools”. No, instead I think he wants for us to pray for everyone on their behalf. After all, if Christ is the son to God the father, and God is love, and Jesus’ message was a message of love, shouldn’t we show some of it? Just a thought, to chew on a little…

In honor of Dr. King – Marching ahead in difficult times

Few men have had the ability to capture the attention of the nation like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His natural ability to speak to men of all races and religions in a way that was relevant to the moment still has not been matched to this day. He used peace, knowledge, unity and the spoken word to reach out to and influence millions of people in the 50’s and 60’s.

He led the struggle for equality and freedom for black men and women with dignity, grace, strength and courage and he did it in a peaceful way. He embodied the essence of manliness, leadership, Christianity and selflessness throughout his time fighting against racial injustice. He was what all men should aspire to be.

In honor of Dr. King’s birthday I felt it appropriate to offer up two of the most memorable speeches he gave. The first, which is arguably my favorite of his speeches, was given the night before he was assassinated. You can tell by the words he spoke and the look on his face that he knew something was going to be going down soon. He knew that his life was in danger. Yet he did what he did. He did not waiver, he did not cower. He led. Up until his death he led.

I pray that all men would be able to have the fortitude and courage that Dr. King exudes in this clip. The text of the speech follows the video:

We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountain top. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.

And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promise land.

I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promise land.

So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The next speech is possibly the most famous of speeches he ever gave. One that has been quoted in pieces since the day it was given, August 28, 1963, in Washington DC. Oddly, this speech is about 15 minutes long and contains some of the most challenging and poignant statements I have ever heard from anyone, let alone a man leading a large group of people in a fight for racial equality. The words he spoke, the challenges he offered up, would still serve as a challenge today for many that would fight a fight of injustice.

Again, the text of the speech follows the video:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am not a black man. I am a man of color, but not in the traditional sense of a minority that has been wronged because of my heritage. However, I can still say thank you to a man that defined the premier method of fighting the good fight. Because of Dr. King many minorities has been afforded the right and freedom of equality. Our country owes a great debt to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

What can He not do?

I got a call from my cousin Lisa a few minutes ago. This is not uncommon to be honest, except that I am rarely able to take the call because of the time she usually calls. But today I was able to take the call and I was overwhelmingly blessed by the words my cousin spoke to me.

In effect she called to tell me she was thinking about me and wanted to share Ephesians 3:20 with me. That particular scripture reads:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

In context, the scripture reads:

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–
19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3

You ever wonder how it is, at a particular time, that somehow the words that you needed to hear happen to appear to you?

God just knows
I think in His love for us God knows when we need to hear Him speak to us. If you follow this blog at all you know that the last year and a half or so have been very difficult for my family. Sandi was very sick for a long time, our finances have been under attack for a long time, our home has been under attack for a long time and things have generally been disheveled for a while. Even as recently as a few days ago I wrote about how things just keep coming up that require time, money, attention and brainpower that I cannot afford to offer at the moment.

It is in times like this that I tend to lean on my own human nature and move into the “toiling man” mode that God has put upon man. It is our nature to work and toil so as to earn. When things go wrong or wobbly my first reaction is to try to figure out what I need to do to right the ship. And I do believe that there is nothing wrong with this as long as guidance is sought from the Father through prayer. The scripture says “above all that we can ask or think“. It would seem that to make this scripture applicable there would need to be some asking on our parts.

My biggest challenge is that I usually do not ask but steam ahead and try to figure everything out so that I can make things better. I get into a very heavy “why me?” mode and an even heavier “what now?” mode and I never seem to ever get into the “praise You” mode that I should be in first. And again, this is not uncommon. Man is, by his nature, a very independent working being that strives to make things work. That is what we do. God made us that way.

However, as a Christian, I have to say that we are also commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. Just like the friend we love more than anything else offers an ear and heart toward us when we come to that person, so God the father also lends His ear to us when we pray and seek Him. Many men in the Bible have fallen victim to their own nature in this. Moses, Issac, David, all of the disciples… each of them at one point or another leaned on their own ability unto failure before pursuing God’s guidance unto success.

In the movie Facing the Giants the coach of the football team is going through some major trials. He is struggling. And he is failing the more he tries to do things on his own. Then he has a moment where he turns himself to God and seeks His guidance and his world just opens right up.

