Because of the age we live in, there are many people that do not own guns of any kind. This is not judgment, just an observation. I also perceive there are many people that can look back at parents and possibly grandparents to find that no one in their direct family ever owned a gun. I think it is also possible that quite a few folks can look to their circle of friends and discover that no one they know well owns or ever has owned a gun.

I get that, and it is a good thing in some respects. There is no compunction these days to need a gun of any type. It is good to know that so many people can feel safe enough that they do not need the protection of a firearm. However, that also leads to ignorance.

Now, before you crucify me for offending you or someone you know concerning ignorance, I am not using the pejorative use of the term ‘ignorance’, as in, “That fellow is ignorant.” On the contrary, I am using the term to mean a lack of knowledge. In more detail, I also view it to mean a lack of knowledge for something that is readily available.

It never fails that in any discussion on situations like mass shootings where an AR-15 is involved to hear one or more of the following questions or statements:

“Why do you need an AR-15?”

“Nobody needs an AR-15.”

You can also substitute the terms assault rifle, assault weapon, military weapon, or military grade weapon for AR-15. All of these are interchangeable according to most of our press and the non-gun owning public. However, if you’ll have a little patience, pull up your caffeinated beverage of choice and follow along, I’ll do my best to explain the answer to the question.

Please do remember that the opinion I give is mine alone and also my own experiences and observations. While many of my friends and associates will say similar things as I do about AR-15’s, that is not a guarantee.

First, I’ll use the simple answer for those that may have closed minds or closed opinions on the matter. I don’t “need” an AR-15. If this is all that you wish to hear, you can run along now and I’ll not expand your knowledge at all. Yes, that may be a bit blunt but I also know that there are folks that this is all they wish to hear. If you want to know why I put the word “need” in quotes, please read on.

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The news and social media outlets are ablaze with President Donald Trump’s newest proposal to mitigate the spate of school shootings the US has experienced. He proposes that teachers receive a bonus (I think the value would be $1,000US) to cover training to carry in the classroom. Some of those words are my paraphrase. There are many detractors and supporters on both sides, but the primary difficulty is that we keep using the wrong words and ideas to describe the issue.

I can’t speak for all gun owners or carriers. I can’t speak for all teachers. Technically, I am not a teacher even though I do hold a Masters in Education. That is because the sector is woefully underpaid for a craftsman of my experience to maintain a living being a teacher. I haven’t spent enough time in a classroom to be called a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I am ignorant of what they go through either.

My classroom time is limited to the year I spent substituting in my district after completing my education. Because of the favorable arrangement with my day job at the time, I was able to spend about 1 to 2 days every two weeks in a class, as well as a couple of weeks for some substitute jobs.

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Before I begin getting into my ideas about gun control, mass shootings, the alleged assault rifle question (and on and on and on), it is probably best to start with the why I think like I do, why I act like I do, which “side” am I on type of questions. Please feel free to refer back to this post when your Spock eyebrow goes up because of something I said. It will likely make better sense if you start here.

What is there about what I do or what I know that gives me any authority on the subjects of gun control or school shootings? That is a fair question and a good one, even if I asked it of myself. If you are going to listen to anyone on the debate, you should first find out what they know about the subject matter. Simply because you own a gun doesn’t make you an expert on gun control. Simply because you’ve survived a school or mass shooting doesn’t instantly make you an expert on gun control. Being an elected official doesn’t automatically make you an expert on gun control.

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I had planned to place this blog in a different order on a different day, but with the news that the Florida State Legislature voted against an assault weapon ban during the activism and protest of surviving Stoneman Douglas students, it is warranted.

First, before anyone gets started, I am not going to criticize the students for their protests nor their advocacy of gun control. Neither will I say that what they are doing is wrong or out of line just because they are young. They are Americans, first and foremost. They have endured a tragedy many of us will, hopefully, never endure. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to not let anyone “despise” Timothy’s youth. So, on the contrary, I applaud what they are doing.

It does not matter that they protest against guns or advocate for more gun control. If you or I have grown so cynical in this world that you cannot see the expression of freedom in their eyes and voices, then we might as well find a cave and become hermits. The act of protest is foundational in our nation and its Constitution. We are a nation born in protest and rebellion against a government that sought our subjugation instead of seeing us as equal citizens. Many young men and young women have shed blood over this very fact from 1776 until today. Remember that.

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Why does this happen?

We all know too well the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen deaths, most teenagers and many other wounded because a 19-year-old ex-student carried a gun into the building and began shooting.

The tragedy of this is unspeakable. Yet, this isn’t the only one if its kind, just the latest. Regular media, social media, politicians, and the surviving students all want answers and have opinions. And, I’m no different. Why?

Some background before going further: I own guns. I carry a handgun, licensed, of course. I am a grandfather. I recently took my granddaughter to her school’s Dad/Daughter dance because her dad, my eldest son is no longer with us. I am a father and a husband. And, I am a Christ follower.

If this horrifies you or disgusts you to the point you cannot remain civil, you may check out now. However, if you are willing, I’m going to spend a while over some days or weeks, no real plan yet, talking about these issues.

