Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 6

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

While this life is temporary, the earth is not.

The purpose of Sukkah is to learn how to dwell in temporary shelters – not a suggestion that where we dwell will change.

The earth was created, then mankind was created and placed to dwell on the earth.  The earth, along with heaven, was called on to be a witness against or for mankind, and it is when the earth cried out against the blood that was being shed on it and demanding to know when it would experience a Sabbath rest, that the Jewish people were removed from the Land.  Even John, in Revelation, sees both heaven and earth.  It’s not going anywhere – and neither are we.

Mankind was given dominion over the earth – which means responsibility to care for it as representatives of God.  It’s not the ranking of power – it’s the ranking of responsibility. How we care for the earth reflects how well we understand the Master we serve.  Our calling is to partner with God to redeem the earth!  

So who are the meek? They inherit the earth after all.

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.  Psalm 37:7-11

Evildoers will be cut off, but they that wait upon the Lord – the meek – shall inherit the earth!

The meek are the poor, the oppressed in spirit. The meek are the people who powerful evildoers commit their evil against.  The meek are the ones who trust God for judgment and know that when they stand before the Lord – who is Love and the measure of Justice – will be renewed and restored.

Evildoers commit their atrocities against people who do not deserve it.  These people suffer the indignities from the powerful evildoers. The evildoers get cut off and the meek who have suffered for so long delight themselves in the abundance of peace. They inherit the earth.

This is a very clear picture!

If your religion teaches you to be the oppressor then you are not worshipping the God of Scripture.  Rather you are the evildoer who will be cut off.

Where there is a power and control dynamic and those in power are abusing those without power, God hears the cry of, comes to the aid of, and takes the side of, the oppressed.

And those people who want to be on the side of God will speak up for and defend the cause of the meek otherwise we will be on the wrong side of God.

This is why God’s people are not to lord it over others when we have power.

This is why we are to fear God who judges the soul and not men who can oppress the body only for a little while.

This is why the Good News is that Jesus came to set the captives free!

 

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 5

Yesterday got away from me.

I’m dealing with the reality that one of the things I deal with is FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

Becuse life is temporary I want to do everything – I want to not miss out on anything. I want to be with all the people and do all the things.

Now, I’m not as young as I used to be and I know my limitations – some things I know I just don’t want to do. Either the toll on my body will be too much, or I know from experience I just don’t enjoy some things.  For instance, I want to enjoy camping – and the idea of it seems so fun. But it’s not.  If we had access to an RV, or glamping in some way, or even staying in a yurt that is already established and has a bathroom nearby . . .  that would be different. I just know camping that in any way involves roughing it in a tent I do not want to do it.

I’m also not as young as I used to be, or as fit as I once was, and I think dealing with health issues the past few years has negatively impacted me in this way as much as, if not more than, others.  I missed having the energy to do things. I missed seeing people and enjoying group activities.  My illness’ more psychologically damaging impact was increased isolation.

But in the continued examination of “life is temporary” I am working hard to emerge again and I am finding that I still love socializing and spending time with people.  Even though I’ve learned to enjoy my time alone, and my personality always needs time to process and recover after social events, I am extremely extroverted and I come alive when I have regular interactions with people.

At different times in my life I’ve been cautioned about this. I’ve been told that it’s a character flaw, or not how a person in X stage of life should behave. I feel like so much of my life has been about trying to figure out who I really am because so many people were allowed to critique and define me. I’ve had to spend years sorting through those definitions and figuring out who I really am.

Am I someone who is “unhappy with being alone and can’t be content focused on my duties and responsibilities?” Or am I someone who loves being around people and was created by God to be an extrovert who thrives in social settings?  I lived in fear of being the former but I’m the latter – so much the latter!  The energy that I get from being around people I love and enjoy will energize me for long after the event.

I’ve gone through this redefining in so many areas of my life.  I grew up being given the message that I have to figure out the will of God for my life and make sure I’m being and doing what God wants and if I don’t then I’m falling short. But instead I have come to see that I am who God made me to be. If I do what is most genuinely my response in a situation then two things happen.

1) I do exactly what I should be doing in that situation

and

2) Any mistakes I make bring beautiful lessons that are personalized to me and what I need to learn.

Now I stop and think about the situation. I consider what I want to do in it, what feels right, what seems to make the most sense. I ask questions like, “What is the most loving response in this situation?”  Or, “What is the safest response in this situation?” Or, “What is the thing that will protect the innocent or victim here?” These are the questions that I find move me to the most genuine response for who I am.  And when I ask those questions, discern those answers, and respond the way that God made me to respond, I have the most impact for the Kingdom.

And in my parenting I have worked very hard to help my children figure out who they are – from early on in their lives.  I point out their character qualities, focus on their strengths and help them find solutions for the things they struggle with.  I am seeing as my children get older that they aren’t struggling with the same fears and questions that I have had to as they embark on life. They don’t second guess themselves as much. They are confident and know who they are. They make wise choices and have less lessons to learn in order to be themselves.

My encouragement to you today is this . . . Be who you are.  Accept yourself and tell the voices that suggest you aren’t enough or you aren’t right that they need to zip it. If you are struggling with health issues (mental health or physical health) then get help. It’s not weakness – it’s okay to acknowledge you need help.  Seeking help is part of being who you are and doing what you need to do.

Loving yourself requires accepting yourself for who you were created to be.

Just be who you are – and find your people. If someone doesn’t like you then you don’t need them in your life. If someone requires you to change to be with them, move on.  Find your people and they will love you for who you are. They will bring value to your life and you will like each other.

