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A Gun Owner's Thoughts After Las Vegas

(For my friends and pastors who subscribe to the "An Ordinary Guy" blog, this is NOT a "faith based" post. Instead, it is my thoughts/ideas on guns and gun control.)

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We've all seen the pictures.

We've heard the stories of horror and the accounts of heroism.

As a nation, we woke up on October 2nd in disbelief ... or at least in shock.

And by 10:00 AM EST people began forming their narratives about this tragedy. Politicians, celebrities, gun rights activists, the NRA, late night talk show hosts, bloggers, Facebookers - everyone had a thought and everyone wanted to share it.

After reading Hillary Clinton's posts about the shootings in Las Vegas, I was frustrated at the lack of compassion and respect for the at least 58 dead and over 500 injured by the acts of mad man, Stephen Paddock. The post was simple enough: can we just take one day - 24 hours - to come together to grieve before we completely divide and argue.

The responses to my post spoke loudly: apparently not.

I responded to a few of the posts by saying that a discussion absolutely needs to be had, but not less than 24 hours after the terrifying events at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. So, true to my word, here are a few of my thoughts, as a gun owner.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS ISSUE

The issue of guns and gun control is important to our country, and incredibly divisive by nature. It has become such a profound issue that it has embedded itself into the identity of who we are as a people. Because of the undeniable prominence of guns in the history of our country, including the 2nd Amendment, this is not an issue that is easily solved. And yet, it is a problem that must be addressed and fixed.

58 lives in Las Vegas demand it.
49 lives in Orland demand it.
14 lives in San Bernardino demand it.
21 lives in Charleston demand it.
12 lives in Washington, D.C. demand it.
26 lives in Newtown demand it.
12 lives in Aurora demand it.

This list takes us back to 2010 and only includes shootings with more than 10 victims. Imagine if this list included shootings of one person, a few people, several people ... 

It's time to move this from discussion to action.

THE COMPLEXITY OF THIS ISSUE

The reality is that there is more to this issue than the "right to bear arms."

This is a FEAR issue.
This is a SAFETY issue.
This is a HEART issue.
This is a PUBLIC issue.
This is a PRIVATE issue.
This is a POLITICAL issue.
And yes, this is a MONEY issue.

And herein lies the complexity of guns and gun control.

Let's not be naive about guns and gun control. The "right" needs to understand that arming everyone and their brother is not going to fix violence, and the "left" needs to recognize that taking guns away from everyone is not going to eradicate evil. BOTH sides need to come to a simple understanding:

More guns increase the potential for more shootings,
but no guns does not eliminate gun deaths.

While that truth may be too simplistic, it is fair, especially based on research. (You can check out a telling chart here. For a more in depth study about gun ownership and gun cultures, you can buy a report here.)

Again, this is not just an issue of "rights" as much as we make it out to be.

THE SOLUTION OF THIS ISSUE

If I had a hard and fast solution, I'd gladly give it. I'd be the first one on the steps of congress to address it. I'd knock down the doors to the NRA to explain it. I'd travel to gun shows and churches, to town halls and peace rallies to proclaim it. But I don't have an easy answer, just a few thoughts/suggestions:

We can learn from other cultures.

  • Germany - To buy a gun, anyone under the age of 25 has to pass a psychiatric evaluation.
  • Finland - Handgun license applicants are only allowed to purchase firearms if they can prove they are active members of regulated shooting clubs. Before they can get a gun, applicants must pass an aptitude test, submit to a police interview, and show they have a proper gun storage unit.
  • Italy - To secure a gun permit, one must establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm and pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records.
  • France - Firearms applicants must have no criminal record and pass a background check that considers the reason for the gun purchase and evaluates the criminal, mental, and health records of the applicant.

We can listen to the words of victims.

  • Sit down and have a conversation with victims of gun violence - family members, friends, communities affected, etc.
  • Hear their stories and suggestions, and honor their pain.

We can continue to commission non-partisan, outside-the-country studies.

At the end of the day, it is time ... past time ... to do something. Learning, considering, listening, and commissioning are all great, but we MUST ACT.

