Sunday, August 31, 2014

What--Not Who--Is Really to Blame In Ferguson?

For the past few weeks I’ve sat back in silence, refusing to speak out either way regarding the chaos in Ferguson, MO. True enough, I am a political columnist, talk radio host, and a former police officer. Yet, I have consciously chosen to stay away from addressing the riots in Ferguson, even though one would assume I would be covering it along with the rest of the media. I have a rule for myself that basically states that if what I have to say on a subject fails to provide either a solution or  helps to provide clarity to a problem, then what I have to say simply isn’t worth saying.

Despite the fact that facts were the one thing missing in Ferguson, many in the world of political punditry rattled on and on with varying opinions of every topic handed to them, ranging from the disconcerting militarization of America’s police forces to the ridiculous attempts by far-left extremists to blame the incident of August 9th and all that followed on, of course, climate change. On a side note, I’d imagine that even the fear-mongering Chicken Little—who himself stormed throughout the barnyard warning others that, “the sky is falling!”—would tell those screaming about Global Warming, Climate Change, Climate Jihad to relax, lest others fail to take them or their efforts seriously.

At this point there’s no denying the fact that the country is pretty much divided into two camps regarding Ferguson. Some will tell you that Officer Darren Wilson abused his police power in the initial confrontation and needlessly shot the victim, Michael Brown, while Brown had his hands up and was surrendering. And yet, the other camp will tell you about the serious medical injuries suffered by the officer during the struggle between the two that seem to support the officer’s claims. And both sides have prematurely convicted the other, well before all the facts and evidences are presented.

Make no mistake—Ferguson is staring America right in the face and it’s showing us everything that’s wrong with our society. Some may say that the problem in Ferguson stems from racism. Someone else may tell you that the problem stems from a violent thug culture. Others may say the problem is with the militarization of the police. However, all of those issues are but a symptom of what really ails us as a nation.

The real problem is that we have too much passion, and not enough compassion. And passion that isn’t tempered by compassion for others quickly becomes a raging fire that devours whoever wields it. Because the focus of passion is on oneself, while compassion by its very nature, focuses on the well-being of others. And that’s exactly what you see happening all throughout the United States. From the hallowed halls of Washington, D.C., to the local diner, people are passionate about a whole host of issues, but too few are taking time to be compassionate toward their neighbor.

The problem with Ferguson, MO is the same problem everywhere else in the United States. People became overwhelmed by their emotions, which led them to participate in the mob mentality we witnessed on the news. Compassion for the families of both Mike Brown and Darren Wilson was replaced--and perhaps never even considered--by the morally bankrupt considerations of those who were SOS: Stuck On Self. The compassionate man does so today knowing that he may be in need of it tomorrow.

Everything that happened in Ferguson is but a mere symptom of a lack of compassion for one’s neighbors and their community. From the haste shown by those who are in a rush to judge either side before all the facts are known, to those who ignorantly participated in the destruction of property belonging to others, even all the way down to the heavy-handed response of the police; it’s all symptomatic of a lack of compassion and consideration for others beyond oneself. And they excuse such actions by saying the looters are just frustrated because, “they just want to have their voices heard.”

Truthfully, I don’t believe any of those pundits who attempted to explain away such unexplainable behavior did so simply because they had to have something to say.

People mistakenly believe they have a right to be heard. However, the cold, hard truth of the matter is that they don't. Oh sure, you have Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, but even then your speech is limited in regards to what you say and how you say it. Everyone knows that the FBI would have something to say to anyone who decides to board a plane and immediately announce they have a bomb on board. Likewise, continuing to yell out curse words in a public place in front of small children could result in your arrest for disorderly conduct in certain jurisdictions. You have freedom of speech, but even it is regulated within the confines of what society deems appropriate behavior. But one thing you do not have is a right to be heard. Your freedom of speech can continue as others walk away.

Rather than being so engrossed with ourselves, perhaps it would behoove us to slow down and get to know those around us? Let’s not wait until a tragedy strikes at home before we take a look around and realize we’ve been consumed by our own passions, instead of showing compassion toward others. Slow down and help that stranger in line behind you at the grocery store, you’ve got the time. Reach out to a local family who’s in need of a helping hand. Do something kind for others in their time of need today, so they’ll help you in your time of need tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Miranda Rights for Cell Phones

The numbers are staggering—As of February 2014 there are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions in a world of only 7 billion people! And that comes as no surprise, does it? Because think about it; everywhere you turn, someone is on their cell. From the multi-tasking mom who’s using her Samsung in the carpool lane, or the iPhone wielding teen who is texting or taking a ‘selfie’ with friends, or even the small business owner who uses his Blackberry to check his clients orders, cell phones provide a valuable service to our society, and are therefore here to stay. And they’ve come a long way from the days when they looked more like bricks than the pocket-sized devices of today. Even the President of the United States got caught by the world press taking a “selfie” with other world leaders recently!

