My Father, my Friend

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My dad, Robert Hallquist. This picture, taken in the early 60's was taken at his workplace, Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, Baltimore, MD when I was just a kid. He turned in his shipyard duds for a pastor's suit and has been in the ministry for nearly 60 years. Good move.

Today is Father’s Day, the day we think about and honor our fathers. I think about my father often, not requiring any holiday to remind me of what he means to me.  And, he means a great deal. Although I enjoy my relationship with him, our journey hasn’t always been the smoothest. We’ve had a few bumps. I think most people could say the same. Nevertheless, I rather think about the joys we’ve had on our journey together. The ruts, bumps, and detours in the road have merely made us stronger.

As a young boy growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland, a town just south of Baltimore, I knew my father as a hard-working and passionate man. I also feared him. With that, he presented for me the first recognizable paradox in my life. How could I, on the one hand feel free and comfortable with him, while on the other hand, feel the great sense of fear toward him? Like most children, they would want to feel completely safe and care-free with their parents at all times. I didn’t have that. It wasn’t that my dad was abusive; he just didn’t spare the rod as much as I wish he had. I thought he was too tough on me.

My first recollection of my father’s vocation was that he was a steelworker. I was kind of proud of that and in awe of what he did and where he worked. He was employed by Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point in Baltimore. At the time, Bethlehem Steel was the largest producer of steel in the world. (see http://wapedia.mobi/en/Sparrows_Point_Shipyard) I remember that he took me to the plant one time (maybe more) and I was in awe of its size and extent. It seemed that somehow, my father’s stature was linked in some measure to the size of the place he worked, and it was huge.

One of the benefits of living near Baltimore was that my dad would take me to see the Baltimore Orioles play at Memorial Stadium. What a thrill. All my heroes were there. Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jerry Adair, Stu Miller and a host of others. There was, and is nothing better than going to a big league ballgame with your dad. I was very fortunate to be with him on such occasions and still relish those experiences to this day. But baseball games were not the only things I got to do with my dad. We went fishing, visited museums, went on cool vacations, and a host of other things that made my childhood blessed. My father did a lot for us beyond providing a roof and all the essentials.

Like a lot of boys, I thought my old man was pretty smart. He seemed to be able to give an answer for everything and I didn’t think there was anything that was beyond his knowledge. He also seemed to be up on what was going on in the world and I was always under the impression back then that he was some kind of financial wizard. He would, from time to time, mention how some stock price was doing on the New York Stock Exchange. But he really confused me with all that finance talk, especially when he would mention the price of certain shares. I was only confused because I thought he was saying, “chairs”. You can imagine the confusion. I couldn’t understand how millions of chairs were being traded someplace in New York almost every day of the week. Why would people be trading chairs? Fortunately, that issue cleared up before I asked anyone how this could be.

Other than working at the steel plant, my dad had started a church in Glen Burnie and it became a large part of our lives.Church is still a critical link in our relationship. It is something I cherish deeply. As you can imagine, having a father who is a minister is a unique situation. I was keenly aware that my behavior was to be held at a higher standard than most of my friends and other kids. I’m not so sure I did so well. God is my judge.

As the years went by and I began to hold to and voice my opinions about the world I was living in. It was apparent that my dad and I were not so much in agreement about a lot of things. Nothing exemplified this difference more than the Vietnam War, politics, and the 60’s and 70’s culture. We definitely had a generation gap between us. It was during that time that our differences became more distinct and what we had in common was under pressure. My dad was beginning to appear more adversarial (as I was) and in my view, hypocritical. He was a minster of the Gospel, but I felt he had become a minister to others and left me out. Why wouldn’t he give me the same respect he would give to a total stranger? It was during my high school days that I just wanted to get out and prove him wrong. I could do better.

Fast Forward….By 1983, I had been to college, married and had two children, had a few jobs including a pastorate of my own, and was now in the US Navy, attached to a nuclear submarine. It was during that time that my relationship with my dad was really in the pits. We could find almost anything to argue about and frequently did. People did not enjoy being around us when we were together. Now mind you, I still loved my dad, but I could barely stand to be around him. Then one day while I listened to a guy talk about bitterness, it hit me. Although I was an eternal optimist, I was becoming bitter about my dad and I felt that something had to be done about. I’ve met a bunch of bitter people in my life and they’re not fun to be with. I’d rather eat lint than to be with a bitter, cynical, and sarcastic person. They can cause a total eclipse on a sunny day. I knew one thing. I was moving in that direction and something had to be done. Now, the dilemma.   Who was going to make this thing right? Surely, my old man should apologize for all his wrongs and stupidity and then things would be better. Somehow, even though it seemed like the thing I wished would happen, I knew the odds weren’t good. But that really isn’t the point here. I needed to take some responsibility for this relationship. I needed to do something. I knew it would take a paradigm shift in my thinking to move beyond anger and bitterness. I needed to have some self-respect and do the right thing. It didn’t take long before I did something.