These will be my own opinions based on my anecdotal evidence of what I know and observe. If I am observing incorrectly, leave me comment. However, I know that some Democrats will not like what I say. Some Republicans will not like what I say. Some gun owners and carriers will not like what I say. Some gun control proponents will not like what I say. Some atheists will not like what I say and some Christians will not like what I say. Probably some parents and teenagers will not like what I say. So, since I will likely anger some of every group, please join in my equal opportunity crowd.

Today’s post is a short essay that I sent to my pastor shortly after the shooting occurred. Yes, I stand by my opinions in it. Yes, you have the right to think differently. No, you don’t have the right to judge me deficient as a human being because I think this way. So, here goes nothing…

I sit here this morning after my first cup of coffee and listening to the chatter on the news feeds and social media about yesterday’s school shooting in Parkland, FL. It is horrific and sad to know that this is the level our society has dropped to in these recent years.

Why does this happen? Well, first, I’d refer folks to go and read Job. No, Job won’t give you any answers you’ll like or want. The real answer in Job comes when Job is called by God to answer God’s charges against Job. Yes, Job did make a mistake and God called him on it.

That answer is: God is sovereign and doesn’t answer to us.

Why does this happen? Now, I’d refer folks to go and read Genesis 1-3. You won’t like this answer either. It begins with, you guessed it, God is sovereign (chapter 1) and ends with humankind’s failure to avoid evil. There is a huge concept running around today, and it even finds itself in our churches: man is essentially good. Sorry, but that is a lie. Humans have proven over the millenia that there isn’t any goodness in us except that which comes from the Spirit of God through Christ.

Again, the answer is: because humans are evil.

Many, many of our nation’s children are raised without any moral compass. They are allowed to do whatever. At ages too young for their developing minds to comprehend, parents allow them access to video games, movies, songs, and other cultural items meant only for adults. Why, because everyone else does. Too many parents are trying to be their children’s friends when they ought to be their children’s parents.

We set ourselves up in our schools to fail. We have an utopian ideal of what school life should be like and by golly we are going to stick to that. While it was good intentions to declare all schools as drug and gun free zones, doing so without any sense of what can go wrong is incorrect. There are some schools and districts that use extra physical security to safeguard students, such as metal detectors and searches, but very few. Instead, we believe that a sign will deter a person bent on causing harm. Even those items may not stop all instances, but I still think it is a good first measure.

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He Had a Family

Yes, I know.  I am weird.  While other people have dreams of many different things, I haven’t heard of many that dream sermons.  I do.  On occasion.

This week I had a dream about something that I should have known for a long time, but yet it seems to not make the top 10 of things on my mind.  But, as a believer, it should.

Jesus had a family.

Yep. Gotcha there.  We all know Jesus had a family on earth.  Mary was his mom.  Joseph his dad.  James was a brother (or technically half brother).  And, on and on.  Nothing new here.  Move along.

Nope.  That’s not what I meant.  Jesus had a family.  He had a mom and a dad.  Specifically, what came to mind was this passage that I will quote:

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I used the King James Version because that’s how it was in the dream and the original English words most of us know are important here; “she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”.  Mary swaddled Jesus to comfort him and protect him.  He was her son and regardless of his lineage or divinity, he was a baby and needed his mother’s protection and love.
Swaddling is an ancient practice still used by some parents.  It generally only works with newborns and for a little while after.  The baby is wrapped snugly in blankets, arms, legs and all.  Motion is limited but the child is still and feels protected.
We forget these things about Jesus way too often.  Some of the gnostics just a few centuries after Jesus’ walk on the earth thought that his divinity would not allow him to touch this dirty, sinful earth and  he traveled all his life floating just above the earth.  In this view, he would be aloof, uncaring, and not connected to humanity at all.  Sadly, I think many of us tend to look at Jesus that way today, whether we are believers or not.
It is very easy to see Jesus in this light.  We want to distance our sinful natures from the purity of his divinity.  We want to look only at his god nature and not at his humanity.  We prefer to see the existence of the wrath he would bestow upon us because of the things we’ve done.  But, in reality, I think that is farthest from his nature towards us.  When Jesus took up the incarnation, he took it up fully, just as we have to do.  Jesus’ humanity was not separate from his divinity; both natures were fully integrated into each other.
Because Jesus had a loving and protecting mother and a caring father, he knew and lived his life inside a family.  I think that is a bit of why he loved all of us, because we are also his family.  I have no doubt that we are able to disappoint Jesus at times, but he does forgive us, his family and wants to love and protect us always.  Jesus really is our brother and God is really our Father.  We as humans and children of God would do so much better if we could lay hold of this truth and travel through life with it in our heads and our hearts.
On this, the last day of 2016, when so many are in turmoil around our world, I will hold to the truth taught by the man and God that once was swaddled in a manger by his mother.

Being a Christian

Being a Christian… Is not about drinking beer, but about whether or not you are drunk. Is not about dancing, but whether that leads you to regretful behaviors. Is not about smoking, but about…

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