THE PUSHBACK ON THIS ISSUE (especially this week)

By now many of you are already writing this post off as either not enough or too much. Some are already thinking:

"Not enough because change has to happen now! Michael, you must be a gun-loving, right wing 2nd Amendment hick!"

Or ...

"Too much because nothing would have stopped Stephen Paddock from doing what he did, he was a psychopath that no rules/laws would have stopped! Michael, you must be tree-hugging, left wing, Hilary loving extremist!"

The truth is neither side can put me into a box that small.

I'll tell you what I am ...

  • I'm tired of waking up and feeling the way I did on October 2 when my wife said, "More than 50 people were shot in Las Vegas last night."
  • I'm tired of writing sermons and having to preach on Sundays about finding peace in the midst of senseless violence.
  • I'm tired of listening to the left protect their side of the aisle and the right protect their's in the name of "democracy" and "freedom" instead of sitting down in the middle to figure out a solution.
  • I'm tired of lobby groups like the NRA fighting for the money of gun manufacturers instead of the lives of people.
  • I'm tired of reading everyone's rants on Facebook instead of having a meaningful face-to-face conversation with someone you disagree with.
  • But most of all, I'm sick and tired of seeing people die.

THE FIRST STEP

Admittedly, I'm going to say this and everyone will see all of the issues listed above come into play. They say the first step is always the hardest, but here it is:

We must be able to sit down at a table and have a civil, honest, productive conversation centering on what's important.

The most important issues are NOT money, fear, or politics, in fact the only issues that should be central to this discussion are life and peace.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- The Declaration of Independence

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
- The Constitution of the United States of America.

It seems to me that the pursuit of rights, the pursuit of money, and the pursuit of power and control have superseded the stated unalienable right of life and the purpose of the U.S. Constitution to insure domestic peace to the point that we can't even sit down and have a civil conversation about what's best for the citizens of this country.

The point is, it's time to start talking about what happens next, either we make societal changes on gun control, or we wake up to another bloody day. So ... to that end ... here are a few of my thoughts on common sense gun control. If you don't want to hear my thoughts on gun control, that's ok, feel free to stop reading now, but at least consider what's been said to this point.

 

MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS

For the record ... I'm a gun owner, and I don't want to see my "right to bear arms" stripped away. That being said, gun owners can not sit out of this conversation citing their right to bear arms over the value of life. Our nation's gun laws need to be rewritten to protect people AND to protect the very right their afraid of losing.

In my honest and humble opinion, we need better common sense gun laws such as:

  1. A nationalized gun policy.
  2. A national gun license registry.
  3. Better/Deeper background checks, including criminal record checks, mental health/psychiatric checks, and an in person interview with law enforcement.
  4. A qualified, express reason for gun possession.
  5. The passing of a certified aptitude test.
  6. Proof of approved firearm storage.
  7. The outright banning of all automatic weapons for non-active military citizens.
  8. The outright banning of all conversion kits transforming any weapon to automatic status.

These are just a few points/thoughts as I'm sure there are and will be many more suggestions made.

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CHRISTMAS ANTICIPATION

Christmas anticipation is the best!

That may sound strange to you, but I love the build up! I love the excitement and energy as Christmas morning approaches.

Don't get me wrong, as a kid I hated it! The night before Christmas was horrible. The agony of seeing the presents but not opening them. The torture of knowing (or thinking you knew) what the gifts were, but not having access to them.

Oh, the night before Christmas was always a long, sleepless, cruel night!

But now, as a father, I cherish the anticipation.

There is a stir in my heart every Christmas morning as my daughters are sitting on our bed waiting, even longing for me to come and get them to open their gifts.

I think my anticipation of watching them unwrap and experience Christmas is greater than their anticipation of opening their gifts.

I wonder if God, the Father, felt that way the night before Christmas. I wonder if He had butterflies in His Spirit as He anticipated the arrival of hope. I wonder if His heart beat faster at the idea of peace, coming to the chaos of the world. I wonder if everything in Him quickened as the plan that was written before time was final about to be set into motion.