On a weekend just after I had been assigned to the USS Shark (SSN-591), I and my family took a trip to New Milford, CT to visit my folks for the weekend. When we got there, the folks weren’t anywhere to be found. They were out shopping. So during that time, until they arrived home, I stacked a cord of wood and cleaned up around my parent’s garage which was an ongoing project. When my folks got home, the tension began building. You could cut the tension with a knife. First my mother came into the house and like all grandmother’s quickly embraced my kids and gave me a quick kiss. Then, in what seemed an eternity, my father walked in. He looked at me, paused, and then asked, “did you stack that cord of wood?” “Yes,” I replied. The tension thickened and I noticed that everyone in the room got quiet and almost froze. Then my dad asked about the garage too. I figured that he was going to let me know that I did something wrong. Then after these questions he made a comment that I could have jumped all over in rebuke. His words, “It’s about time” where the kind of words that I could have thrown right back at him, with relish. Nevertheless, I wanted a change in our relationship and I knew that this was the moment of truth. The truth is that we are all responsible for our own actions and character. We have choices in the matter. There will always be those who point to circumstance as a reason t deflect responsibility in these situations, but I have found that  those who live under the circumstance will always be living “under” something and never finding any peace or success in life.

So, what happened ? How did I respond? Well, I did what Solomon said. Agree quickly with your adversary. I looked my dad square in the eye and said without hesitation, “You’re right!”  The silence was deafening. It seemed as if I could have read “War and Peace” in the time he took to respond. At first, I expected he would continue to provide commentary on my response, but he did something totally unexpected.  He changed the subject.  When he did respond, he asked me if I would look at some plans he had been working on (I can’t remember what they were. I was in such shock).  After that moment, things changed for my dad and me.  We started to respect each other and have become very good friends, not merely a father and son.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about my dad. He’s bared his soul and told me things I wish I had known 35 years ago. I realized that my dad, like me, has been disappointed, scared, and scarred. He’s human, not Superman. That has made him stronger and bigger in my eyes than any pretense of invincibility or bravado could ever do. The knowledge of his weakness, disappointments and fears has put him and me on the same level. I see that, like me, he’s been working out his life like we all do. As fallen humanity. That’s important for all of us to remember. We all deserve a little grace and mercy and we should try to give some, too. In fact, you’ll find that in this regard, it is better to give than receive. See: http://www.joycemeyer.org/OurMinistries/EverydayAnswers/Articles/art48.htm

Today is Father’s Day and I thank God that He’s given me the dad I’ve had. No regrets. Even the bumps in our road have taught me the value of having a good suspension system. The road doesn’t much change, but your ability to absorb the imperfections in the path helps you last longer and arrive at your destination intact. These days, when I look in the mirror every morning, I see more of my dad in me. Thank God. Being able to see him, gives me hope and a peace for the day.

Thanks Dad for everything!

Bob and NBA Trophy

Dad, holding the NBA Championship trophy won by the Boston Celtics in 2008. Taken in Martha's Vineyard.

What Makes A Dad

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it … Dad

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Prayers for John and Elizabeth Edwards…

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Psalm 32:3-5

While the media indulged in a feeding frenzy over the news of former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards’ admission Friday to an extramarital affair, my heart was most grieved to see and hear some Christians once again taking the low road by moralizing over Edwards’ infidelity without focusing on his restoration. Of course, there will always be those that are willing and able, in true Pharisaical form, to “cast the first stone.” This is the way of the world. However, this mindset is in stark contrast to the biblical moral prescribed in Galatians 6:1 which instructs,

“…if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

The fact is, reconciliation is at the heart of Christ’s ministry and He demands that those who follow after him will seek the reconciliation of mankind to God. This includes John Edwards. Unfortunately, too many Christian in these cases, especially those who are politically biased, are more poised to be the adversaries than advocates. (see my post, “Are You Doing the Devil’s Business?“)