Life is temporary. Be unapologetically you and you will impact your world! Be who God created you to be and you will impact the world for the Kingdom! I’m honored to work alongside you in that.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 4

There is a lot of talk in those circles about Paul’s statement that it’s better to marry than to burn meaning marry *anyone* so you aren’t just lusting – as though it will fix you. And that’s not what that verse is about AT ALL!

Before I tackle that, though, I want to bring out another verse that is relevant to understanding how the misunderstanding took place.  While the KJV renders 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” the better translation is from the NKJV’s

Abstain from every form of evil.

If you confuse these two ideas you will begin to misunderstand other ideas presented in Scripture.

Those who strive to avoid the “appearance” of evil often believe that this verse is cautioning people to hide their sins so that no one sees them. The idea becomes that we need to protect God’s reputation and the Church’s public image because of people outside the church see our weakness they will lose respect for us and we will embarrass God.

Contrast this with the idea that we are to actually avoid “every form of evil.”  Rather than try to hide our sins so no one sees them, this teaches that we are to rid ourselves of sin.

Which sounds more like God? “Hide your sins.” Or, “rid yourselves of all kinds of sin.”

Which leads us to the interpretation of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians

But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

One of the first things you need to know is that in the KJV and NKJV the things that appear in italics have been added to the text.  It’s not necessarily an attempt to mislead but is an attempt by the interpreter to [more] clearly communicate what they believe the original text is trying to communicate. It is, however, the understanding of the interpreter(s) and not part of the original text.  The addition of ‘with passion’ is what has aided the confused teachings of this passage to men.

For one thing, it is almost exclusively applied to men.  Clearly, however, when we look at the preceding verse that explains the audience of this particular instruction we see that Paul is talking not to men, but to “the unmarried and to the widows.”  This group includes men and women.

So let’s break it down . . .

Paul first says it is good that the unmarried and the widows remain even as he is – single and wholly devoted to Kingdom work.

There is scholarly debate about the marital status of Paul.  Some argue that he was unmarried.  Some suggest he was a widower.  Others have argued that perhaps it is another instruction in this chapter of 1 Corinthians that gives us insight to the marital status of Paul.  Because he argues that men and women who have spouses who leave them over the Gospel are to let them go and try to live at peace with them, it has been suggested that Paul’s wife could not handle the change in him at his conversion. Regardless, Paul appears in the letters he has written to be living a single, celibate and devoted life, busy with Kingdom work.  And he speaks in this chapter about the reality that this makes it easier – it removes the distraction of another person’s needs, the needs of children, and the reality that when you attach yourself to someone else they will need you and you will need them.

But while Paul is clear that it is good for the unmarried and the widows to remain single, he acknowledges that this is a hard thing. He acknowledges that not everyone has the level of self-control that he does. Not everyone is called to celibacy. And in the context of the chapter and the other advice he is giving there are some who are single, some who are engaged by believing they are more holy to not marry, and some who are married and believing they are more holy if they remain celibate. Paul calls out all fo these ideas – it is not more holy to not marry, it is not more holy to be married and remain celibate.

It is also, despite his encouragement that he wishes the unmarried and widows would remain as he was, his very Jewish understanding that there is nothing unholy or unrighteous about being married and engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse.  In fact he goes further – it is unrighteous to be married and deprive your spouse of sex through the mistaken belief that it makes you  more righteous! (The misapplication of his teachings on sex within marriage is the topic for another day.)

Still Paul understands that humans are sexual and without a calling to celibacy and without the self control to remain celibate he says to go ahead and get married!

It is this last passage that brings the confusion . . . “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul is not suggesting the very unrighteous idea that if a man lacks the ability to exercise self control in the area of sex he should find a wife – any wife – and unleash his lack of self control on her.  Paul is not speaking of indiscriminate lusting or sexual passions that are controlling the man. This would run counter to all of God’s instructions in Torah, through Jesus, and through Paul’s other words on this issue that God calls us to sexual responsibility and sexual accountability.  

One of the reasons that this passage has come to suggest that young men should marry if they cannot control their lustful sexual passions is that Complementarian Christian doctrine teaches that boys and men are visual, sexual beings and they cannot control their sexual drives without the help of a woman who needs to be responsible for these things.  While a nod is given that this is believed to be a problem of sin and the Fall, it is also explicitly taught that when men fail to exercise restraint it is because a woman has tempted him in some way – whether through dress, conduct, or, in the misapplication of this statement from Paul, her very presence inciting him to burn with passion.

This has led to many men believing that if they are struggling with lust they will be best served by finding a woman – any woman who sexually arouses them – and marrying her so that he can direct all of his lust at her and he won’t then be tempted to lust after other women.  The problem with this is that it objectifies the women being considered for marriage, it produces marriage based not on a foundation of friendship or mutual respect, but on sexual attraction, and it presents the purpose of marriage as being primarily about providing a legal and acceptable sexual outlet for lustful men.  An additional problem with this is that, as many men with lust and sexual control issues find, being married does not cause them to stop lusting after other women.

I can state with confidence that Paul is not admonishing young men to marry someone who arouses their lust because being married will take the place of developing self control in the area of sexual arousal. Not only does it violate his Jewish understanding, it violates the teaching of Jesus and other statements made by Paul about sexual accountability. Being married is not the cure for rampant sexual arousal in young (or old) men.

So what does Paul mean?

