naughty mary!

It’s just crazy how these things happen. From over here, across the street, everything looked just fine. Their yard was always neat, their car always clean. You never heard any yelling or loud music from their house. I don’t know when’s the last time they missed church. They seem like the perfect, got-it-all-together family. You never know what goes on behind closed doors though.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard. Word is, lean in, I’ll whisper. Word is the girl is pregnant. And she’s not married! How sad. And such a sweet family too. Oh Lord! I hope our property value doesn’t slide. Maybe we should move. Maybe they should. I think I’ll keep the kids close to home for a while. Maybe her parents will send her away. I may suggest that. Yeah, Mary needs to go away for a while.

Up until now I don’t think she’s ever given her parents or anyone the first ounce of trouble. She always seemed so sweet and quiet – and responsible. She was our best bible quizzer. I loved her solos with the choir. My kids say she’s smart in school, a teacher’s pet. I wonder what went wrong.

I hear she’s talking out of her head now and seeing things. She claims she talks to angels, and they TALK BACK! And then there’s something about a “holy ghost,” whatever that is. Does she have any idea of the shame she’s bringing on her family?

You know how things like this get blown out of proportion, but there’s all kinds of stuff floating around out there. Not that it’s any of my business, but evidently the girl refuses to accept any kind of responsibility for her recklessness. She won’t say who the kid belongs to, except that it’s “God’s plan for her.” Pardon the finger-quotes here, but unmarried teenagers having babies is NEVER God’s plan!! She needs to just own up to it, tell us who the daddy is and make him take some responsibility. If he was a real man he would. Then again, a real man wouldn’t… Ah, I’ll bet it’s that Joe guy she’s been seeing. They had wedding plans didn’t they? I’ll bet he’s embarrassed. He should be.

Evidently there’s some weird story going on with the rest of her family too. Someone told me her Aunt Liz is expecting in a few weeks and her Uncle Zach, the preacher, is mute all of the sudden. They’re both hearing voices, and Liz’s baby is doing summersaults in her belly. Personally, I think the whole family is going nuts. Thank God I’m not related.

That’s the part that bothers me most. They keep invoking God. They’re blaming Him for all of this silliness. One thing I know, God wouldn’t want to be associated with the likes of people like that who do things like that. Maybe the church should consider some sort of intervention, maybe even just ask them to leave. The deacons ought to at least say something. We can’t have sinners and crazies hanging around the church. What will people think??

*I enjoy sharing a few of my thoughts as a contributing writer to several web sites and print publications. This writing was seen far and wide recently at sgmradio.com.



Some people have sad, even tragic stories. You probably know someone who's worked hard and believed that one day things will be good, or at least better. Their todays look remarkably like their yesterdays, but they make the effort and really believe that they'll rise above their current place sometime, hopefully soon.

I don't think Ronnie's story is tragic, not even sad. It's actually very inspiring and contagious. He's a hard working achiever who's done just that - achieved. Through dreaming and learning, he realized the world was much, much bigger than the one he'd always known, and his options and opportunities for success were really real.

It's not all he talks about, but I've heard my friend tell of his life as a kid in southeastern Kentucky. He's the first in his family to attend, much less graduate college. According to him, no one around his house ever saw the need. He did though, and he's doing quite well because of it.

That makes it even more of an honor for me to say, "Happy birthday Dr. Ronnie!"


the boy, er, reporter who cried...

There once was a shepherd boy reporter who was angry bored as he sat in on the newsroom hillside watching the American people. village sheep. To arouse amuse himself he took a camera and a mic great breath and reported, sang out, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"

The American people villagers came running to the stores to buy all they could. up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived, the stores were full, they found no lack. at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The reporter boy laughed at the sight of their gullible angry faces.

"Don't cry 'emergency', 'wolf', reporter man," shepherd boy," said the American people, villagers, "when there's no emergency!" wolf!" They went grumbling back to their houses. down the hill.

The next Christmas, Later, the reporter boy sang out again, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the American people villagers run to the stores to buy all they could. up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the American people villagers saw no lack wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'emergency' 'wolf' when there is NO emergency!" wolf!"

But the reporter boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to their houses down the hill once more.

The next Christmas, Later, there was he saw a REAL lack of holiday shoppers in the stores. wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and reported sang out as loudly as he could, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf!"

But the American people villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.

After Christmas At sunset, everyone wondered why the reporter shepherd boy hadn't returned to been on the TV. village with their sheep. They went to the mall up the hill to find the reporter. boy. They found him working the counter at the video game store. weeping.