There are those who will argue that John Edwards is a scoundrel, a liar, and a wretched sinner and deserves the scorn and punishment he is getting from the press. When considering that his wife Elizabeth was battling breast cancer at the time of this infidelity, Edwards definitely appears to be a totally selfish and reprobate piece of flesh deserving to be ostracized and totally discredited in the public. His actions were absolutely despicable. But considering the confession of his sin and his appeal for forgiveness from his wife, family, and his Lord (see the ABC interviews – Part 1, Part 2), it becomes imperative for anyone wearing the label, “Christian” to pray for John Edwards and his family to be completely restored to each other and for Edwards to come to a deeper relationship with the God who he calls, “my Lord.” No Christian should forget that God sent his son to the earth for sinners. John Edwards is just one more among billions of us.

Just remember what Jesus said,

if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15

Considering this caveat, everyone calling themselves a “Christian” should be eager to forgive others of their sins, lest God see their unforgiving, judgmental spirit, and refuses to forgive the “Christian” of their sins. In addition, if we desire for others to pray for us in our times of weakness, we should seek mercy for others and pray for them in their times of shortcoming. Anythings less is indicative of one who knows nothing of being “poor in spirit.”

I am not John Edwards’ judge, but I know what being a sinner is. Knowing that fact, and by faith in the work of Jesus Christ, I know that God has forgiven me and bids me to “go and sin no more.” I think the same applies to everyone including John Edwards. My prayers are with him, his family, his supporters, and the woman he had the affair with. May they all come to the peace that “passes all understanding.”

Related Articles:

The Benefits of Getting Caught – Jeff Garrett

Forgive and You will be Forgiven – Lyle Welty

Practical Paul: Restoration – Brent Riggs

Elizabeth Edwards Statement on the Affair

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In Praise of Hate

A few weeks ago I participated in a forum on hate crimes entitled, ““Hate Crimes: What Are They? What Are You Going To Do About It?” Like many other forums of its kind, finding a representative cross-section of church leaders, especially from fundamentalist churches is akin to finding a new planet in our solar system. I think that’s a shame and hardly fits Christ’s edict for the church to be “salt and light” in the world. I’m sure things like choir practice and the quilting club probably have a greater priority. I hate that! Sorry, I digress… Inasmuch as there is a serious need to address hate and the effects on individuals and groups, I think the avalanche of political correctness into the valley of wholesale tolerance has somewhat smothered an honest conversation where the emotion we call hate can appropriately be manifest. Even though almost every discussion on hate is focused on its negative and detrimental aspects, there is a place, as I stated before, for hate that is both constructive and motivationally positive. It is found in the hatred of the underlying forces and thinking that engenders destructive and abusive behaviors. It may seem to border on the oxymoronic, but in channeling a rational hatred toward irrational hatred, the outcomes are ultimately positive and productive.

For those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we are instructed by a word from the prophet Michah, who asserts that, “He (God) has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Implicit in that passage is the charge that we are to hate injustice and lying, hate cruelty and an accusing spirit, and most importantly to hate pride, haughtiness, and arrogance. These things we are to hate are necessary to being “good.”

Although there are many who would profess they don’t hate at all, I would suggest that they are out-of-balance. As Solomon noted, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven …A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” There are very legitimate times to hate, and if we are to follow God’s lead there are people and conditions we are to hate as well. For instance it is clear from scripture that there are many things that God hates. Read here… So, if we are to hate what God hates, what is hate? Let’s make sure we’re on the same page as it relates to the word. According to the dictionary reference, I feel pretty comfortable with the definition that suggests that hate is simply “a passionate dislike and a feeling of enmity toward something or someone.” Hate suggests an aversion to something and a need to do something about that feeling. It’s in the doing that requires some careful thought and consideration.

In my view, I have all kinds of license to hate something with reasonable judgment and with degree, but when it comes to hating another person, it’s a bit more tricky. Some believe, and with good argument, that the hatred of certain people is warranted. Others think that you can hate the deed, yet love the person who commits the deed. Such arguments are requisite to critical thinking and I’ve found these perspectives in the diverse writings of Rabbi Shmuel Boteach, formerly of Oxford University, where he proffers conditions that warrant hate toward certain people, and Dave Daubenmire, president of Pass the Salt Ministries, who advocates love for the wrongdoer, yet hate for the wrongdoing. Here’s their views…

By Rabbi Shmuel Boteachformerly the Chabad Rabbi at Oxford Universityhttp://www.arutzsheva.org9-22-1

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3).One of the most frequent themes of my writings is how we – a generation with a fifty percent divorce rate and a professional singles scene – have forgotten how to love. Today I will surprise you by complaining about how we have forgotten how to hate.

