Faith in the Trenches: The 911 Call You Will Never Forget

A mother who works as a 911 operator gets a call from her own house. The shooting victim is her son. This is a real-life walk of faith.

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Praise You in This Storm

Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

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Song Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns

They’ll Know We are Christians

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

How tragic for us if that is not true.

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3 Quick Takes: Vampire Atheists, Jesus Stomping Class Assignments and Gay Marriage

Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.

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1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge

The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience  “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

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2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.

3. New Zealand, Uruguay, legalize gay marriage. 

New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.

West, Texas and a Failure of City Planning

Waco plant explosion

West, Texas is not a region of the State of Texas.

West is the name of a town that almost blew itself off the map this week through a combination of poor city planning and lax enforcement of safety laws.

Fertilizer makes plants grow. It also explodes. Remember the nitroglycerin in dynamite? The “nitro” part of that is the same “nitrates” found in the fertilizer you sprinkle on your rose plants. The difference is quantity and, hopefully, the stability of compound.

I won’t go into the sad history of fertilizer bombs. But I will say that the town of West, Texas played host to a humongous fertilizer bomb in the form of West Fertilizer plant.

There is nothing wrong with having a fertilizer plant as part of your town’s economy. People have to make a living, and fertilizer, if it’s used properly, allows us to grow the crops that feed our planet’s population. We need the stuff, and making it is an honest living.

But it can also be dangerous. That’s why government officials have a responsibility to plan how they allow a town to grow around plants like these. For reasons unknown, the town of West allowed a school and a nursing home, along with a number of private residences, to be situated near a fertilizer plant.

I know full well that the people of this little town are shattered over what has happened. They’ve lost people that, in a community of this size, they all knew and most of them probably loved. Many more were injured. Others have lost their homes. There is no reason for a janey-come-lately from Oklahoma to butt her nose into this and tell these people that they made some mistakes in how they situated this fertilizer plant.

Huge explosion at Texas fertiliser plant 1838708 zps15050523

I am not writing this post to chide or criticize the hurting folks of West. I want to use it to forewarn the rest of us. City planners in lots of places, including my own town, often seem to make their decisions in a sort of moral isolation tank where the preservation of communities and the safety and well-being of residents doesn’t enter into their deliberations. 

Likewise, government inspectors are often either too lax or too punitive in their approach to businesses. I’ve read that the West Fertilizer plant had not been inspected since 1985. 

We need a housecleaning at the local level about things like this.

If you are a Christian and you hold one of these jobs, you have a responsibility to do it honestly and with concern for the common good. I realize that a lot of people who hold these positions would lose their jobs if they tried this, but that doesn’t change what Jesus asks of us.

It also doesn’t ameliorate the responsibility of elected officials to oversee these processes and guarantee that the citizens’ needs are not overlooked. That is their job, even if it means going against the local Chamber of Commerce and getting beat in the next election. Whatever our job, we ultimately answer to God for how we do it.

I’m sure there will be recriminations and ugliness about the tragically wrong-headed city planning that took place in West, Texas. I am equally sure that after the news cycle has moved on, little will change in the future Wests around the country.

We really need to stop driving our government by looking in the rear view mirror and face forward. If you are in city government, you need to replay the videos of West, then give some serious thought to the potential Wests in your town.

We can’t undo things like this once they happen. We can’t bring the dead back to life. I also know that we will never be able to stop terrible things from happening altogether. From the Tower of Siloam to West, Texas, people die in tragedies like this.

But that does not excuse us from doing our best. It does not exempt government officials from careful thought and planning that places the welfare of the citizens it governs as its primary concern.

If you don’t understand that, then you shouldn’t be in government at all.

Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio.

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It appears that Francis, the phone-call-making Pope, also will continue as the black-shoe-wearing Pope — the black-old-shoe-wearing Pope.

Rather than replace his old shoes, the Holy Father called the man who has been making and repairing his footwear for some 40 years, 81-year-old Carlos Samaria, of Buenos Aires.

True to form, Pope Francis placed the call to order the repairs himself.

“Hello Samaria. It’s Bergoglio,” he began. “Who is this?” the shoemaker asked. “Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” came the answer.

The shoemaker said that Pope Francis told him “No red shoes, black like always.”

It sounds as if our Holy Father takes a mischievous delight in these conversations. Maybe it lessens the isolation of his new life when he picks up the phone and reaches out to people, especially to old friends like Señor Samaria.

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Pope Francis’ Sister, Maria Bergoglio

I read an interview Pope Francis’ sister gave shortly after his election in which she spoke of the loneliness of the Papacy, describing the time she met Pope John Paul II.

“When I fell to my knees to kiss his ring, I looked up and saw a gaze of such love, but at the same time of infinite loneliness,” she said.

Pope Francis lives in community rather than the isolation of the papal apartment and he makes his own phone calls. I hope these things give this good man some measure of community to comfort him as He shepherds us through the times ahead.

From CNA:

.- Pope Francis, who has quickly become known for his austere style, will continue using his simple black shoes and has called his shoemaker from his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina to repair them.

For 40 years, 81 year-old Carlos Samaria has provided shoes from his store on the outskirts of the Argentine capital for Pope Francis, who was known before his election to the papacy as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

“Hello Samaria, it’s Bergoglio,” the phone conversation began.

“But who is this?” the shoemaker responded with surprise.

“Samaria, it’s Francis, the Pope!” the Holy Father replied.

Read the rest here.

Boy Scouts Leadership Pushes Revised Plan Allowing Homosexual Members

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Boy Scouts of America’s executive committee produced yet another attempt to change the organizations long-standing ban on homosexual members Friday.

