Monday, March 23, 2020

We're All in This Together

I was asked to write a piece for the local Outer Banks Voice.
Here it is.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Where Is God in this Crisis

Here's the link to my message this morning.  A couple questions that most of us are asking are part of what is shared. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Prayer in Public Schools

I'm old enough to remember praying aloud as a class in the public school setting.  It seems to me that in 1st grade Miss Ross asked students to say the blessing as we were lined up to go to the cafeteria.  Most likely it was the rote "God is good, God is great..." prayer.    And I don't remember if there was a prayer involved, but I do remember Mrs. Allen reading from a children's devotional book of some sort every morning in 5th grade.

Mind you, this was all in the early to mid 1960's when most American families still attended church or synagogue of some sort. It was a different cultural landscape.

Then, in that same decade the SCOTUS handed down decisions prohibiting school sponsored prayers.  School employees could not require prayers during the school day or during extra-curricular school sanctioned activities.  As a result conservative/fundamentalist Christians cried out that prayer had been banned from the public schools.  But, had it?

It was not unusual for a school principal or a superintendent to hand down regulations regarding prayer at school, taking the law into their own hands and forbidding all prayer, even student led/initiated prayers from the school campus.  But clearly, that was not the intent of the law.   "The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools cannot sponsor an official prayer or coerce students into praying. But students generally can pray at any time, as long as it’s not disruptive." *

Still, hosts of football teams huddled together to say "The Lord's Prayer" before a game.  But coaches (school employees) found engaging with their students were told to cease and desist by school administrators fearing protests from the ACLU and other liberal watchdog organizations.

All these prohibitions added to the Law only led to conservatives crying "foul" and looking for candidates in the judiciary as well as legislatures and executive branches who would pledge to "return" prayer to the schools.  But, had prayer been banned and was bringing government sanctioned prayer into the classrooms and locker rooms really what was wanted?

 First, it is impossible to ban prayer from anywhere.  Prayer is utterance to God, and if our God is all everything certainly He can hear a prayer spoken only from the heart, can He not?  No one has to pray aloud or from a kneeling position to get God's attention.

Second, the SCOTUS has consistently allowed for "student led prayers" at school functions.  Even though they may be minors, they still have certain constitutionally  guaranteed rights, two of which are freedom of speech and religious liberty.

Recently, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan cited the 2018 case of students at Honey Grove Middle School in Texas who gathered in the school lunchroom to pray for a former classmate hurt in a car accident, only to be warned by their principal not to do it again. When they prayed the next day, the principal moved them behind a curtain.  That was an infringement of their rights.  The principal was wrong if they were simply praying.  After all, 90% of the other students in the lunchroom were also involved in some sort of conversation.  And if you've been in a middle school cafeteria in recent years, you know that much of that conversational language is less than wholesome.

Third, if we truly want school sanctioned prayer (as we had prior to the early 1960's) then we shouldn't object when someone of another religion leads in that prayer.  We very well may be exposing our students to a spiritual pluralism that is unwanted. If a Muslim teacher or student is selected to say the daily prayer as school announcements are being read in home room, do not protest.

You can't have it both ways. "We want prayers, but we only want our prayers" doesn't work.  It isn't 1962 anymore, and in case you haven't noticed, not only do most families not attend church, many who are religiously fervent are not Christian. 

What do we do?  What do we say? 

My suggestion is that we teach our children to pray.  Teach them at home.  Teach them at church.  And let them know anytime, anywhere our God is ready to hear their prayers, on the way to school, in between classes, in the cafeteria, before and while they compete in athletics.  But teach them that not everyone believes like we do, so don't try and force others to pray with your or even to hear you pray.  If another needs your prayers, let him/her know you're praying for him/her.  Don't interrupt a class to pray aloud.  (But you might want to pray silently as the teacher hands you that test!)