The proper response to the cowardly brutes who perpetrated the horrific attacks against America is to hate them with every fiber of our being and purge ourselves of any morsel of sympathy which might seek to understand their motives.

Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. I realize that, immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Little do we remember, it seems, the aphorism that those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.

Indeed, exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible and God Himself hates every form of immorality because of its harm to mankind. Thus the book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.” Hatred is a valid emotion – an appropriate response – when directed at the truly evil: those who have gone beyond the pale of human decency by committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. Contrary to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist the wicked at all costs.

About two years ago, I was on the BBC discussing the tragic bombing of a gay pub that left three dead. I referred to the bomber as an abomination, to which Pastor Tony Campalo, President Clinton’s spiritual advisor, replied that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness. Similarly, in my years in Britain I was used to hearing victims of IRA terrorist attacks, after having lost fathers or brothers or sons, immediately announce on air their forgiveness and love for the murderers, in the spirit of Christian love. I disagree vehemently. The individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably wicked. He or she has cast off the image of G-d that entitles them to love and has forfeited their place in the human community.

Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just insane, it is deeply sinful. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.

Contrary to those religious figures who deny Solomon’s proverb and preach that religion is about unconditional love and forgiveness for all, I believe there is a point of no return for the mass-murderers of this world. The Talmud certainly teaches that the true object of proper hatred is the sin, not the sinner, whose life must be respected and whose repentance effected. The Talmud also teaches that it is forbidden to rejoice at the downfall of even those sinners whom it is proper to hate: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.” However, this attitude does not apply to impenitent and hardened monsters who pay no heed to correction. For us to extend forgiveness and compassion to them in the name of religion is not just insidious, it is an act of mocking G-d, who has mercy for all, yet demands justice for the innocent.

I have an a typical Christian artist friend who showed me a picture he painted of Jesus embracing Hitler. I felt the picture to be obscene, “How can you have Jesus holding Hitler?” I objected.

“That’s the whole point. That’s how far Jesus’ love extends.”

“But that’s not love,” I corrected him, “it’s disgust. It’s like saying that Jesus loves cancerous cells. If you love Hitler, than you are showing contempt for the good and decent people whom he turned into ash and lampshades. The only response to Hitler is utter contempt and violent hatred. The only way to react to incorrigible evil is to wage an incessant war against it until it is utterly eradicated from the earth.”

I maintain that any culture that does not hate Hitler and his ilk is a non-compassionate society. Indeed, to show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again. Thus, in the interest of justice, the appropriate response to the evil person is to hate him with every fiber of our being and to hope they find no rest, neither in this world nor in the next.

The pacifist will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing, that, as in the old Bob Dylan song, “if we take an eye for an eye we all just end up blind.” This is poppycock because the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but preservation of justice. To this end I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most inspirational men of the twentieth century, who has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice by not allowing Nazi murderers go to their graves in peace. We do not hunt Nazis in order to take revenge. We Jews have better things to do with our time than chase a bunch of pathetic, murderous thugs. Besides, our Torah prevents us from taking retribution. Rather, we track them down because G-d at Sinai entrusted us with the promotion of justice, turning the jungle into a civilized society. We seek them out on behalf of all humanity so that all of the world may know that for genocide there is no apology. In the words of Aristotle, “All virtue is summed up in dealing justly.”

Justice is not a cultural construct. Neither is it a human invention imposed upon the members of society in order that they treat each other with decency and respect. Justice was not created for some utilitarian end. Rather, justice is intrinsic to human nature. We do not teach our children to refrain from stealing because they might get caught. Rather, we teach them that theft is intrinsically wrong, even if they could get away with it.

In the Hebrew language there are three words for forgiveness: selicha, mechila and kapparah. The essence of the forgiveness is that an individual is so valuable that we allow them the opportunity to start afresh after error. But since repentance is based on recognizing the infinite value of human life, its premise cannot be simultaneously undermined by offering it to those who have irretrievably debased human life. For a murderer to cry in public and achieve instant absolution is an affront to everything forgiveness stands for and that’s why we should feel no guilt for our feelings of revulsion and hatred toward these terrorists.

The bottom line is that there are some offenses for which there is no forgiveness, some borders whose transgression society cannot tolerate under any circumstances, and mass murder is foremost among them.

Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place. Although they referred to a different era in history, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., still ring true today: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Let us make sure, therefore, that we never make the mistake of forgiving those whose sin is so inextricably woven with their rotten character that the two can never be separate. Let us love the righteous and fight the wicked. ___

Rabbi Boteach, formerly the Chabad Rabbi at Oxford University, is a well-known author and lecturer on Judaism. http://www.arutzsheva.org/


Now, for Dave Daubenmire’s view:

Coach Dave Daubenmire
June 15, 2006
NewsWithViews.com

I can honestly and unequivocally say that there isn’t a person on this planet that I hate. Many rub me the wrong way, but I usually write them off as misdirected or uninformed!

I suppose there are a few folks that hate me. I get emails every time I write a commentary. Many call me hateful. But I really can’t control the emotions of another person. As teenagers like to say–it’s on them.

While running the risk of being “Coultered,” I have to be faithful to what I know to be true. So I have to ask, is it wrong to be a hatemonger?

In our ongoing struggle with the PC crowd we usually find ourselves behind the eight ball because we continually allow them to frame the agenda. They have redefined the English language, and as a result, most mainstream Americans no longer know what is acceptable to say. Hate speech, hate crimes, and hatemonger are terms that have been created to silence the Truth. The enemies of God are trying to make hate obsolete.

You may think I’m nuts, that I am playing right into their hands, but I have to ask, is hate a bad thing?

Hatethe emotion of hate; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.

You see it is OK–even necessary–to hate THINGS……but not PEOPLE. I wish more people hated some things.

What would America be like if more people were spurred into action because they hated:

  • Porn
  • Divorce
  • Lies
  • Dishonesty
  • Adultery
  • Broken homes
  • Child abuse
  • Lawbreaking
  • Injustice
  • Abortion
  • Evil
  • Thievery

Instead, we are taught to tolerate it, to accept it, and to even codify into law things that we should hate.

Perhaps I’m still not clear.

  • I hate what homosexuality does to people. Not homosexuals.
  • I hate what adultery does to families. Not the adulterer.
  • I hate the fact porn destroys lives. Not those who look at it.
  • I hate the lie that gays are born gay. Not those who believe the lie.
  • I hate abortion for the destruction it brings. Not the woman who is victimized.
  • I hate evolution-only education. Not those who teach it.
  • I hate laws that keep people poor. Not poor people.
  • I hate racism. Not those who practice it.
  • I hate lies. Not those who tell/teach them.
  • I hate suicide bombing. Not the bombers.
  • I hate evil. Not those who practice it.

I wonder, does America need more hate?

I saw a t-shirt the other day that read: Truth Is Hate To Those Who Hate Truth! “Have I now become your enemy by telling the truth?” Galatians 4:16

That’s it, isn’t it? Truth. No one wants to hear the Truth. Truth brings conviction. Conviction brings guilt. Guilt brings shame. Shame brings remorse, remorse brings repentance. Truth is hate, to those who hate Truth.

I know it is hard to believe, but the God who IS love, also hates. That’s right. God hates. In fact He goes further. He calls some things an abomination, which is a much more powerful type of hate. According to the dictionary abomination means “hate coupled with disgust,” and abomination occurs 174 times in the Bible.

I know you want to argue. But the proof is in the pudding. Check it out for yourself. Here is a list of 43 things God hates.

So where does that leave us? If hate is so wrong, why does God tell us that “there is a time for hate” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9)

Yes, folks, God hates. And His hatred forced Him into action. He hated sin so much that He willingly sacrificed His beloved Son to eliminate it. If God hated sin, shouldn’t we?

Someone was once asked when all of the suicide bombing would stop in the Middle East. The response was chilling. “The bombing will stop when Muslims love their children more than they hate the Jews.”

Is hate really the problem in America? Could the problem be what we hate….and what we love?

So, let’s ask ourselves a few hard questions.

  • Do you love the pornographer more than you hate pornography? • Do you love the woman getting the abortion more than you hate the abortion?
  • Do you love the adulterer more than you hate adultery?
  • Do you love the homosexual more than you hate homosexuality?
  • Do you love the pedophile more than you hate pedophilia?
  • Do you love the sinner more than you hate the sin?

Misapplied and misappropriated love is destroying America. “Have I now become your enemy by telling the truth?” Galatians 4:16

If we are ever to recover our moral equilibrium in America, then we are going to have to make the decision to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates. Because of the ongoing confusion in the Church, America loves the things that God hates.

