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…

Source: Being a Christian

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 whether you value the body God gave you.
Is not about hunting or fishing on Sunday, but about whether or not you spend time with God’s family on Earth.
Is not about following the rules, but about developing self-discipline.
Is not about quoting chapter and verse, but about knowing God’s story.
Is not about politics, but about knowing right and wrong and doing right anyway.
Is not about divorce, but is about making the marriage you have work.
Is not about the music you listen to, but about whether you also give God the same effort in worship.
Is not about four letter words, but about whether one of those words you use is ‘love’.
Is not about driving over the speed limit, but about respecting the authorities God places over us.
Is not about quibbling over who gets into heaven, but being extremely grateful about how diverse the body of Christ really is.
Is not about whether we sing or play instruments in worship, but it is about lifting up God’s Name in praise.

Just my beliefs folks.

There is a group of us runners that will sometimes imagine things in our heads while we are running.  There are those that are outrunning zombies and some are winning the Boston Marathon.  On this morning’s run, I was trying to finish up my weekday runs and avoid the approaching thunderstorms.  Apparently, I don’t read radar very well.  While I have had this particular mind image while running before, the weather and the music in my ears seemed to fill the gaps that usually exist.

I’ll relate the image below.  It is pretty graphic for some and might even be considered offensive.  If you don’t like it, just move along.

I am running in the forest and it is raining again.  I am not soaked because I am prepared.  However, I am in pain.  Everything is gone.  Open war is in our land now.  The others have come and are trying to take away all that we deemed good and right.  I managed to escape into the forest and know that I will survive, but I do not know what will become of me.

Sometimes I am running.  Sometimes I am just walking.  Yet, each time that I come close to my former civilization I only see the oppression, the injustice, and death.  I do not know what to do.  The only thing I know is that while I remain in the forests of my land, I’ll be safe enough.  So, I run some more, in the rain.

On one occasion, I am close enough to hear them; the others.  It is a small group encamped in the forest.  They are too close.  I can hear them. I can hear their laughter and their insulting jokes about my nation and my people.  Then I hear the worst.  They are getting ready for the final push.  Our capital will fall.  The armies of the others surround it.  This group believes itself safe enough that I hear their plans to destroy the freedoms we have held dear and to make us bow to their false god.

It finally happens.  The anger and rage inside of me will take no more.  I can hold it down no longer. I begin to run; not away, but towards their camp.  I do not shout, I do not cry out. My sidearm speaks for me.  The simplicity in the violence of action takes them all by surprise.  In just a minute or two, I am beyond them.  They are all gone.

I continue to run.  I stop only when hunger, thirst, or exhaustion begs it of me.  I run through the forests and the grasslands.  Often, I encounter other groups of the others; their soldiers.  It is the same each time.  My revenge speaks for me.  Retribution is the goal. The anger and rage do not abate and their soldiers continue to die.

As I go through their units, I pick up their weapons.  I gather their ammunition.  I am now using their own tools of destruction against them.  I have been running forever, it seems; yet there is more to go.  I do not know why I still survive.  I am tired and hungry, yet I cannot stop.

I am close.  I can see our capital ahead.  The army surrounding it is thicker than flies at a funeral. This time, I will be no more.  One shot could have ended it before now, but there is no escape from this one.  Their soldiers take note of me.  They turn, ready to end my life.

But, they stop.  I am close now and begin to see their wide eyes, their haunted stares.  I don’t understand, but then I can hear the sound.  The drumming.  The sound of…running.  It is not my own feet I hear.  I stop, finally stop.  The noise is louder and it is coming from behind.  I turn around to see what it is and I cannot believe my own eyes.  Behind me, running towards me is an army of such proportions that I can understand the sense of fear in the enemy.  I am not running alone.  Freedom will not fall today.  I turn back to my task and start to run again.


Well, no actually, you won’t find that information here. I joined LinkedIn about four years ago because of a lost job.  Allegedly, LinkedIn was the supreme way to get noticed and locate …

Source: How to get the right tech job from LinkedIn

This week, our cycling group got a chance to present our recommendations to the city council for infrastructure that will develop cycling in the city.  Wouldn’t you know the council would meet while I am at work and I could not attend.  However, our local access channel, ICTN records these meetings and logs them on their website.  Despite not attending, I could still watch our fearless leader lay out the need for cycling infrastructure including cycle tracks in and around the city.