As great as cell phones are, the problem is that some people—especially teens—aren’t using them very wisely. Take a cruise around Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram sometime and you may be surprised by what you find. The things that are being posted to these sites are enough that the child of God should be embarrassed! I saw an example of this recently that was so bad that it got me to thinking, “Some people need to arrest their cell phones.”

               Some of you may know that I’m a former police officer. When I placed someone under arrest, I was required to read someone what was called their “Miranda Rights,” that went like this:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you at no cost to you. If you decide to answer any questions now, you can stop at any time. Do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?”

               What would happen if people started arresting their phones and started applying a “Miranda Rights for Cell Phone Use”? It could go something like this.

“You Have the Right to Remain Silent”

               Unfortunately, along with the convenience of instant communication that cell phones bring us is the ability to instantly respond while we’re still mad. Think about it, how many texts have you sent to someone in anger that you wish you could take back later? And while you can apologize for it later and the person can forgive you, that doesn’t address the underlying problem and what caused the hurt in the first place. So why not do yourself a favor and not argue via text or instant message? Remember that even though it may take you half a second to fire off a few unchristian words out of anger, the other person can post them to any number of social media websites and hurt your reputation for years to come. That quick retort you may type right now could come back to haunt you later down the road. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”-Proverbs 15:1

“Anything You Say (or, More Specifically, Send) Can and Will Be Used Against You”

               Look, there’s no easy way to go about talking about this but we’ve got to. Young people are under and immense amount of pressure to take and send photos of themselves to others that they otherwise wouldn’t dream of. Yet, because the process is done and over with so fast with the cell phone, there is less time for them to think about the consequences of their actions. You wouldn’t dream of going to a professional photographer, stripping down, and allowing them to take those same photos of you to send to others, would you? So can you explain to me the difference? I can hear you now, “He’s my boyfriend! He wouldn’t show anyone! He loves me!” I wonder if every other girl who has had been humiliated by having personal photographs of herself posted online ever thought that, too? Nah, surely not! Right? I mean, ….Right?!?! A good rule of thumb is that anything and everything that you send from your phone can and will end up posted on the internet. However, you get to decide what leaves your phone.

 Ladies, if he truly loves you, he’ll understand your stand for Godly modesty at all times. But, you also need to protect yourself now in case there comes a day when he decides he no longer loves you or your stand for Godly principles. No man has a right to see you unclothed except your husband (notice I didn't say "future husband"), and your husband should be someone who protects your honor-not defames it. Notice that 1 Timothy 2:9-10 says that a woman’s modesty is a reflection of her godliness, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Does he support your Godliness, even through digital means? If not, boot him. Because at least God won’t ask you to denigrate yourself to make Himself feel better.

“You Have the Right to Parental Guidance At Any Time. If You Cannot Ask For Parental Guidance, It Will Surely Be Provided Whether You Like It or Not”

               Look, it may not seem like it at the time, but the best friends you can have in any tempting moment is your parents. No two people want more for you than your parents. Though you may not agree with me now, just trust me on this. You’ll agree with me when you’re older, and not as smart as you are now. So if you’re feeling pressured to use your phone in a manner that would bring shame to you, your family, the church, or Christ, then the best thing you can do is simply go sit with them! Two things will undoubtedly happen:

               1. Whatever temptation existed will instantly dissipate at first sight of your parents, or;

               2. Whatever you’re angry about will instantly be replaced by anger toward your parents.

Look, whether you’re arguing with someone, visiting sites a Christian has no business visiting, or feeling pressured to send photos to someone you know you shouldn’t, the answer is simple and all the same: Simply put the phone down and go spend time with your family! And trust me, it’s better that you take this pre-emptive measure now rather than have your family find out about it later and provide said guidance for you against your will!
To the parents, many of you are getting your children cell phones at an increasingly younger and younger age, and that’s fine! Each family must make that decision for themselves and decide what is best for them. However, I would encourage you to closely monitor your child’s full use of their phone—not just the number of texts sent. Might I suggest that perhaps it’s time we teach our children to exercise their “Miranda Rights for Cell Phones?” 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sliding Into Home

I remember when I was young my mother signed me up for little league baseball. Before this, I had never played baseball before in my life—not even in the streets with my friends. So to be honest, I knew almost nothing about how the sport was played. However, I think there are two rules about baseball that every red-blooded American male knows by instinct:

1. Hit the ball with the bat as hard as you can, and;

2. Always slide into home base, because it looks cool!

It’s as if it’s in our DNA. It’s as if it were in my DNA. Because the first thing I could think about was re-enacting the scenes from those old Ty Cobb baseball cards where he’s sliding into home with his cleats barreling straight toward the catcher. I remember psyching myself up for my first day of practice. I wanted to impress my coach by being the next Ty Cobb. I was going to crush the ball allowing me to cruise past first, zip around second, and plow straight through the third baseman on my way to sliding into home.