I have a window sticker on the back of my car. “For God so loved the world, He did something!”

He hated sin….it spurred Him to action…..He gave his Son. I’m so glad He did.

John Lennon changed America with the mantra, “All you need is love.” He didn’t know God, therefore, he didn’t understand. Many in America love the wrong things.

So, which is worse, loving the wrong things, or hating the right things?

Is hate a bad thing?

I don’t think so. I believe that hatred of social and private sins have led to ever-expanding cultural and personal growth and progress. In fact, the history of the United States is a great example of how hatred against hatred is an avenue to liberty.

At our nation’s founding, much of the content of the Declaration of Independence was a accounting of colonial hatred against the repressive policies of the English king. Ever since that moment (JULY 4, 1776) our history has been an social evolution with “redress of grievances” as the catalyst for positive change. So hate, the intense and passionate dislike of personal and social evils, has driven the vehicle of politics and social behavior toward mostly, positive and progressive change.

As a last point I want to take an opposing view of something Rabbi Shmuel Boteach said. He argues that “the individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably wicked” and “he or she has cast off the image of G-d that entitles them to love and has forfeited their place in the human community.” I think he is way wrong. The whole point of the Christian faith is based on the principles that God/Jesus is love and as the scriptures asserts, ” God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 This verse and others provide a stark contrast to the view that man is entitled to God’s love. You can’t earn it. It is a gift of God to those who are already lost. We are to forgive in our hearts, and by extension, forgive by our actions as a reflection of what God has done for us. Yes, there are consequences for doing wrong, but God never tells us to not forgive. As the apostle Paul said, “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Even Jesus, on his “Sermon on the Mount” said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15)

Christians are taught to love as God loves. We are also taught that the “vengeance” we feel and often wish to exact should be left to God, the Eternal Judge. We are called to love our enemies, that’s the way of God’s Kingdom. Even though everyone should bear the earthly consequences of their earthly actions, for good or not, the heart of the offended should, however, embrace love for the offender. When Rabbi Boteach says that those who choose to murder innocent victims are “irretrievably wicked,” he has missed the whole point of redemption. Redemption is for those that have indeed “cast off the image of G-d” and have even, in some instances, “forfeited their place in the human community.” Nevertheless, we as redeemed members of the human community are to continue in the ministry of Jesus who seeks to save those that are lost, through love and forgiveness.

As a parting shot, I’d like to share a great story of love, forgiveness, and freedom. It’s a story of how a family chose to forgive and love someone who killed their family member. It’s a powerful story that truly reflects the image of God. Read on….

Presenting him with a Bible signed by the family of the woman he helped kill three years ago in Lake Vista, the victim’s daughter in court Friday told a convicted murderer that she forgives him.

After all, the daughter said, that’s what her mother, the slain 70-year-old Myra Centanni Mehrtens, taught her.

“Mr. Foreman, this is for you,” Sharon Giambrone said to Nathan Foreman from the witness stand, holding up a brand-new copy of the Bible, with a personal message to him from the family. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ It says to Nathan, keep your eye focused on Jesus. Seek him. Our prayers are with you.”

Foreman was 18 when he drove the getaway car after his friend Jonathan Bailey, then 19, fired a single fatal gunshot into Mehrtens’ neck.

On Friday at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, 21-year-old Foreman was sentenced to the state’s mandatory punishment for second-degree murder: life without the chance of parole. But first, he heard a statement from the victim’s family and received their gift.

Assistant District Attorney Tanya Faia passed the Bible to the defense attorneys, who placed it on the table in front of Foreman.

“I pray for you every Sunday,” said Giambrone, who three years ago rode in the ambulance as medical technicians worked on her bleeding mother as a priest sat watch. “And my family prays for you each time we think of you, because, Nathan, you have a choice.”

Faia and prosecutor Mary Glass had helped secure the guilty-as-charged murder verdict last month even though Foreman never touched the gun used to kill Mehrtens. Louisiana law provides that anyone who participates in a murder may be charged with the same crime as the one who pulls the trigger.

Triggerman testifies

Jonathan Bailey, who robbed the widow at gunpoint as she had just arrived home the evening of March 6, 2005, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder and is serving life in prison. Prosecutors offered him this as a plea bargain: Plead to life and escape the lethal injection needle.

Faia and Glass, veteran prosecutors who returned to Orleans Parish last year as part of the newly formed Violent Offenders Unit, asked Bailey to testify for the state just days before Foreman’s trial opened. He agreed, saying he wanted to clear his conscience.