I wonder if He cherished the anticipation.

The world was about to unwrap the greatest present known to humanity, and they had no idea, but the Father ... He had been waiting for this moment since before moments were created. 

Followers of Yahweh had been longing for the Messiah. For centuries they had eagerly anticipated the arrival of the One who would bring light into their dark world, to make order out of the chaos. To redeem them. Even though they didn't know that Christmas was about to commence, they were in a state of desperate expectancy. They could not wait any longer!

And neither could their Father.

Imagine HIS excitement.
Imagine HIS joy.
Imagine His pride.

Imagine His agony.

For just as the joy of Christmas anticipation was ending, the agony of anticipating His Son's sacrifice is just beginning.

But for now, joy to the world, for the Lord, the Savior, the MESSIAH had come.

In this moment the gloom of distress and the pain of despair are ending.

On this day, the first Christmas, a light to defeat the darkness has dawned.

A Father's anticipation has ended.

Jesus has come ...


From my family to yours, have a very Merry and Hope-filled Christmas,
filled with laughter, joy, and anticipation ...

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10 DAILY ITEMS/MOMENTS I SHOULD BE MORE GRATEFUL FOR THAN I AM ... sort of ...

It is a little past midnight, making this my "official" Thanksgiving post. Over the last week I have considered writing about a lot of Thanksgiving topics: what it means to be thankful, how do you give thanks in all circumstances, perhaps a list of the things I'm the most grateful for, then it hit me ... tonight I want to share a list of some of the things that I'm not grateful enough for. You know, some of the common, every day things or moments that I really take for granted. Things like:

1) CLEAN SOCKS
Seriously, I hate putting on socks that are wrinkled, cold, dirty, and worst of all, still a little damp from the previous day's wearing ...

2) RIDICULOUS MOVIES
Case and point, Patrick Swayze's movie Roadhouse. As the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes puts it: "Who in their right mind could possibly believe a story about a world-famous bouncer who's also a pacifist philosopher? Who cares!" Seriously, I watch it every time it's on TV. It's so bad that it make me forget everything going on around me just so I can get sucked into it's beautiful awfulness ...

3) TUMMS
I'm not saying I like the chalky aftertaste or the terrible flavors, but I do enjoy the results after I eat way more than I should. Speaking of which, I have a bottle ready for tomorrow ...

4) NETFLIX (& Hulu & Amazon Prime)
This may seem a bit too serious to put on a list like this, but it's for more than the joy of watching entire series that I forgot existed. I'm super thankful for these streaming services because they've lowered our cable/satellite bills by $50+ bucks a month ...

5) BAD DRIVERS
As a pastor I really try to hold my reactions and emotions in check. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to not explode after counseling people who have absolutely no intention of taking the very counsel that they asked for, simply because I won't give them permission to do the stupid things I told them to stop doing. This is where a bad driver comes in handy. In my car, alone, where no one can really see or hear me, I can feel justified in verbally blowing up the bad drivers who vehicularly offend me ...

6) ZERGNET
This site is a guilty pleasure for me and almost anyone who has a Facebook account. It is the mother of all entertainment list sites and is single handedly responsible for increasing my mental storehouse of completely useless information (and wasting large amounts of time) ...

7) FEBREZE
Every bathroom should require Febreze. Every. Bathroom. Period ...

8) CLASSIC ROCK STATIONS
Yes, I still listen to that ancient piece of equipment in my car, you know, the one with all of the shiny buttons that my daughters keep plugging their iPods into! And on that antiquated machinery I enjoy any station that plays Journey, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, and The Police more than Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Selena Gomez, and One Direction ...

9) SLEEP
The older I get, the more I enjoy sleeping. Every part of it - the going to sleep, drifting off and melting the stress of life fade away, the hard sleep, when I could give a rip less about life, the waking up recharged and ready to go ... In all honestly, when I was 20 years younger I don't recall literally looking forward to bed-time ...

10) ALL THE PEOPLE I GET TO SHARE THIS STUFF WITH
That's right, my wife, my girls, my family, my friends, my church, all of you reading this silly list. It's exactly what the website says - I'm an ordinary guy who is extraordinarily blessed ... and grateful.