Paul is addressing the unmarried and the widows and telling them that if they find someone for whom they burn with passion – if they are in a relationship with someone that has developed to the point of you being passionately aflame for them, if they are burning with passion for a person in their life who would be a suitable spouse, there is no reason to refrain from marrying them.  While Paul believes that staying single is good for the Kingdom, he doesn’t believe it’s the only way to be righteous.

So this is where I’m going to remind that “with passion” has been added to help communicate the understanding of the interpreters.  If “with passion” is being twisted to suggest “lustful sexual expression” then drop it completely.  It is better to marry than to burn.

It means if you are unmarried or a widow and are burning *for a specific person* there is no reason to imagine that you are holier to not marry you need to know that God wants you to be with that person if you have a heart that burns for them. Having a heart that burns for someone specific and is a desire for that whole person is a very different thing from having undisciplined sexual urges that are set ablaze by any random person. This is the distinction. Burning with emotion may be described as passion, but it does not indicate unrestrained sexual lust.

This verse means something so different than the abusive way it’s used!

Because our lives on this Earth, and our bodies, are temporary it is so important that if we are going to marry we make wise choices about who we marry. If we marry someone because they cause fire in our loins we will be in trouble when time is less than kind to us, or we meet someone else who causes fire in our loins. If we marry someone thinking that they will cause our lust to be directed only at them, we will blame them and feel let down when our lust remains our own to tame.

If you are unmarried or a widow then, like Paul, I want to admonish you that you are free to do more for the Kingdom if you remain single. At the same time, if there is someone for whom you burn with deep emotional attachment, by all means get married! It is not more righteous to remain single and God ordained marriage! Just do them the honor of marrying them because of your burning for them – who they are, their whole person – and not for unrighteous reasons or a lack of sexual self control. It is unkind and harmful to marry someone for the wrong, or selfish reasons.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 3

I wrote this Facebook post earlier and I wanted to save it to my blog.  This Sukkot is permeated with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings for the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat on SCOTUS.  He was nominated by President Trump whose presidency has been permeated with scandals and who has run a cabinet full of people who’s lives are permeated with scandals.  As of today Brett Kavanaugh has had at least (I haven’t checked the news in a few hours) 4 women come forward to accuse him of sexually assaulting them.

The response from the Conservative Christian Fundamentalist Evangelical communities is to say, ‘Boys will be boys,’ and, ‘Every 17yo has done the same.’  This is the same community that has not only stood by President Trump despite his abuses of women but has declared him God’s Chosen – several leaders even coming together and signing a Bible that they gave as a gift to him.

This is my response:

Image from this article that you might find interesting if you’re researching this issue. https://people.com/politics/yale-student-brett-kavanaugh-female-law-clerks-certain-look/

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here . . . When people say “every boy does it” that is because every boy in their life has done it. It is a dirty secret that in Conservative Christian circles there is rampant sexual abuse. It’s kept secret because a lot of Christians actually believe that avoiding the “appearance” of evil means you aren’t supposed to let people *see* your evil. That isn’t what it means – it means don’t do anything that even looks evil.

This is the philosophy that is trying to take over our country – that is pushing through an agenda that so many of us are saying we do not want. We do not want legislation that fosters sexual abuse. We do not want to live in a country where it’s normal to think “every boy does it” because every boy you know does it. We do not want someone on the highest court in the land who is defended only by those who believe that every young male is a sexual predator as part of the fact that they are male and that’s how God made them.

It’s NOT normal – it’s depraved and twisted. I’ve been calling out this subset of Christianity for decades now! I’ve worked with families who have escaped it. I’ve worked with adults who have grown up its victims. Please believe me that this immorality is RAMPANT in some Christian circles – the Christian circles that have become entangled with politics to the level that they can’t separate their political agenda from what they believe to be God’s Will. We absolutely CANNOT install this on the SCOTUS bench! It is an agenda of domination.

If you want to understand the correlation of both sex scandals and the conservative Christian Right you need to study the history of influence by Gothard ministries and their Family Life Principles – and you can look at the connection between the Duggars, Mike Huckabee, and Gothard. This program dominated deeply Christian conservative homeschooling circles for decades. It both fostered sexual abuse, created victims through it’s approach to sex education and discipline, and taught the need for Christians to dominate the world and bring forth the End of Days via a war against Muslims. Young people raised with this agenda went on to Liberty University and Patrick Henry College and then were funneled into jobs as Congressional interns and jobs at the American Center for Law and Justice run by Jay Sekulow – currently one of the lawyers defending President Trump in the Russia investigation being led by Mueller.

People have been asking the last few days if the Christian Right is really this depraved – really so immoral as to think that “boys will be boys” means “every boy has done this (sexually harassed or violated someone).” My answer continues to be YES!

I’ve walked out of homeschool convention sessions because the advice from the speakers was to never let your teenage boy change a baby’s diaper because you don’t want them to be tempted to lust and violate the baby. The level of sexual perversion is so deep that it’s really hard to wrap your brain around it if you aren’t very familiar with it or haven’t already left the church because of it.

We live in a post Christian Era as evidenced by the Church no longer representing the Gospel of the Bible. The Conservative Christian Evangelical Fundamentalist Church that has gotten itself into bed with Conservative Republicans is a community that is rotten from the head down. There is a reason so many are leaving the Church and why so many of us former church leaders are speaking out loudly and boldly. The abuses need to be called out and the agenda needs to be stopped!

Their goal is a theocracy and Kavanaugh lying to get on the SCOTUS bench is a calculated part of that agenda. They believe in this with all their hearts and souls and to them it is the Gospel (good news).