Now I know this is just a movie. And I know that there have been plenty of people that have never experience a supernatural move of the Lord like that. But I have. I know from experience that God moves when we seek Him. Yet I always manage to seek my own solution first instead of seeking the Kingdom the first (Matt 6:33).

Bottomless pit of wants and needs
Everyday I am reminded of all the things that I “need”. Money, food, clothing, respect, attention, admiration, challenges. There is no end to the things that I know I need from a day. This precludes those things that I really need, like food for my family, electricity, water, warmth, etc.

Basic human necessity is a part of life. And God knows that:

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6

In the midst of trying to figure out solutions to my own issues, if I take the time to put God first, where He rightly belongs, and seek Him out before I seek out anything else, then all of my needs will be met. And how will they be met? Exceedingly and abundantly above whatever I can ask for or even think of.

God is so simple sometimes it hurts my head trying to figure Him out.

Thanks Lisa, for thinking of me enough to call and give me the prophetic word that I so desperately needed to hear today. It meant the world to me.

California has spoken on marriage once again

There were probably no greater a controversial ballot proposition this past election than that of Proposition 8 in my home state of California. The erroneously named “Same-sex marriage ban” proposition had gotten the attention of just about every state in the nation along with just about every media outlet in the nation. It was one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive proposition campaign ever and it is likely to be far from over now that California has, for the second time, voted to recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman.

For those unfamiliar to this proposition (have you been living under a rock?), the entire premise of the proposition is the adding of the following text to the California constitution:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”

Somehow this has gotten the name of the “Same-sex marriage ban” proposition. The “OFFICIAL TITLE AND SUMMARY” as “PREPARED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL” in the California voter guide was “ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME–SEX COUPLES TO MARRY”. It was even referred to in some circles as the “Gay Marriage ban” proposition.

I have to tell you I was extremely disappointed with just about every aspect of Proposition 8 with the exception of it’s passing. The text of the proposed constitutional amendment was the exact same text that was proposed in the 2000 election under proposition 22. The text of the law specifically states “marriage between a man and woman”. Minor apologies to those of you who believe that this was a same-sex issue, but the reality of it is that this proposition was for people that believe marriage to be between a man and woman. This was not a “same-sex” issue, it was a “marriage between a man and woman” issue.

I found it ironic that so many people turned the desire of a group of people that want to protect marriage into something that was based on same-gender marriage or homosexual marriage. That is ludicrous. And to say it eliminated rights is just as ludicrous. In 2000 the people of the state of California voted to make marriage valid only when between a man and woman. 52 of 58 counties voted for Prop 22. It was passed overwhelmingly by the people of the state.

Eight years later four judges, four, on the California supreme court overruled the people’s decision stating the Prop 22 was unconstitutional because it discriminated against couples of the same gender that sought marriage. Since when have judges been given the right to overturn vote results? If they can do that, why vote at all? Why not just ask judges to pass all of our laws for us?

So they did. They overturned Prop 22 and for the last five and a half months marriages were being performed between couples of the same gender. They in effect handed the right of marriage to people that up until that time did not have the right to marry under that context. Keep in mind that people of the same gender that have sought to become united have been able to do so for some time now under California’s and America’s laws recognizing civil unions. The only difference is that the term “marriage” has not been recognized in California as marriage unless it was between a man and a woman. Until the judges got involved.

So their decision then gave the Attorney General the ability to label Proposition 8 as “Eliminates the rights of same-sex couples to marry”. Astonishing. Why not read the text of the proposed law and label the proposition as such? “Recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman”. That sounds more like the proposed law to me.

For the record I want to say that I have no ill feelings toward anyone. I don’t hate homosexual people. I am not afraid of homosexual people. I am not mad at homosexual people. My opinions on marriage are not about the choices people make in their lifestyle. They are about what I believe marriage is. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Period.

I do, however, get bothered somewhat by folks that believe that because someone makes a choice they should be granted rights that they would not normally have had they not made that choice. These are the people that make statements associating homosexuality to ethnicity or gender. People that believe the struggle of the homosexual community is akin to the struggle of African-Americans that marched with Dr. Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. People that associate homosexuality to me being a male or me being Mexican. Thanks for trying to make your point but please do not place your sexual preference in the same category as my ethnic heritage or my gender. I didn’t choose to be a man nor did I choose to be Mexican. Homosexuality cannot be compared to these.

It can be compared to being a Christian. Or being a smoker. Or being a Republican. Those are all choices that are made. And not one of them carries with it a privilege afforded it simply because one aligns himself or herself with that particular group. A smoker that is told to smoke outside a restaurant because it is a non-smoking restaurant is not being discriminated against. The smoker chooses to smoke and must smoke according to the law.