"There really were no shoppers! was a wolf here! The economy is broken! flock has scattered! I cried out, "Beware!" "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"

An old man tried to comfort the reporter boy as they strolled through the mall. they walked back to the village.

"We'll take you seriously when you report honestly," help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the reporter, youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"


love the sin, hate the sinner

Don't read this if you're easily provoked to anger or don't want to cry, or scream even.

Reading this morning's headline was not a good way to start the day, and I wasn't the victim or her family. I can only imagine how broken and angry they must be. The bold print was bad enough, but the details that followed made it even more difficult to comprehend. Last week, a child, a beautiful and completely innocent two year old baby girl had been raped and beaten. Yesterday she died from her injuries. The young man who has been charged with the crime, if he did it, is obviously deranged and terribly disturbed. The story says he was a friend of the baby's daddy.

If I spend much time thinking about it I become very sad. But then again, I don't have to pick out a last little dress or decide among the kid-sized caskets or look prematurely for a place to bury it. I don't have to wake up tomorrow with the numbness of a dazed parent who'd just thanked God for their baby blessing only a week ago. I don't have to figure out what to do with a newly emptied baby bed, a chest full of childless toys or a closet full of memoried toddler outfits. By week's end the press will have moved on and this story will be replaced. Most of us will no longer see little Katelynn Sinnett's baby picture smile. But all the hearts and hands that held her close will still be struggling to adjust to days and life without her.

It is a billion percent beyond me how a human being with any sense of daylight and dark can come to the place of doing such a terrible, terrible thing. At what point does the brain rationalize something so evil? The better questions is, when, in the process of such outrageous abuse does the heart, the conscience disengage? They tell me that even in a prison full of hardened offenders there is not a safe place for the child abuser, let alone a child murderer. Even to the common convicted criminal there is a line.

The story is sad, mostly because a child is gone, but partly because there are others who aren't even mentioned who grieve as well. There are parents, maybe siblings and friends of the accused who are trying today to sort out a million emotions. How does a mom or a dad show devotion to a son who has just violated and killed a baby? Knowing that most everyone who is aware of his deed wants him tortured and killed, what do you say to him? How do you love someone that everyone else hates? How much of the blame do you put on yourself? Do you even acknowledge your place in his life, or his place in yours? The newspaper never mentions them, but there are other broken humans to consider.

So far the responses from the community, with the exception of a very few, have, in my opinion, not represented God very well. After years of sermons telling us to hate the sin but love the sinner, there seems to be an exception here. The online edition of the newspaper that ran this morning's story is allowing readers to comment. I've been mostly disappointed in what I've read from my self-identified brothers and sisters in the faith.

"I'm a fairly calm, cool, and collected person. I'm a Christian... I think a splintered log rammed into his rear might be a good start. Then drop his torn and tattered butt off of the roof of the prison that he's in only to be met by several inmates that proceed to beat him to a pulp and whatever else they may choose to do to him. Then... lastly, make him crawl to the execution chamber so that the state can rid this world of such evil and filth... My prayers go out to Katelynn's family... I'm so so sorry for your loss!"

"I have never considered myself a violent person, but allow me to preside over the punishment of this pervert. In the end, he would beg for death to ease his punishment... The only comfort in this story is that the little girl died, and the Bible tells us that she is now in heaven, sitting on the right hand of Jesus..."

"Can I pull the trigger...please?"

"There is no other punishment that would fit this crime - send him straight to the execution chamber. And before all you self-righteous people go saying "no death penalty" and "eye for an eye does not make this right" answer this question - if this was your daughter, or granddaughter, or niece that this happened to, would you honestly feel that the death penalty was not the right punishment in this case? If you can honestly say you could forgive this man, I envy you. I could not."

The last poster has a good point. I've often said myself that there are only a small handful of people in this world that I'd be willing to go to jail for, and they all share my last name. I don't want to have to think about how I'd react if I were in the place of Katelynn's parents. I don't know if I'd feel satisfied in knowing that the person who hurt and terrified my baby, the last person to see her alive, was screaming from the pain of torture. I've contemplated and personally wrestled with this conflict from time to time - from a distance of course. This is what I do know; I feel great sadness for a family knowing terrible, tremendous loss. I feel great anger toward the man who did the despicable, pathetic deed. I get no joy knowing that a child did and the perpetrator will likely experience great pain.


world aids day

It's easy to see why some events, the life changing ones, stick around in our bank of memories. I remember where I was, what the weather was like, and the sick feeling I got when I watched 9/11 happen. What's weird is how we sometimes remember one of those long-ago not-so-spectacular life moments.