Well, that was the plan anyway.

In truth, the day of my first practice I ignored my mother’s calls to come inside and get changed for practice until it was too late, so I had to go wearing the swimming trunks I wore swimming earlier in the afternoon with friends. However, I didn’t let this deter my plans. I stepped up nice and tight to the plate. I checked my grip on the bat. I watched the pitcher. I waited for the release, and then… THE HIT! I took off running past first, rounded second, touched third, and as I locked onto home base I realized my gut had just sank into the bottom of my ill-fitting cleats. The catcher was already standing in my preferred lane of travel, and he seemed to be waiting on little ole me.

I needed a change of plans.

So I tried to run around the catcher, which led to the me being chased by the catcher around the pitcher’s mound like two squirrel's chasing each other for an acorn before the umpire called me out. Yet, the truth be told, I chickened out of my slide into home. Seeing him stand in the way, I got worried I'd get scraped up, scratched up or possibly hurting another player. It was then that I realized that that’s exactly why Ty Cobb slid with his cleats facing up! To knock the ball out of the catcher’s glove, thereby giving him a chance to be called safe!

That night after the game, our coach made us practice sliding into home base with hopes of vanquishing those fears. But let me say unequivocally that I was 100% right to be afraid of those slides! That night I went home scraped up, scratched, and bloodied from not wearing my baseball uniform. But one thing was for sure, and that was that I had done it! And not only had I done it then, but I became very proficient in doing so! I could slide into any base—whether stolen, open, or blocked!

When I think about that day, I can’t help but think about my relationship with God. I started out knowing nothing about Him aside from what felt like was engrained into me. And just like I had a drive to impress my coaches with my ability to slide, I had an even bigger desire to impress my Heavenly Father by my desire to give him 100%.

On a much larger scale, the world is filled with people who are content to live their whole lives just walking around the bases, not caring if they get tagged out or not. They’ll continue to walk the bases anyway because what God wants them to do will continue to not matter to them. They won’t show up scraped up, scratched up, and bloodied. They won’t show up to practice with the team, because they’re the takers in life, and not the givers.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on strolling slowly up to the Pearly Gates to stand before God with my hands in my pockets looking tanned, rested, and untested. I plan on sliding up to my Heavenly Father with all my scrapes, scratches, and bleeding injuries—the proof that I lived God’s gift of life to it’s fullest. And those those scrapes and bruises? They may represent the painful parts, but they’re still a part of this amazing journey. They're still proof I lived life to its fullest. So, while I'm still gasping for oxygen, wearing a giant smile on my face, I would want to tell God He did a fantastic job creating this thing called “life,” and would want to thank Him for sending us Jesus that we were able to “have life and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10)

So how will you approach your Master?

Scraped up, full of scratches, and lots of dirts on your face—yet with a huge grin shining through?


Tanned, rested, and untested?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fraudulent Faith

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower was sold for scrap not once, but twice? However, in both deals the seller was a con man who wasn't an authorized agent for the City of Paris. He was able to convince the buyers that he was who he wasn't by putting on a good show. He rented limos, drove them around Paris, the works. He was only able to pull it off twice in one month because the first buyer was so embarrassed, that he refused to say anything!

But before we laugh too hard, consider the fact that the average person is conned an average number of 8-12 times a day. Considering how hard we work to keep our daily guard, this number is shocking. But I wonder how much that number would increase if it were to include the number of times we fooled ourselves?

How many people have conned themselves into believing they are handling their stress when they're actually not? How many people have tricked themselves into believing the facade of being 'held together' when they're falling apart? How many people have convinced themselves they don't need anyone else's help? God expects us to be honest with one another, but before we can do that, we must first learn to be honest with ourselves. A man who is dishonest with himself cannot be honest with others.

So let me ask you which is worse, believing someone else is something they're not, or fooling yourself into believing you're someone you aren't?

"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold. The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all. A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished."-Proverbs 22:1-3