On a serious note, today I am very grateful for so much that the real list would take pages to type. Make sure you take a few minutes today to reflect on what you have, big or small, to be thankful for.

God bless you, and happy Thanksgiving from An Ordinary Guy.

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REASONABLE FAITH

By definition, faith is unreasonable. According to Hebrews faith is "being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see." Faith defies reason.

"Sensless. Impractical. Totally unsound." These are words that dictionary.com uses to define the word crazy. Faith seems to me to have a lot to do with crazy!!

A few years ago I became the Lead Pastor of a small church in Bluffton, South Carolina. As I started my new responsibilities I knew that God was going to require more faith of me. More faith to lead others. More faith to direct the church. More faith to guide my family. More faith to follow Jesus. As the church began hitting some snags along the way my faith was shaken, but I wouldn't say it was challenged. Crises don't seem to shake my faith, though I really don't want a severe crisis to test that. For sure they seem to knock it around a bit, but to my surprise, what has challenged my faith more than anything has been asking God for the impossible.

God, there is no way we will get enough money ...
God, there is no way people are going to show up ...
God, there is no way this vision is going to work ...
God, this vision is too big for me ...

You see, I've always struggled with the idea of reasonable faith. It's an oxymoron, I know, because faith is, well ... it's unreasonable. That being said, I would never run out into the middle of a busy street and kneel down before a moving truck on faith that God would protect me. It's unreasonable. As a pastor of a church that struggles to make ends meet, I would never run in front of the church and ask the people to give to a $10 million dollar project. It's unreasonable.

That kind of faith is senseless ... impractical ... totally unsound ...

And so I find myself seeing the limits of my faith stretched. Where does reasonable faith cross into unreasonable faith? At what point does "healthy" faith jump ship and become "crazy" faith?

I think about David rushing out to fight a giant with a sling and a few rocks. Unreasonable, right? If not, then how about Elijah challenging hundreds of false prophets, confident that God will rain fire from heaven. Fire. From heaven. Is that reasonable? Come on, would you believe God would rain fire down at your request? How about Joshua asking the sun to stand still? Unreasonable. It defies science! It's impractical! It's senseless! It's totally unsound! It's CRAZY!

And yet God not only answered their requests, he rewarded their unreasonable faith!

And then there's Peter. Poor Peter. The disciples see Jesus walking on the water and they are terrified, but Peter calls out and says, "Jesus, if you want me to come out there, call me out and I'm there!" So Jesus calls him. You know the story, of course. As Pete walks on the water he takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink, to which Jesus says, "You have so little faith!"

We applaud Peter for getting out of the boat, I mean, the rest of the disciples just sat there, but even in doing the unreasonable thing, the crazy thing, walking on the water, Jesus tells Peter there's more! It's as if He is saying, "Peter ... you almost had it! Think of what you could have done if you just had more faith!"

Reasonable faith. As if getting out of the boat and walking on the water is reasonable! Then Jesus blows the whole thing up, as if he's saying, "If you think walking on the water is crazy, then you have no idea what unreasonable faith looks like!"

A little later Jesus would ask something even more unreasonable of us as His followers. He would ask if we would be willing to follow him at all costs. Follow a man who claimed to be a deity, died a criminal's death, was rumored to be raised from the dead and seen by hundreds. And not just follow Him, but BELIEVE in Him ... When I look at it that way, walking on the water does seem reasonable.

Sure of what you hope for. Certain of what you cannot see. Senseless. Impractical. Totally unsound. Crazy. Faith.

Sounds pretty unreasonable to me. I'm in ...

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AN ORDINARY GUY

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AN ORDINARY GUY

This is my first blog in quite some time, and it will be the first of a weekly blog that will publish on Thursdays from here on out. Thanks so much for subscribing!
 - Michael B.