If, as some have for the past 50 years, continuing to crusade for a constitutional amendment to "return prayers to schools", we had better be ready for an outcome we don't like.  Most of us would do better to encourage our students to pray often at school, even with their friends in a voluntary, spontaneous moment than be coerced by the state to pray who knows what.

I'm glad to see a President who wishes to protect our rights to pray.  I would not wish to see anything mandating prayer in the public schools.

* Trump issues new rule ensuring prayer in schools is protected. 
  The Washington Times, January 16, 2020

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Much ado about our lack of control

I'm grateful my televisions come with remote controls. If a commercial comes on that is too loud, too repetitive or too offensive, I can mute it, turn it off, or change channels. Easy peasy.

Frankly, there are lots of commercials that I don't care to see, and on many networks. I'm personally tired of seeing bears talking about toilet paper and ads touting the latest cure for ED.

Stop complaining, live your life as a light, and use your remote. You do have control over that.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Drought Is Over!

Pardon me while I celebrate.

From my first trip to DC Stadium as a 12 year old in 1968, I was a Washington baseball fan. (I'm a native Washingtonian.) Then our team was the hapless Senators, and we were heartbroken when the dastardly Short family moved the team to Texas. It was the 2nd time in a decade or so that a Washington baseball team had been moved. (We don't care for the Griffiths either, who took them to the Twin Cities.)

I adopted both the Angels and the Dodgers as my new teams when my family moved to SoCal. And still cheer for them both (most of the time). But, when the Expos moved to DC it was a great day for the city and her fans. So, last night's winning of the NL pennant means our national pastime's World Series will be played in our national capital for the first time since 1933.

So, here's to you, Walter Johnson, Joe Cronin, Heinie Manush and Goose Goslin. Here's to you Gil Hodges, Mickey Vernon, Camilo Pascual and Eddie Yost. Here's to you, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and Del Unser. The long drought is over.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Little Kids and waterfront recreation

Having lived at the beach for 33 years and owned a vacation rental house for 18 years, and having been a fire department chaplain for 16 years I've figured out some safety tips for having children around the water.

The number 1 priority when taking kids to the beach or staying at at beachfront home or one with a pool is to always have someone watching.  By watching I mean literally watching.  Being present isn't enough.  Put down the book, the phone and face the ocean, lake or pool and stay on top of where the little ones are located.  Forget the nap.  They can take off down the beach quickly. 

Residential pools are surrounded (by code for your protection) with a fence.  If you can enter the pool area directly from the house, keep the door locked when there's not an adult at the pool.  If there is a gate, it should not be accessible by a small child.  And DO NOT prop the gate open for convenience.  It's there for a protect your children.

And if you have no children at your vacation rental/waterfront home you still need to keep the gate closed and locked.  A child from next door could wander over and into your pool.

A cover on a hot tub should only be removed when an adult is present and in the tub.  Little ones not only don't belong in a hot tub, but can fall into one left uncovered.

The first thing you want to do when arriving at your rental is to unpack.  But if you have children, assign one adult to stay with them.  Kids love to explore, and the first thing they want to see is the pool.  On more than one occasion with which I'm familiar a child  has drowned while the adults were unloading the cars. 

At the beach it's not the lifeguard's job (you are swimming at a lifeguarded beach, right?) to babysit your kids.  While they keep their eyes on the water, it's your job to protect your child.  And always ask the guard about rip currents and tides.  And outgoing tide (when it changes from high tide to low)  can pull a small one out.  It's not a lake or the pond on Grandpa's farm.

Life jackets save lives.

It only takes a couple of seconds for them to wander into danger.  Don't let those seconds become the worst of your life. The pool or the beach can be the best part of your vacation.  But it can also become your worst nightmare.

I'm sure there are probably some more I can think of, but this will get it started.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Officer Down

“Did she say, ‘officer down’?”  My fire department pager went off around 3:30 AM, waking me up from a sound sleep.  That was not so unusual.  I heard the words ‘1050’
and the location in Nags Head as I snapped out of slumber.  But did she really say “officer down”?  I asked the question aloud to my wife, Gail who was also awakened by the dispatcher’s voice.