In exchange for a sentence of probation and his testimony at trial, a third man, Christopher Cavalier, admitted to supplying Bailey and Foreman with the gun used to kill Mehrtens.

On Friday, defense attorney Robert Jenkins said that Cavalier had a felony indictment for theft out of Texas — for which he had received probation — and that since the Foreman jury didn’t hear of this at trial, his testimony was flawed and grounds for a new trial.

But Buras denied the request. Cavalier wasn’t the state’s key witness; that title belonged to the gunman who owned up to the crime in open court, fingering Foreman as his driver that night.

Bailey told jurors that he and Foreman had decided to borrow a gun and drive around New Orleans in search of someone to rob.

The only car they saw was the Lincoln Continental that Mehrtens was driving home that evening, after having supper at a daughter’s home. Mehrtens, who raised five children in Lakeview and Lake Vista and attended daily Mass at nearby St. Pius, begged Bailey not to hurt her, Bailey recalled.

Bailey said the gun went off as he flinched when his victim set off her car alarm to alert her neighbors. She died hours later at Charity Hospital, having bled to death from the wound to her neck. Her relatives waited outside the operating room, praying on their knees that she would survive the trauma, Giambrone testified.

‘We prayed for you’

On Friday, Giambrone addressed a packed courtroom where the audience included Foreman’s parents, the Mehrtens family and District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson, among other inmates awaiting their turn before Buras.

The night before the jury returned to hear closing arguments and then begin deliberations over Foreman’s fate, Giambrone said she spent the entire night weeping and praying to God to spare Foreman from prison if he were indeed not guilty of murder.

“We prayed for you,” she told Foreman, who was silent during the hearing and appeared in jail-issued clothes and handcuffs. “God, don’t let it come back guilty unless you know this man is guilty.” Giambrone, a local dentist, said that her family forgives Foreman and Bailey, and prays for their parents, who have also lost a loved one now.

Buras, who handed down the life sentence to Foreman after denying several motions by Jenkins for a new trial, also made a statement to the convict. Buras didn’t buy the testimony from Bailey that Mehrtens’ murder was a completely random act.

“This court feels Ms. Mehrtens was targeted because she was elderly and alone and it was night,” Buras said. “It was a carefully planned and executed crime.”

Police arrested all three men after an anonymous tip came in to Crimestoppers. The caller reported that Bailey and Foreman were bragging about having killed the woman, and laughing about their deed.

$10, crawfish bisque

As they sped away in Foreman’s mother’s car that night, the pair fished through Mehrtens’ purse, tossing items they deemed useless out the car’s windows. Detectives later walked along the neutral ground of Robert E. Lee Boulevard, following a trail of the widow’s belongings, which included an Elmwood Fitness Center membership card.

Bailey and Foreman had only made off with $10 in cash and some leftover crawfish bisque, which Mehrtens had carried home in a plastic bag from her daughter’s house.

Mehrtens, known for her gardening talents, was a member of local garden clubs and personally delivered many floral arrangements to weddings across New Orleans.

But Bailey and Foreman denied Mehrtens the pleasure of watching her first granddaughter get married, Giambrone said.

“My mother was a woman of dignity, of strength and compassion,” Giambrone said. “Nathan, my mother showed us how to forgive.”

Foreman nodded politely when Giambrone addressed him by name. She spoke for at least 15 minutes, without notes, in a statement that Buras called “most eloquent.”

Giambrone said that the violence plaguing New Orleans cannot be blamed solely on the city’s historically failed public school system and other neglected institutions.

“You drove the car,” she told Foreman. “We all have a choice between good and evil.”

Giambrone told Foreman’s parents that they too know sorrow and that she believes they tried the best they could to raise their son right. She then told the entire courtroom, including those awaiting trial for crimes, that violence will not go unpunished.

“They will get caught,” Giambrone said. “God is watching.”

Submitted by Gwen Filosa, Times-Picayune, March 7, 2008

Falling into Grace

Shame The idiom, “fall from grace” is typically used to express the idea of a loss of status, respect, or prestige for a failure of moral character. Just in the past week, we’ve borne witness to the moral failure of Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York because of his involvement with a prostitute. People have and do fail, some failures being more public and shameful than others. In recent years very public ministers, such as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Ted Haggard have had their sins broadcast around the globe, not only bringing shame on themselves, but shame to the Church. High-profile politicians such as Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Randy Cunningham, and Bill Clinton have had very public failures splashed over every newspaper in the land. Exposing and scrutinizing the sins of the rich, famous and powerful seems to garner as much interest as other national past-times such as baseball and American Idol. It’s a bloodsport.