They announced a resolution that would reverse the ban on homosexual boy scouts as individual members, but keep the ban on homosexual scout leaders. The resolution will be voted on by national council at the end of May. 

This comes on the heels of a sometimes rancorous debate about an earlier plan to allow across the board participation in the Boy Scouts by openly gay men and boys.

The state of California has been considering a change in its tax laws that would revoke the Boy Scouts non-profit tax status if they do not admit homosexuals to the organization. This proposed law is called The Youth Equality Act. 

Boy Scouts of America

Supporters of the Boy Scouts’ current position which refuses membership in the organization to openly homosexual members or leaders raise concerns about openly gay members using the Boy Scouts to promote homosexual political and social agendas.

A CNA article describing the situation reads in part:

In an April 19 statement, the Boy Scouts said that “the Executive Committee, on behalf of the National Executive Board, wrote a resolution for consideration that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation.”

It added that the resolution would “maintain the current membership policy” of prohibiting openly gay men to serve as adult troop leaders.

The resolution will be receive a vote at the organization’s annual national council in late May.

The announcement of the resolution follows several months of policy review after the Boy Scouts lost funding from high-profile donors such as UPS over the current rules, which bar openly homosexual members.

… Eagle Scout John Stemberger warned that the resolution would create “a myriad of problems for how to manage and ensure the safety of the boys in the program.”

Stemberger is the founder of OnMyHonor.Net, a nationwide coalition of scouts, parents and leaders who support the Boy Scouts’ current policy.
 
“The current membership policy of Scouting, which is backed by more than 100 years of tradition, allows anyone to participate irrespective of sexual orientation, but only disallows the open and aggressive promotion of homosexuality and political agendas,” he explained in an April 19 statement.

Arguing that “parents should still have the final say on the issues of sexuality and politics,” he cautioned that a policy change “injects both those topics right into the program.”  (Read the rest here.) 

Did I Ever Once Pray?

Alfred P Murrah Federal Building before destruction

I am trying to remember if I ever once prayed for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know I prayed — and fervently — that the FBI would get the right person or persons. The only thing worse than being a victim of one of these things would be to be accused of it and not have done it.

I wanted the right people to get got.

I think I prayed before the execution of one of the perpetrators. I remember I was upset about the idea of them strapping him down and killing him like he was an animal in a slaughter house. I never confused him with an animal. I always knew he was human and that what he had done was a specifically human act.

I did not want him executed. But once he was dead, I was glad that I would never have to hear any of his comments or words again. I was glad his ashes were scattered. I did not want him to have a grave where people would go and take photos of each other standing beside his marker. I wanted him forgot.

But … did I ever pray for his soul? I think I did, on the day of his execution. But I’m honestly not sure.

I’ve never prayed for it since then. I can tell you that.

I spent far too much time back then, thinking about the perpetrators of this mass murder. It was so premeditated. They planned it and worked toward it for months, robbing for money and resources that they stockpiled until they had enough to build a bomb. This was beyond deliberate. It was something these men worked toward the way better people work toward college degrees or buying their first home. It was a long-term goal for them.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I could not fathom that someone would get up in the morning and go to work building a bomb to kill other people and that they could do it for months. Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Then, one day, I realized that I would never understand and that I didn’t need to understand. 

I can’t understand Beethoven, either. But for different reasons. I hear the Fifth Symphony and I know that he heard it before he ever wrote a note. He heard all of the instruments in his mind. He heard them individually and together simultaneously. He heard it and he wrote it down with musical notes on a piece of paper so that we could hear it too.

How did he do that? How can anyone do what Beethoven did? I don’t understand because I do not have the talent to fly that high.

Conversely, I don’t understand these cold-blooded killers because I can’t bend down that low. You have to squeeze yourself into a painfully small box to think like these murderers do. You have to amputate large parts of your soul and psyche to shrink it down to something small enough to even begin to comprehend why and how they could decide that doing something like this was a worthy project.

Every time one of these things happens, we are inundated with comments from people who tell us that the killer seemed like one of us. But of course, that’s not true. They’re not like us, at least not in the only thing about them that matters to the rest of us; their murderous desires. The “normal Joe” mass murderer is an ironic viewpoint perpetrated on the rest of us to titillate and engage us. It is not true.

I don’t know and I don’t care why and how they are different. That’s the job of FBI profilers and others with a calling and a dedication that I don’t have.

I suppose, after I write this, I’m going to have to pray for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s not going to be easy. I will first have to dig them out from the box where I put them long ago.

The one labeled “Trash.”

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Four Days

Four days.

That’s how long it took for the FBI to sift through the evidence and identify two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. 

I read a story earlier, which I assume is true, that one of the bombing victims, Jeff Baumann, said “That’s the guy. He looked right at me,” when he was shown a photo of the one of the suspects. He described how the man placed a bag of explosives at his feet. Two and a half minutes later, the bag exploded.

Four days. 

I am impressed and grateful for law enforcement that follows the evidence and investigates thoroughly. I don’t want them to find just someone, I want them to find the right ones. 

Law enforcement searches for one of these suspects while I am writing this. The other suspect is dead. The suspected terrorists have added two more casualties to their list: One young police officer is dead and another is in critical condition. I have no doubt that they will find the suspect who is at large. 

Four days. 

The message here, for those who want to hear it, is Don’t mess with the USA. 

 If you see this man, call 1-800-CALL-FBI. 

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FBI Releases Suspects’ Photos in Marathon Bombing

The FBI has released photos of two suspects in the Boston bombing.

I pulled these photos from the FBI website. If you see one of these men, or you think you might know something to help in the investigation, call the FBI at:

1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) and prompt #3.

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Pair 3

 

Suspect2 a

 

Suspect2 c

 

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