I will never remain silent in the face of this agenda. I will never remain silent in the face of this warping of the Gospel. I will never stay silent in the face of those who claim to fear God while victimizing the sheep.

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 2

These temporary dwellings we live in . . . I’m talking about our bodies.

I’ve had a rough couple of years in mine.  I developed Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and gained 80 pounds in 6 months.  I was sick – could hardly breathe. I wasn’t sure I would live as it felt like I was developing allergies to myself. But the hardest thing to deal with was the weight and living in my body at a much larger size than I started.

Well, truth be told I’ve had a hard time dealing with the size of my body at every size.  I’ve been everything from a size 4 to a 4X and the only time I really felt comfortable in my skin was when size 4 clothes were getting loose on me.  Of course I’m 5’7” and I was aware I was starting to look underweight . . . But I’m also a size 4 at 137 pounds.  Which, if you don’t know anything about weight, is kind of strange.

Needless to say I’ve had a challenging history with my body. And my body image. 

I could detail all of the things that happened over my life to cause this – or make it worse – or make me more aware of it.  That doesn’t really matter though.  It hasn’t always been the same thing but it seems once you struggle with loving yourself it becomes easier to blame your body for other things.  And when it doesn’t respond to things the way it’s “supposed to” it’s really easy to hate it even more.

In the last year I’ve been dealing with the reality of chronic long term inflammation.  It’s played a role in me going from a 4X to an XL while only losing 17 pounds.  Even the doctors are finally admitting they don’t know what to do with that – they are stumped!  I’m stumped.

And I finally had to completely let go of the weight issue and focus on doing everything I can to reduce inflammation and, well, learn to love myself.

Everything I need to do falls under the category of self care. I need to take my supplements – some are to replace things that I’m not getting through digestion because elements of the digestion are messed up. Some are to help the digestion. Some are to prevent histamine being released. Some are to usher the histamine out of my body when it is released.  Some are for this and some are for that but they are all necessary and if I run out of any of them I feel it.

It’s also part of what led me to DoTERRA.  I’m not going to make this about DoTERRA but I found it because I also have a cellular level sensitivity to steroids. Guess what they use to treat Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and severe allergies that cause you to swell up . . . Yep. Steroids.  So I have had to go rogue and find things that will help me with trying to reduce inflammation that my doctors couldn’t tell me about.  Thankfully several of the products I’m using are helping immensely. I credit them with a lot of my “deflation.”

But I find the thing I am most getting from their use is . . . . Self care.  The very act of finding things that will help with my symptoms and the causes of them – the research and trials and energy and resources that I’ve put into finding things that will help me . . . This has spoken love to my body and has forged love for my body.

I learned years ago through research the dangers of starving a body – especially because my digestion challenges mean that even when I’m eating my body is starving for something.  I learned that when I didn’t get enough calories I gained weight so I’ve made sure through all of the last few years I keep eating.

I still have a lot to learn and a lot of answers to find but here’s the thing . . . The more I love my body the more my body loves me back.

The 2nd commandment that is like the 1st is this . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you don’t love yourself you can’t fulfill the command!

Think about that . . . If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love your neighbor as you love yourself.

So here’s the challenge I have – the more I love myself, the more I engage in self care that communicates love to myself, the more energy and resources I have to love others.  If you take care of your sukkah it won’t fall down around your head. This temporary dwelling we live in . . . It needs our attention and care.

This was inspired by an article a friend posted the other day that I want to share and I hope it encourages those of you who are struggling with your weight – whether it’s from a health condition or just from living in a body that doesn’t fit the “societally approved packaging.”  And whatever you look like – I love you!  You don’t have to explain yourself and while I am willing to hear about your struggle with weight and am more than willing to offer validation, encouragement or may also share my experience and what I’ve been through and learned, you do not owe me anything.  You’re awesome just as you are!

https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/everything-you-know-about-obesity-is-wrong/

 

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2018 Day 1

This year we moved. 

At the beginning of the year – in January – we purchased a house and moved out of our rental.  Our rental, we knew, was a temporary home. We thought we would be there longer but due to a whole bunch of circumstances involving a new owner and unacceptable new lease terms we moved.  I thought about the Israelites in the Wilderness when it happened because the description was so perfect.  The cloud they were in would stop and they would camp. And it would start to move and they would pick up and go. The cloud was at that rental house for 4 years.  As our lease was coming to an end it clearly lifted and began to move.  

Looking for the house was a trip because we knew we needed to put in our offer by mid-December to have it close before our lease was up.  When we move my husband has always entrusted me with finding our home. Every time I have found one for us he has trusted me more. I always bring him into the space to get his agreement before we do anything official.  Except for this time.

This time we found a house I really liked except for a couple of things and so we waited – it was over Thanksgiving weekend – and I took the family on Monday.  There was already an offer on it.

The market had turned dramatically and from that point on everything we looked at had an offer on it before the end of the day.  So when we found the house I felt was right I FaceTimed my husband and he did a video tour.  I told him my hesitations and he wasn’t concerned about them. We made an offer that day.

There was so much wonderful about the process.  One disabled veteran selling the house to another disabled veteran so the VA already knew the house and it was fairly easy. Our agent was great and available at a moment’s notice – and a friend from college.  The things we needed done got done. Things we didn’t need we let go of. And they left us a charcoal and a gas grill which was nice.

The cloud lifted and moved and we jumped and moved with it and when the cloud had clearly settled on our new home we stopped and settled in.

Believe it or not this is a two story house!