In addition, our group recently got a chance to see the plans for the downtown Irving renovations that would include cycle tracks, wider sidewalks, and fewer motoring lanes.  All of these would aid in getting people out of their cars and into the businesses along Irving Boulevard, the major artery through downtown Irving.

As part of this, a group of volunteers put together a Saturday event to lay out what the road, cycle track, and sidewalk upgrades could do when completed.  They called this event, Deep Irving Marketplace.  Vendors and volunteers put together pop-up shops to showcase what could happen once the construction completes.  Our cycling group did a pop-up bike shop where we were selling donated vintage bikes to raise funds to help our Earn-A-Bike program. 

The event was a success in many ways.  I saw a lot of folks in Big State Drug during the lunch hour; a lot more than I usually see.  We also heard from some others how much more business they had in their shops as well.  While we knew some motorists (and truck drivers) weren’t happy about fewer lanes and slower traffic, the idea was working.

So, I listened to the presentation and the Q&A that went along with it.  You can watch the meeting for yourself here.  I was hopeful that the information would be received well.  There are always curmudgeons around that will nay-say anything, but I hoped for the best in any case.

Most of the Q&A was positive.  I especially like John Danish’s description of why American cities don’t have things like sidewalk cafés. It is because we built for the car and the truck.  And, as a country, we did this despite the fact that paved roads were an innovation of the bicycle, not the car.  Mr. Danish described how this past choice affects things like cycling on city roads.  He rightfully stated that the city would have to deal with those that would complain about slower traffic because of changes like the downtown renovation.  However, I was completely surprised by one council member’s response.

Brad LaMorgese commented that if the council did anything to slow traffic on Macarthur that they would all be gone (my paraphrase).  Macarthur Boulevard is another major artery through Irving.  It is a north-south artery while Irving Boulevard in downtown Irving is east-west. I suppose he meant that their elected positions as council members would be at jeopardy if the addition of cycle tracks to Macarthur Boulevard resulted in slower traffic speeds similar to what happened at the Deep Irving event.

So, let me see if I can understand this correctly.  You are afraid of losing your elected position if you anger a bunch of motorists, many of whom do not live in Irving, solely because they would have to travel at a slower speed?  Are you really going to play that one?  The fear card?  Well, let’s look at that issue.

I drive on Macarthur quite a bit.  I don’t bike on Macarthur unless it is very early Sunday morning or in a large group.  I have said this before, Macarthur Blvd. is DANGEROUS!  It is not only dangerous for cyclists, it is dangerous as a motorist.  The primary reason for the danger is that despite the 35 mph speed limits for most of the road, many motorists completely ignore the limit.

Now, of course Mr. LaMorgese, if you are concerned about speeds on Macarthur, you and the city council can of course raise the speed limit to whatever your heart’s desire.  However, you have chosen to support the current set of limits.  I have to believe that you all agree with those speed limits, or are those just speed suggestions?

Therefore, since many drivers on Macarthur are speeding, you are fearful that the addition of infrastructure to support safe cycling might actually reduce folks to driving the speed limit and cause them to be angry at the council?  Keep in mind the self-proven realization that those folks that would be upset with slower speeds are likely the same ones that ignore speed limits and wouldn’t slow down for cyclists or pedestrians either.  And, these are the folks you believe would vote you out of office for doing so.  My, what leadership skills you have, sir.

I have watched how the city operates vis-à-vis cycling and many other things.  Our city council would bend over backwards to build a convention center (an ugly one, I might add), but does little to increase the number of cycle paths, cycle tracks, and other infrastructure to get more people outdoors and lower pollution and congestion while increasing health and quality of life.  A city that has a perfectly good planned 22-mile trail to connect north and south Irving, but won’t finish the last few miles. For the record, I do not accept the city’s current excuse.  The city has plenty of trails on the books and I hope we get busy on these quickly.  I would like to ride a few before I am too old to do so.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to be afraid of the fallout of doing what is right.  I guess that one might be afraid of maintaining his or her council seat if we build an infrastructure that invites every type of vehicle to safely share the roads and consequently anger all those fast car and SUV drivers.  You know those drivers are worth more than the Mom that wants to lead her family down to the store a couple of blocks on a bike instead of a car or SUV.  I guess that being fearful of interrupting the transient drivers, that don’t live or vote in Irving is better leadership than preparing our city for a future that includes cycling, walking, and running.

But remember this: I bike and I vote, plus I know a lot of other cyclists that vote as well.  Fear that.