Her reply was, “I think so”.  I had never heard that over the radio before, but I knew what it meant.  So, to confirm, I made a phone call to Dare County Communications.  “This is Chaplain 16.  Did that call come out as an ‘officer down’?”  The answer was affirmative.  I had to ask...”Who is it?”

I hurried to get dressed and got in my car to make the 15 minute drive to Nags Head.  On the way I called our police chaplain, Jim Lewis to let him know and to get him to the location as well.  

Lots of blue and red lights were clustered on the east side of the highway.  There were more cops than I had seen at one incident.  They all heard the radio as well, and from other towns and the county they came to do whatever they could.  Our fire engines and crews were there and the firefighters were taking turns trying to save Earl’s life.

A few feet away was his mangled patrol car, wrapped around a concrete utility pole.  It had rained hard, and in route to a burglary in progress Earl’s car had hydroplaned.  My friend, a frequent attender at my church and one of the best cops around died there, surrounded by his public safety family, most of whom were crying and in shock.  

Sgt. Earl Murray was a career police officer.  A family man with a wife and two daughters in their late teens.  He also was a believer in Jesus.  And he was our first and only police officer to die in the line of duty.  Ten years ago today, and the memory of that early morning still brings tears to my eyes.

With the chief I was dispatched to Earl’s home in Kitty Hawk to bear the news to his wife and girls.  

The next few days were a blur as we ministered to the family, our fire and police departments and worked on a LODD funeral that would honor this hero.  

This morning I stopped at the benches along the highway where a memorial bears his image and name.  There I sat for a few minutes remembering my friend, and then praying for his family and our law enforcement officers.  I was glad to see Old Glory flying at half-staff today honoring all in law enforcement who have given all to protect and serve us.  

Buddyro, I won’t forget you.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"We don‘t want them to know about any of it."

The ugly truth about firefighting the public doesn't understand.

My family wonders why I get so angry at people crossing the highway where there is no light or cross walk (my anger increases when they are with children). Or why I want to stop every bicyclist riding against the traffic or pedestrians walking with it. Why do I holler from my truck at vehicles in the left lane to get over when a fire engine or ambulance is trying to get by?

Why do I shake my head at adults allowing children to ride in the back of an open pick up truck or teenagers texting while driving? Or those who let kids shoot off fireworks or dig deep holes in the beach? And don't get me started about those who think the red flags on the beach don't apply to them.
It's because I've seen stuff. The pictures are forever in my mind, and I don't want to see anymore.

And I'm rarely a first-responder. Those guys and gals on the trucks and the ambulances and the patrol cars have usually cleaned up/covered up things and have stopped me from seeing them. But they see it all. They're the heroes.

They don't want to see anymore, but they know they will.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Saint You, Saint Me

Over the last few years I've read about Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.  Quite the story!  Here's a link or two if you want to learn a wee bit more.

No doubt about it, Patrick deserves the title "saint".  A great evangelist to the then-pagan Emerald Isle, his mark is still seen throughout.  He even is supposed to have done some miraculous things, which makes him even more worthy of saint...right?

Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?  I mean "believer" in the sense that you have personally trusted in Him alone as your Savior.  Lots of people recognize Jesus as the Son of God, etc., but have never done the new birth decision, putting total faith in His life, death and resurrection for forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

So are you?  If not, I invite you to visit this Facebook page and learn how you can become a Christian.

If you are, then may I call you "Saint _______"?  That's who the Bible says you are.

The word "saint" in the Greek language penned by the Apostles means "holy ones".  Not "perfect", but "holy" or "set apart".  Once you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior He then sets you apart from the world around you, and for His service.