This year my family didn’t get a sukkah made in time for this festival.  I felt a little guilty – slightly frustrated.  I know it’s been an intense year – not just moving but I have had 2 surgeries (one minor and one very major).  Our son is in a show at the Theatre where I work and he and I are gone most evenings.  Our oldest son works.  Our daughter is in NYC which makes it a little hard to have all the joy on holidays that she isn’t with us to celebrate.  Excuses excuses excuses.

In reality, though, this year I’m struck by the fact that our home – even though we bought instead of renting this time – is still a sukkah.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring. None of us knows the number of our days. None of us tells the sun to rise and the moon to light the night. We aren’t in control.  Since remembering that is one of the reasons we’re told to dwell in a sukkah – and since our homes and our bodies and everything about us is a constant reminder of this if we let it be – we’re still waving the lulav every day and I’m still sharing my thoughts about this amazing season.

This season where God – who is permanent and eternal, faithful even when we are faithless – asks us to remember that we are temporary.  It is humbling to remember that – and usually the experiences that make it most obvious are the experiences that knock us down and put us back on our place.  It is also amazing that the eternal God of the universe – creator of everything – loves us enough to care about our temporary dwelling and is involved enough that he wants us to practice for eternity.

I think that’s pretty awesome.

Thoughts on Shooters Part 2

In Part 1 of this 2 Part article I shared my own experience being on the receiving end of an angry shooter’s gun. I shared this because everyone in the gun discussion has a bias and I want to be up front about mine. In part 2 I intend to address the issue of gun legislation. I believe this is the greatest source of confusion and conflict when discussing this issue because no one seems to know what laws actually exist at a Federal level.

I intend to ask and answer:

What Federal Laws currently exist?

What Federal Laws could be enacted to help prevent mass shootings?

I would also like to state up front that I am not an expert on these matters and invite dialogue about how others understand these laws to apply.  I’m very willing to update the article to reflect accurate information if I am missing anything relevant or if I have misstated anything.  Please engage with me on this.  I won’t debate but I will engage in respectful dialogue and brainstorming of how better to address this issue.

One thing that needs to be addressed is something that I mentioned in Part 1 of this article. Every state has individual state laws regulating guns (except my state which seems to have no legislation at all regarding guns). This means that you might think gun legislation looks a certain way and not realize that you are thinking of state laws and not Federal laws that would regulate everyone.

Some states have great gun laws and the more gun legislation the less gun crime. If you are in one of these states that is wonderful and it might help if you advocate for the rest of the country to have a similar experience to what you have in your state. It would be great to lower the number of gun crimes across the country! 

When it comes to Federal laws there are two primary laws that people refer to and these are important to understand because they do not cover what most people think they do.

The first is 18 USC Section 922 that regulates gun sales from Federally licensed sellers and stores.

This legislation requires that Federally licensed gun sellers and stores make sure they don’t sell guns to anyone they have a reasonable belief might be seriously mentally ill, underage, using drugs or other dangerous substances, or buying the gun to commit a crime. This seems like a good law except for two things most people don’t consider. First, this legislation does not prevent anyone from buying a gun who is seriously mentally ill, underage or buying the gun to commit a crime, etc. It only prevents the seller from selling the gun if they have a “reasonable belief” that these things are occurring. Second, the way this legislation has been enacted has resulted in it being a protection for the gun seller when something does go wrong after the gun sale. The stores, to protect themselves and show compliance with this Federal Statute, require the person purchasing the gun to sign a form that states they are not any of these restricted things and ask to see ID.  They are then protected from liability when they sell the gun.

That’s it. A piece of paper that says you aren’t SMI, underage, or intending to harm anyone with the gun, and after you sign they are protected and you are free to walk away with the gun. There is a background check that must be run, maybe, but we’ll get to that in a bit. And, to be fair, this is where the second piece of Federal legislation comes into play.

The other important Federal legislation is known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.*

One of the first things you should be noticing about this legislation is that much of it applies only to handguns – not other types of guns or weapons.

This is the legislation that requires a background check. That’s a good thing but there are also two major hindrances to the Brady Act preventing crimes that need to be addressed.

The first is known as the Gun Show Loophole.

The Brady Act applies to gun stores. It does not apply to private gun sales or sellers who operate out of gun shows. If you want a handgun and don’t want to undergo a waiting period related to a background check you only need to attend a gun show and purchase your gun there.

The other hindrance to the Brady Act preventing gun crime also applies to US Title 18 laws. Let’s look at the background checks that people have to pass in order to buy a gun. And keep in mind that they only apply to Federally Licensed Firearm dealers.

Everything You Need to Know About Federal Background Checks

Turns out the records that the FBI uses to run background checks are not always up to date, not always clear, and not always accessible. There are also limits to what triggers a rejection during the check. For instance, where there is a Federal ban for prior domestic violence this does not include non spouses so your state has to decide if they want to add that as a cause to deny the purchase. If they don’t then it is not going to prevent the person from buying the gun.

While the background check is supposed to be instant, sometimes there is a need to do more research and it can take longer. In these cases the government has 3 days to complete the background check or the seller is able to just send the buyer home with the gun. Unfortunately, “According to December 2016 Government Accountability Office report, the FBI takes a week to deny sales because of a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.”. So even though domestic violence is a reason to deny the gun purchase, the search for that information more often than not takes longer than the window of time in which it can be used to deny the purchase.

If you’ve been sent home with a gun and later it’s determined that you should have been denied the purchase the information is turned over to ATF and they get to try and find you and get the gun back. They aren’t very successful. “Retrieval orders are relatively rare: A NICS operations report from 2000 noted that of more than 45,000 default proceeds issued that year, approximately 5,000 resulted in a retrieval order.” And once the other is issued they still have to go get the gun.