A man that wants to marry has every right to marry. But if that man chooses to wed another man, according to the law, he cannot. He can unite with the other man in a civil union. But he cannot marry him. Simple. Understandable. Nondiscriminatory.

I am glad the political campaigning is over. I am glad the elections are over. And I am glad that Proposition 8 passed. I know this is not over yet. We live in a state where when certain people don’t get what they want they throw a fit and scream until someone bends. I can assure you there will still be noise on this matter for some time.

But I can also assure you that the state of California has spoken in a mighty voice and it has said clearly that marriage, regardless of your position on it, is supposed to be between a man and woman. It is clear. It is understandable. And now it is constitutional.

Finally we were able to get back to church

Yesterday I was able to take about 5/7 of my family to church with me. 🙂

What that means is that we were finally able to get back to Sunday morning church after about a 6 week absence because of head lice that never seemed to go away. With the exception of my daughter Alaynah all of my children were able to go with me. And as much I as I hate going to church alone it was a good time.

The kids were able to spend some time with their friends that they really haven’t seen in a while and I was able to actually worship and learn a bit. I felt almost like the prodigal running back to daddy after being in the wild for a time. I know it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty long for me.

The rest of the day afterward was a pretty big blur. We hit up Costco, came home and put some food together for eating, I cooked and cleaned then it was bedtime so I worked. But I think what made yesterday bearable for me was that it started out right. I like being able to go to church on a Sunday morning.

Now if I could just figure out this waking up alone thing I will be golden.

Dealing with (ungodly) soul ties

A few weeks (maybe months) ago my wife asked me if I had been contacted as of late by a former female friend of mine (we’ll call her Gina). I told my wife that I had indeed received an email from her a few weeks prior to that. I also mentioned that I had responded to that email basically as a response to the “How have you been?” query.

At the time I was kind of put under the gun for this interaction. My wife asked me a few other questions that I honestly could not answer in a way that would have been satisfactory at that time. Some of the questions were:

  1. “Why would a married woman make contact with a married man just to see how he is doing?”
  2. “Why would a married man reply to a contact from a married woman?”
  3. “Do you think it is spiritually wise to maintain any type of relationship with someone with whom you have had a relationship?”

When I was asked these questions I could not come up with an answer that I thought was satisfactory for her so when she stated that she knew women and that women almost always have an ulterior motive for making contact with a married man, I could not argue.

At the same time as this conversation I had asked my wife if she ever attempted to contact my former boss, we’ll call him Tom, with whom she had had an emotional affair a few years ago. She said that she would not contact him because she knew what that would do to our relationship. She said she was also a little concerned with me not seeing this topic as she did.

As such, I made one last contact with Gina by way of email to tell her that I could not have any further contact with her because it was not appropriate for a married man to have contact with a married woman who was not his wife. Seeing as my wife had made her position very clear, it seemed like it was the logical thing to do.

Fast forward to last night. While sitting on the couch with my wife she asked me if I had heard from or made contact with Tom recently. I told her that I hadn’t as there has been no real reason to contact him. That was about the end of that.

Now to today. A short while ago my wife called me to tell me that she had sent Tom an email and that, to make communicating easier, that she just called him instead. She was able to catch up on a lot of stuff from the past months and was able to share with him a lot of stuff from her life over the past few months.

However I was a tad concerned about this little experience. I should probably attempt to clarify my position on this a little bit because if I don’t I will come across as a jealous, controlling freak and the truth is I am not.

I used to work for Tom. I actually worked for him from 1999 until 2006 when I left. Before that I worked with him from 1997 to 1999 (it was in 1999 that he became my manager).

During this time he showed a tremendous amount of generosity toward me and my family, even putting my wife to work a few times to help us earn a little extra income. It was during this time that my wife began a long flirtatious relationship with Tom that included phone calls and emails.

In 2002 things had gotten to a point where Sandi, my wife, would actually bypass visiting me at work (we all worked in the same department) so she could go see him. She would spend quite a bit of time emailing and calling him. It even got to the point, I found out recently, that they had even asked the question “What do you think would happen if we ever, you know?”.

So when my told me a few months ago that she would not ever contact him and that, if he ever contacted her, she would simply no reply, I thought it was a bold, strong stance to take. But I guess that has changed somewhere in the last few months.