The New Testament writers, Luke (in the book of Acts),  the Apostle Paul (in most of his letters to the churches), Jude and John in Revelation used the term saints to address the Christians in the churches or to speak about them.  Never was the word "saints" used to designate a select one or few from the church, but included them all.  For example:

To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints. - Romans 1:7

To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called  as saints, with all those in everyplace who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lordtheirs and ours. - 1 Corinthians 1:2

All the saints greet you. - 2 Corinthians 13:12b

If you are in Christ you are a saint.  His expectation is that you and I will act like it! Just don't expect to have a cathedral named in your memory.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Tipping Point?

In 2008 my daughter-in-law, who has lived her entire life with Cystic Fibrosis (a disease inherited from parents who were carriers of the gene) found herself at the point of being put on the lung transplant list at Duke University Medical Center.  Adding to her dire condition was her pregnancy.  She wasn’t supposed to get pregnant.  Her doctors warned her not to get pregnant.  And after years of trying, she and my son assumed she was unable to conceive due to her disease. 

But, on the eve of a scheduled trip to Duke to be evaluated and likely placed on the transplant list she discovered she was, indeed, pregnant.  The next day the doctors expressed their dismay.  One even cursed when hearing the news. The obstetrician there said she had never recommended termination before.  But this time she said, “You can’t risk your life like this.  You need to abort.”  Due to their deeply held conviction that life is sacred, especially in the womb, they told their doctors, “No.”

In January 2008 she was at the place where her diseased lungs could no longer supply her with the oxygen she needed.  The growing child inside her (not part of her body, but housed within her) only exacerbated the limited air her lungs could take in.  So, the plan was to intubate her, putting her on a ventilator to breathe for her.  The doctors told her this had never been done at Duke – placing a pregnant patient in need of a transplant on a ventilator.  In fact, they told her by doing this, her chances for receiving a transplant were near impossible.  Again, it had never been done.

Less than an hour before the surgery to ventilate her she and my son were told they had to make a choice.  If her vitals dropped to dangerous lows during surgery, who should be saved, mother or baby?  They were told that if she began to crash, they would perform a Caesarian.  But there were no guarantees that either would/could survive.

We hear a lot of arguments for terminating a pregnancy revolving around protecting the life of the mother.  With that rationale no one had a greater justification for aborting than my daughter-in-law.  The baby was just barely 24 weeks. 

Prior to going to surgery our son and his wife called my wife and me into her room in ICU.  “What do we do?”  I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked a harder question.  But my belief is that God alone has the authority to determine life and death.  So, to the doctors’ question their response was, “Do everything you can to save them both”.   

My granddaughter was born just after noon, weighing in at 1 lb. 6 oz.  Her chances of survival were slim.  Her mother was successfully intubated and place on a ventilator.  Her chances were equally small.  Nearly three months later she would “write the book” at Duke and receive new lungs.  Four months later her daughter would be released from the NICU to come home, and today she is a beautiful 5th grader. 

Life’s not fair.  Sometimes the choices we must make are next to impossible.  But, we’re not God, who alone can accomplish the impossible.  He’s the same God who declares that He created us knew us when we were in our mothers’ wombs. 

Readers of my column, my blog and those who have heard me preach know where I stand on the the abortion issue.  For me, it is not a political hot-potato as much as it is a moral and ethical issue.  Of course, being a man whose faith has determined my personal worldview, and whose faith is grounded on the concept of absolute truth, I clearly see the abortion of pre-born as a violation of the basic building block of our society that every man and woman has the right to life.

Lest someone suggest that I sit in some sort of ivory tower without the experience or understanding of life circumstances that might justify the termination of a pregnancy, please know that because of my family, I have been up close and personal with the options -   closer than I would ever want or choose to be.

I believe we have reached a tipping point in our country.  The state of New York has now legalized abortion up to the point of birth at full term.  In New York, convicted murderers cannot be put to death.  But now, unwanted, innocent children can be and will be. 

Reaction will either be for other states to follow their lead or for this national sin to be reversed.  Our soul, our future is in dire jeopardy if this is allowed to continue.  May God have mercy on us.