“The gunmen in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre, and Virginia Tech rampage each had a history that banned them from owning firearms. Yet none were stopped, because of omissions and loopholes in the system.” That was as of the 2016 date of the article.

At the end of the day if you are a Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer (FFL) you are required to run background checks. But your state law may have exceptions about what customers are exempt from background checks among other things. In fact, only nine states and DC currently require universal background checks for all sales and transfers of guns.

The NRA has lobbied and fought hard against any type of a national database or “registry” of gun owners. This article from GQ addresses many of the realities of this but needless to say when a police officer needs to trace a gun it is not nearly as simple as they make it look on TV.

For one thing, because the NRA has fought against anything resembling a “gun registry” they have been able to keep all records for guns off of any computer database and they continue to be in paper or photo (they only got permission to switch from microfilm to PDF not that long ago . . . I know what microfilm is but I would bet most people younger than I am have no idea). This means any request to trace a gun requires digging through millions of records by hand and pulling hard copies of the records.

Not only that, but the Federal warehouse only stores the records of guns that were purchased at stores that went out of business and are no longer holding their own records. Until they go out of business stores keep all records in their own offices and when someone wants to trace the gun they call the Federal offices which have to track down the manufacturer, wholesaler, local store where the purchase was made and then call that store to have them dig through their files to find the record of who purchased the gun.

There is currently no federal waiting, or cooling off, period when buying a gun. Someone with no criminal record can go into a store, buy a gun and leave with it, with no delay

This site addresses many of the inefficiencies of the current gun legislation and I have appreciated looking through many of the pages as I’ve researched this issue. This particular page lists a few laws that I haven’t addressed, some of which are specifically drafted to protect gun sellers and gun owners, not the general public.

So what laws would help?

Before we jump into what I believe is a reasonable approach to gun legislation I want to address the argument the NRA has worked very hard to promote . . . That of the “anti-gun lobby.” There are organization that are invested in working to stop gun violence. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is one. They seek “freedoms from gun violence through research, strategic engagement, and effective policy advocacy.” (csgv.org). There is Everytown Against Gun Violence. There’s Brady. There are others. These organizations are not fighting to take away every gun or prevent gun ownership. They are advocating for reasonable legislation, like the Brady Act, that will help keep people safe.

This is a far cry from the National Rifle Association – a National Lobbying group that is funded by gun manufacturers and pays millions to lawmakers to assure that gun manufacturers, sellers and owners are protected. It is the NRA that has argued that allowing the Federal Government to have computerized centralized capabilities to trace gun sales would amount to a national “gun registry” and prevented reasonable record keeping or tracking of gun sales. Yet no one is opposed to police having the ability to trace a gun!

One reason that gun legislation is hard to advance is the rhetoric (“They want to take away your guns!” “They want to create a registry so they can know how to come and take your guns!). The other is that passing legislation is harder than resisting the passing of legislation. No movement is easier to maintain than movement.

That’s why this article is one of the most reasoned and reasonable arguments I have heard for what common sense gun legislation could look like.

The author of this article argues that we should take the statements of belief of the NRA itself and apply them as legislation to regulate gun ownership, sales and use. If the NRA really believes what they advocate they should have no problem with legislation based on their requirements for their own members. If those who belong to the NRA really believe what the NRA advocates then they have already committed to these ideals and should have no problem with them being legislated and enforced to do what they say they will do . . . Keep people safe!

With that said I want to address a few other stray issues that arise when this topic is discussed and call them out for the fallacies they are.

SMI – while no one wants a firearm in the hands of a person with serious mental illness, there is no support for the argument that all mass shooters are in fact dealing with serious mental illness. People who have SMI are more likely to commit suicide than homicide and that is enough of a reason to keep guns away from them, but when someone with SMI does commit homicide it is wrong to blameshift and try to argue that their SMI is the reason for the gun violence. If they did not have a gun they would not have committed gun violence. This is also an illegitimate argument until those who want to shift the conversation to SMI when the topic is guns are willing to discuss treatment for those with SMI as a separate issue. Until we are having that discussion as a nation I don’t believe anyone cares about SMI except as a scapegoat for gun violence.

Because there is no evidence that every mass shooter is diagnosed with SMI we have to deal with the many other issues that might lead someone to become a mass shooter. We must face that there are angry young men (and women, but primarily men) who want to murder people. The reasons are many and we do need to acknowledge a breakdown in the fabric of our society in many areas. For two decades I have worked with families to help equip and empower them to parent with attachment and effective positive discipline (the method I developed and taught is called Grace-Based Discipline). By all means let’s start talking about what to do about these areas! In the meantime, we need to acknowledge that there are people who want to do harm to others and let’s have the common sense to commit to keeping guns out of their hands.

Let’s also stop trying to argue that people kill because they don’t have Jesus. There are people who profess faith who commit all manner of heinous crimes and there are lots of great decent atheists who believe it is wrong to take a human life. The idea that those without Jesus are amoral is pure mythology. I have one friend who is an atheist and finally started telling people if the only reason they weren’t raping and murdering is because they believe in Jesus they should never ever question that faith! Rather, hold onto it for dear life because the rest of the world does not need to be subjected to you without that faith. In truth, several of the most recent mass shooters have been involved with white supremacist groups that profess to be White Evangelical Christian organizations. While I would argue that they are not Christian in the pure sense of the word (follower of Christ) as their actions have no resemblance to anything Jesus did or taught, this does not change that they were involved with faith professing organizations.