I was probably a young teenager when I first heard about AIDS. Reports on television, in the newspapers and magazines were talking about it. And of course the famous TV pastors/evangelists were weighing in too.

Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and James Dobson weren't the first to call AIDS the gay man's disease. As a matter of fact, it was the secular press that first referred to it as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). The repeated reference though gave these preachers, and others, lots of ammunition and "scientific" support for their theory that God was killing gay people - and to hear them tell it, He's having a blast.

The memory that is so vivid to me is the night our family was driving down the highway in Richmond, KY. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. We were right in front of the new McDonalds on the bypass, when Dad said something about AIDS being God's judgement on homosexuals. Understand this, my dad is the most loving, tender and patient person I know. The things he was saying were not original to him, and he said it with grief in his voice and sadness in his eyes. It was the people he had confidence in and was learning from who were telling all of their followers that God created this new disease to punish people, specifically gay people. My dad was repeating the untested words of his favorite bible teachers.

I'm not sure why that moment, those words and those surroundings still stand out to me. Our family talked about a lot of things when we were together in the car. But even as a young and very naive fella it didn't seem right to me that God would be so villainous to one group of people while being so passive to all the exploits of others.

I recently had an opportunity to be part of a conference at a church just outside of Little Rock. While I was there I met Randall Balmer. I'd heard of him, seen him on TV and flipped through a couple of his books. At the conference I got to know him and to hear him speak. He mentioned how the Christian church, specifically certain leaders on the very conservative side, have used HIV/AIDS as a rallying point - not to show compassion, but to preach painful exclusion. What could be and should be an opportunity to exhibit God's mercy and healing is instead used as a tool for godless ridicule and shame on humans who are much more in need of help than scorn.

According to what we know, what is now referred to as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The virus was first detected and reported in the US in 1981 in Los Angeles among five homosexual men. A recent study states though that HIV probably moved from Africa to Haiti and then entered the United States sometime around 1969. This would mean that God was dealing deadly judgement on the people of Africa and other countries long before Americans were being punished.

In 2007 there were 33.2 million people around the world living with AIDS. That same year a little over 2 million of them died. That includes almost 330,000 children, and over 75 percent of those were in sub-Saharan Africa. Why would God have such disdain for the African children?

There are certainly consequences for reckless behavior. When anyone opens the door for disease or illness they are taking a risk. But to say that God is especially angry with a particular set of people, and chooses to inflict upon them a long, painful disease at best, or death at worst, is either ignorantly misleading or dangerously contemptible. What are the arguments for plane crashes, cancer, diabetes and rape victims? What did these people do to earn their pain and their punishment? Is God punishing black people with Sickle-Cell Anaemia? At least explain to me why those who are sick through no fault of their own have been sentenced with the disease.

Thanks in large part to the teachings of high-profile preachers, the stigma that comes with HIV/AIDS is still very real today. I know of parents who have disowned their infected child because their church said they should. This puts a sick kid on the streets in the name of God. I've read stories of people who contracted the disease and were told that God hated them, so they killed themselves. Was that really God's solution? There are so many good people who face life with HIV/AIDS, and God has chosen to embrace them while too many His people, His vessels of compassion, either out of anger, guilt, shame or ignorance, turn them away. Because of a handful of angry religious leaders who needed a villain to stir up the troops and bring in the dollars, there are millions who not only live with a terrible disease, but they do it without the very hands and hearts that were supposed to minister to them.

There is good news though. The Church of the Nazarene, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and several other Christian denominations are hearing God's heart and reaching into the lives of those who live with HIV/AIDS. There are other regional ministries such as AIDS Ministries/AIDS Assist in northern Indiana and Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House in Chicago among others that do it on a local level. Beyond the Christian church there is the Council of Religious AIDS Networks that provides information and real help to those who wish to start or join an AIDS help team. There are also many citywide and area non-religious organizations that help HIV/AIDS victims deal with practical life and matters. Where I live in Lexington, KY it is AVOL. On a national and global scale there are awareness organizations like ONE and the US government's web site http://www.aids.gov/.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved and be the compassionate, concerned Christian or casual citizen we all want our neighbors to be. There's no better time to get started than on this 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Maybe you'll remember exactly where you were when you started making the difference.