I grew up in a pretty great family. My parents loved me with out reservation, my big brother and I were always close, and I always had more than enough friends to hang out with. We lived in a Midwest, middle class, middle of the road neighborhood that was just like thousands of other neighborhoods. I graduated in the middle of my class, with average grades. I was an average athlete, better than some, worse than some. I wasn't overly popular, hanging out somewhere between the "geeks" and the "jocks" of my time, friends with both. The church I attended wasn't huge, but it wasn't tiny either.

I lived in the middle. Pretty normal. You know ... ordinary.

I used to think that was a bad thing. I would find myself struggling to be the best at something! When I was a kid, like most kids, I wanted to be extraordinary. I wanted to be the guy who hit the winning shot, the kid who hit the walk-off homer, the one who sang the big solo in the musical ... you know, the one that everyone turned to and watched! I really don't think it was a pride issue or a crisis of self-confidence, it was more that I just wanted to be not ordinary.

The pressure to be extraordinary continued for me in college. I attended a small Bible college in the Midwest, Cincinnati Christian University, a college smaller than my high school. It was a strange time for me as I tried to push my way to the top of being noticed, whether it was hanging out with friends, playing sports, or being a part of the performing arts. The college stage felt smaller, but the pressure to be noticed felt bigger.

After graduating college I was given a few fantastic opportunities in ministry, all at larger churches. The first three ministry I served as a worship pastor were all churches between 1,000 and 2,000 members, and God blessed each ministry I was involved in. My "career" was going extremely well, and by my late twenties I was leading a team with a few staff and interns, at a healthy mega-church of over 2,000 in attendance, building a thriving worship arts ministry complete with praise bands, choirs, annual productions, an orchestra, drama teams ... ministry was good.

Our family was growing as well. I married Karrie in 1995 and she jumped right into "ministry life" with me. After 4 years of marriage, entering our largest ministry (and church), Avery joined our family, with Sadie arriving 5 years later. We had a solid marriage, 2 beautiful daughters, a 2 story house, 2 cars, living in the suburb of Indianapolis, serving in a "mega-church." I had even earned a Master's Degree over the years.

I really thought I had achieved "non-ordinary" status!

But the truth is, I was still struggling with the idea of not being extraordinary enough. I still didn't stand out enough. I was still wrestling with what I wasn't instead of seeing all that I was.

in 2008 God shifted my heart and my family toward a new type of ministry - preaching and leadership. We were invited to a church in Bluffton, South Carolina, Live Oak Christian Church, and asked to lead them. I knew I had all the answers and that the church was going to soar in both impact and attendance, I mean, how could I go wrong? I was extraordinary, right?

After heading south in August, the economics of life shifted as the stock market crashed and our church began a tailspin. People lost jobs, retirement funds dried up, best made plans were laid to waste, and our little church of around 150 struggled.

And so did I.

 I realized that I didn't have all of the answers, I wasn't the "savior" I thought I was, I couldn't make the church grow, there were people out there that didn't like me ... I discovered that I wasn't extraordinary.

It's funny, looking back, to see it from this perspective. How arrogant, right? How could I have been so blindly and blatantly prideful?

And so God started to show me something that had eluded me for my entire life, something that I knew, but didn't believe:

Being ordinary is OK ... and I'm ordinary.

Simple enough! The last 6 years have been challenging and exciting. There have been times I've wanted to run and moments I've wanted to soar. It has been both the best and the worst time of ministry for me personally and for my family.

It's been messy.

And through it all, God has continued to reveal himself to me through this simple passage of scripture:

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:23

So ... that's me. An ordinary guy living an extraordinary life because of the relentless goodness of God.

At this stage of the game I've realized that I don't have to be extraordinary.

I'm not deeply educated and I haven't built a thriving, multi-site, mega style ministry.

I don't have the perfect marriage with kids impervious to failures or struggles.

My faith isn't rock solid and without cracks or weaknesses.

And I DON'T have all the answers.

I am, in every sense, just an ordinary guy ... but I have spent time with Jesus, and HE is EXTRAordinary in every way imaginable.

 This is me ... an ordinary guy trying to serve people and organizations through inspiration, leadership, and creativity.

Here's to being ordinary.

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