“No Gun Zones” are not a cause of mass shootings. First of all, whether you consider the firearms present at the school in Florida adequate or not, the school was not a No Gun Zone! So then the argument shifts to there not being enough guns, but there were multiple sheriff’s on duty present by the end of the shooting and no one did anything. Apparently the next logical argument is to say that the teachers inside the school should have had guns, but there is no evidence that armed teachers would be an effective deterrent or defense in the case of an armed shooter. Certainly there is no evidence that they would be more effective than the police who were present!

Not only would we be asking someone who has devoted themselves to caring for students to suddenly shift gears and kill one, but what happens when multiple teachers with guns run into the situation and students are caught in the crossfire. Let’s not forget that in the states that require concealed carry permits and the training that goes with the license (and this is NOT a requirement in every state!) the concealed carry permit training does not include armed shooter training. This is an expert level training course that is very expensive and, even when it has been applied for the purpose of arming administrators and teachers in school settings, it is not foolproof. Highly trained Marines shoot with 18% precision and police officers shoot with 30% accuracy. While someone will inevitably speak of sharp shooters I would respond no one has suggested training public school teachers to be sharp shooters.

The reason a mass shooter chooses the place they do is not because of how many guns may or may not be present. Rather, they want to target specific people who are in the place they select or they want to do the most damage in the least amount of time. In the case of the Florida school shooting the young man went to his former school campus and hunted down his ex girlfriend (who he had stalked) and her new boyfriend.

Let’s also consider, on the topic of arming teachers, that unless we are going to arm them with an equal firearm – typically an assault weapon like the Armalite 15 – we are asking teachers to defend themselves and students with a less accurate and less capable firearm. Which brings me to my position of restricting public purchases of assault weapons. If someone is going to attempt a mass shooting I want to make sure they do so with a less accurate and less capable firearm! I want them to have the ability to kill less people before they are stopped. I want them to be hindered not aided by the firearm power.

I also want to address the argument that says if you make laws about guns you will only keep the good guys from having guns. The bad guys will still get them. To this and every variation on the arguments of why we shouldn’t have common sense gun legislation I say this:

At this point the bad guys are buying their guns legally and an angry good guy might become a bad guy. It would be great if this was a black and white hat issue but it isn’t. Laws don’t ever get passed to prevent all crimes of that type – rather they are passed so that when they are violated there is a law in place to make the action criminal and hold the person accountable. Currently the mass shooter who uses an AR15 they bought at a gun show in a state that doesn’t require any background checks at gun shows purchased their gun legally and didn’t do anything wrong until they used that weapon to kill someone . . . Something, I might add, we have a law about! If we put common sense gun legislation in place then we have several opportunities to stop the mass shooting before it occurs and we have more leverage when we do bring charges against the person to force their hand for sentencing and when lots of people are dead that is a good thing.

In Conclusion, I propose that there are very simple steps we could take to protect more citizens and keep weapons out of the hands of potential mass shooters.

First, I would support a waiting period during the background checks that would be long enough to include a chance to catch those who too often end up with guns that ATF has to expend resources to track down. Especially because this often includes those guilty of domestic violence, and this has been shown as a correlated factor to mass shootings, I believe this would save lives. I would also expand the records of domestic violence to include non-spouse individuals including family members and girlfriends.

Second, I would raise the purchase age for guns. Assault weapons and rifles can be purchased by 18 year olds and as has been pointed out by many of the surviving students in Florida there is no reason someone we deem not old enough to buy alcohol should have easy access to an assault weapon. I would propose 25 is a reasonable age for anyone not serving in the military or police force and properly trained to handle their weapon. That is my personal comfort level as it waits until the brain is fully developed before we allow ownership of guns.

Third, I would support enacting the NRA’s requirements for membership as common sense gun legislation as outlined in the article that I referenced above. There seems no reason to suspect that the NRA would argue against its own standards.

Fourth, I would bring the record keeping for such an important issue into the 21st century and create a centralized record system for gun licensing and tracing guns. I would require everyone who wants to purchase a gun to go through some level of gun safety training and obtain a license. There is no reason that we have less requirements for gun ownership than we do for car ownership or use. I would also propose regular renewals, as we have with driver’s licenses. It has been acknowledged by all that we need to regulate automobile use because it can take lives if we don’t make sure people know what they are doing. Clearly this is the case with guns as well. Additional liability insurance might be another thing to be discussed here.

Fifth, while I know many will disagree with this suggestion, I would like to see some discussion for accountability of those who sell guns.  When someone works in any capacity that serves alcohol they are subject to Dram laws.  These laws allow the victims and families of victims harmed by someone who is drunk to sue any establishment and the individuals who served the person alcohol because of the contributing role they played in the crime.  This means when you’re serving alcohol it’s more important than ever to make sure customers aren’t drunk already or leaving your facility with access to a vehicle.  If gun shop owners and the people who worked there, not to mention gun show owners and those who sell at their venues, were going to face potential lawsuit if someone committed a crime with a gun purchased from them it would make sense that they would take screenings and background checks even more seriously. There is no Constitutional protection for those selling the arms people bear.

Ultimately it is ridiculous to argue that requirements for gun ownership that allow for safe gun ownership and the security of all citizens who come in contact with gun owners is in any way a violation of the 2nd Amendment. Nowhere are we guaranteed the right to unfettered and unhindered access to all of the weapons of every type that we want with no oversight. We need to stop pretending that the right to bear arms that was included in the Bill of Rights by the Founding Fathers was intended by them to take precedence over the right they acknowledged was endowed by our Creator – the right to Life.