Part of the conversation we had a few months ago dealt with soul ties. Specifically ungodly soul ties. The kind of soul ties that keep a person bound to a past experience and do not allow that person to move forward from that experience. According to my wife allowing relationships that derive from a past soul tie to propagate could ultimately allow for the destruction of current relationships because of the stuff that comes to the current from the former. That actually made sense to me.

When I asked her about that a few minutes she told me that “as long as you don’t have the same intentions as before then keeping the relationship is OK”. That would have been nice to know a few months ago when I told Gina that I could not talk to her anymore.

Of course, now that the whole issue of past soul ties is mute I am for sure going to ask Gina’s forgiveness for kicking her to the curb and see if she would ever be willing to call me a friend again. And as I think of it there is at least one other person that I would love to find out their current life status. That person is a former friend of mine by the name of Connie Castro.

Connie was a former (junior) high school crush of mine who also happened to be a very dear friend. The last I saw of her was way back in 1993. I had never really tried to make contact with her because I knew that it would make things really bad in my marriage because of how my wife felt about former relationships. But since that is now a non-issue I can see myself doing some Google searching for my long lost friend. I would be really interested to see how Connie is doing.

I am sure there are going to be other people that I could think of touching base with again. Danielle Hornberger from college, David Watkins from High School, Matthias Stephen from College, John Zung from college.

I just feel so liberated now. I feel set free to be able to rekindle past friendships with people that until today were considered too taboo to be friends with anymore.

And I hope Sandi has a great time reconnecting with Tom. Yes, they have a relationship that would make you think they were both single. But I guess that is the way things go with them. As for me, I am just happy to know that I am free to look up some of my long lost friends and I cannot wait to start that search.

Are Christians making more Christians or more atheists?

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

Brennan Manning

Quite possibly the most famous of Manning’s quotes, the above statement is both profoundly moving and disturbingly true. Sadly, I identify as a Christian. Even more sad is that I can almost certify that I have been responsible, to some extent, to someone’s distorted view of what a Christian is.

I have been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a Christian in today’s very secular world. I have also thought about the great commission and the greatest of the commandments Jesus gave us. Namely my thoughts have turned to how a Christian is supposed to “go into the world and preach the gospel” and “love our neighbors as ourselves”.

You ever wonder how people’s views of a Christian get planted and developed? There are people that think that Christians are crazy, judgmental, hypocritical, lazy and mean. And these people are 100% right. There are some Christians that are exactly that. To the defense of Christians though I do want to point that there are plenty of non-Christians that are the same way. It is just that no one expects non-Christians to live according to the Christian lifestyle and ideals.

So what would ever give the impression that a Christian, just by being Christian, is not the epitome of Godly love? That is a simple one. Christians.

So many times I have been in a position to show the love of God through reaching out, helping out, encouraging, accepting, loving and praying and have not done any of those things. So many times I have been in a position to be sympathetic, empathetic or understanding yet I have judged, criticized and belittled.

I curse people out on the freeways. I let my eyes land on and stay on women too long. I speak harshly toward my wife and children. I harbor unforgiveness toward people. I doubt God’s ability to perform miracles yet today.

I have defiled my temple (my body). I have robbed God of tithes. I have lied. I have pointed and laughed. I have thought that some people are literally a lost cause.

I am, as a Christian, the very reason that some people will not ever taste the freedom of heaven that God offers. No, I am not perfect. That is why I need Christ. Yes, I am tore up from the floor up. That is why I need forgiveness of sin and cleansing by the blood of Christ.

I am, as a Christian, just like the guy that is not a Christian. The only difference between he and I is that I have a loving savior that accepts me just as I am, broken, dirty, unworthy and unable. He loves me right where I stand, flaws and all. He wants to fellowship with me even though I am jacked up. I repent of my sins and He is quick to forgive me. I am the apple of His eye.

And the same is true for everyone. God loves everyone and wants to fellowship with everyone. We are all his children and He wants us to want to spend time with daddy.

If I have ever done anything to anyone reading this that has led you to conclude that Christians are anything other than the embodiment of Christ’s love I apologize. I ask your forgiveness.

And if you are a Christian, now is a great time to look inward at who you are and ask if you are mimicking the love that Christ showed when he was walking the Earth. He left is a great example of how to love our fellow man.

I bet when we start showing that love the way He did more folks will be open to receiving it and less prone to labeling Christians as anything other than loving.