* I am very aware that Wikipedia does not qualify as a primary source but it offers a succinct summary of some things and usually includes links to primary sources. As with all sources, I strongly encourage those who wish to study the issue more to purse that and make sure they are satisfied with the information.

 

Thoughts on Shooters Part 1

I led quite an adventurous life when I was younger and I have a lot of great stories. Several of them I’ve only been able to tell before because I’ve detached myself from them over time. This has been one of them.

I’ve been very distraught by the most recent school shooting in Florida. Actually I’ve been distraught about shootings for years and began getting angry sometime between 2016 and 2017 as mass shootings in the US began to increase in frequency and patterns became more and more obvious.

In full disclosure, I homeschool my children. Other than the fact that we live across the street from a public school I have no personal investment in what policies schools enact. That said, I care deeply about what happens to children who attend public school because these are my neighbors, and children of my friends and family and, well, I’m not a crap person who thinks that only my life and my immediate circle matters.

So why have I been growing increasingly troubled by the shootings? This is the question I asked myself as I reflected on why I was investing so much on Facebook to this topic.

From somewhere in the back of my brain came the very clear thought working its way to the front of my brain . . . Because you know what it’s like to be shot at and if the guy who shot at you had an AR15 you would be dead.

Yep – my brain was protecting me from that and as soon as I asked the direct question and it answered me I felt weak inside and it all came slamming at me.

See, years ago . . . Gosh, probably 24 years ago now? . . . I was at a local bar with my boyfriend and a friend of ours playing pool. Our friend went to the bar to get us drinks and when we got annoyed he wasn’t back yet we looked and he was there making out with a strange female. This wasn’t anything unusual for this friend so we rolled our eyes and went back to our game.

Not long after he walked up and when we were asking where our drinks were he cut us off and said we needed to get the hell out of there . . . IMMEDIATELY! We asked him what was going on and he grabbed us and started heading to the exit. He frantically told us that woman’s boyfriend came out of the bathroom and saw them kissing and said he was going to his car for his gun and he would be back to kill him and his friends.

Yeah, we were running at this point.

As we hit the gravel parking lot we saw the guy digging through his glove compartment and we headed straight to our vehicle. Then we heard him yell and I glanced back to see him aiming at us. I just remember sheer terror as I screamed and froze. My boyfriend pulled me to the ground and we crawled under cars through the gravel parking lot trying to get away. By the time the whole thing was over I was cut and bruised on my hands and knees and my throat hurt from screaming.

It’s a great story when I drive by the place with friends and family today and say, “Hey! That’s the bar where I was shot at in the parking lot!” Because it’s intense, it’s got drama, and I survived. In fact, someone inside called 911 (this was before cell phones so they had to get the bartender to use the land line) and the police showed up and even before that some guys were able to tackle the guy and detain him until the police arrived.

It’s the story of the time I was shot at in a parking lot and not the start of my eulogy because the guy had a handgun. He wasn’t able to shoot as many bullets as he would have if he had an AR15 or another assault weapon. He wasn’t able to aim with the accuracy of an AR15 or other assault weapon. He had to take wild aim and shoot a limited number of bullets from his handgun.

So I hear the stories from the children inside the school where their shooter didn’t have a handgun but rather DID have an AR15 assault weapon and I hear about the 17 children who died in the school that day and the various sheriff’s deputies who didn’t enter the school because of the danger and I am taken back to that night when I was screaming and crawling through gravel as some jealous idiot took wild aim at me. I think about the moments I lived with the reality that I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

I hear everyone making excuses or trying to blame shift away from guns to answer the question of why we have so much gun violence. I have no idea if the guy who shot at us was mentally unwell. I know he was drunk. I know he was a very angry white man with a gun and that seems to fit the parameters of mass shooters that we see most often.

Then I see this graphic that shows the correlation between gun violence and gun legislation that shows I live in a state with absolutely no gun laws. In 24 years since I was shot at in a parking lot we have not enacted any gun legislation. And now I’m pissed!

Yep – if we didn’t have guns we would still have violence. I get that. But we wouldn’t have GUN violence and that is what I want to stop! Even if we get rid of some of the guns – like the assault weapons so loved by mass shooters – people would still shoot at people with guns. And I have been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but with a handgun as the weapon it’s far more likely you can get away and the person can be stopped by others who don’t need guns to do it and who will live to tell that story as well.

Because somewhere out there are some guys who drive past that bar and tell the story of the night they took down a shooter. And they lived to tell the story too.

Please read Part 2 of my Thoughts on Shooters as I intend to address the existing Federal Gun Legislation. I believe that much of the disconnect in discussing this issue is confusion over what legislation does and doesn’t exist.

Announcing Thomas Talks!

I am so excited to announce that ThomasTalks.net is live! This is the culmination of my life’s journey and working for 3 years with a ministry coach and a team of amazing women who God has brought into my life to help me on several projects — I’m so grateful they have continued alongside on this one!

Please, check it out! If there is anything you would like to see addressed there, or you would like to talk to me about contributing there, please let me know. There will be memes and voices and I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you as you navigate the journey of life and ask questions about how faith impacts who we are and what we do.

On Complementarianism . . . or, “But I know a marriage that . . . “

I’m excited that we have launched Thomas Talks and I’m moving some articles over there! http://thomastalks.net/2017/06/22/on-complimentarianism-or-but-i-know-a-marriage-that/