This morning, Easter morning, the guest speaker at our church was John G. Rowland, former governor of the state John G. Rowland Connecticut, the state in which I live. On July 1, 2004 Rowland resigned as governor after facing charges of tax evasion, corruption, and bribery. More than likely, Rowland would have been impeached if he had chosen to fight the charges. In the end, he would spend ten months in federal prison for “honest services mail fraud” and tax fraud.

For most of those in the crowd attending the service today, they only knew John Rowland because of his history in state government and his legal troubles. For me it was personal. Seeing him at church today brought back waves of past memories relative to the eminent domain case that consumed almost seven years of my life. John Rowland was a central figure in our contention that government should not seize personal property to give to another person, institution, or business, but for strictly defined public uses such as for roads, schools, and the like. (see the tab above, “NABOTH’S VINEYARD” for information on the case)

On February 3, 1998, the day Amy and I had our offer to buy our home accepted, Governor John Rowland, George Milne of Pfizer Corporation, and City of New London officials were on-board a ferry in the Thames River announcing that Pfizer was going to build it’s Global Research facility in New London, a few blocks from our house. This was great news. New London needed an economic asset of this magnitude to jump-start the city’s sagging fortunes and move it toward a better quality of life. Amy and I were thrilled. For the next nine months the New London Development Corporation, the city’s quasi-public/private agency, began a course of informational meetings about the development of the area adjacent to the new Pfizer development. For most residents, including myself, the idea of redeveloping the Fort Trumbull peninsula was welcomed news. However, before too long, we began to detect some stories of underhanded attempts by the NLDC to get theresidents of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to sell their homes to the NLDC. For many residents, the neighborhood had been their home for most of their lives, and many of the residents, being quite advanced in years, just didn’t want to sell. That’s when the pressure began.

By the end of the year, 1998, Amy and I wrote up a petition that stated our support of the residents to stay in their homes and that the proposed development should incorporate the neighborhood. The petition was part of the administrative requirement for an environmental impact study. After a short time had passed, we began to hear more and more distressing stories of harassment and intimidation. Part of that intimidation was a threat of eminent domain. Legally, according to the Connecticut General Statutes, using the threat of eminent domain is illegal until a government plan had been certified. That wouldn’t happen until February 2000.

During 1999 we continued to hear stories of how the NLDC was strong-arming the residents in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by employing some fairly deceitful practices. In more than one case we found where the home evaluations the NLDC was giving the residents showed a considerable drop in value. All the while, the city continued to tax them at a much higher rate. Clearly unjust weights. What was really sad was to see elderly residents being treated so poorly. They were being given low offers for their homes which carried no mortgages. These folks had worked all their lives to raise families and buy their homes, which they now owned, free and clear. Sadly, the offers they were given by NLDC wouldn’t buy a garage, much less a home. In addition most of these people were retired having small retirement pensions. They couldn’t afford or even qualify for a new mortgage that would give them the same house as they now owned. In spite of our rantings to the city, state, and NLDC about the injustice of what had been and continued to be done, it fell on deaf ears. Instead, the residents were being told they needed to sacrifice for the common good. It was ironic that Claire Guadiani, president of both the NLDC and Connecticut College was saying that the remaining residents needed to sacrifice for the common good, yet at the same time, we discovered that the original plan that had been developed included an educational campus led by Claire’s husband David Burnett, a Pfizer executive. No conflict there.

At the end of 1999, members of the Coalition to Save Fort Trumbull Neighborhood, an organization formed to save the neighborhood were fairly certain the path the state was taking in the project was one that would force the remaining residents out of Fort Trumbull. Their gentrified neighborhood just didn’t fit with the world class Pfizer development. On January 18, 2000 the New London City Council voted 6-1 to approve the municipal development plan submitted by the state, through their agent, the NLDC. In that act, the council gave its power to use eminent domain to force out unwilling residents from their homes. The plan was hatched and approved at the highest level of state government in the person of John G. Rowland.

For most of the next year my wife and I obtained thousands of pages of emails, letters, and other documents through the Freedom Of Information Act. After a while, we could have written them in our sleep. At any rate, as we continued to dig up violations of statutes and other laws, we sought legal help. We retained the service of a local attorney, (our personal attorney) Scott Sawyer. By May 2000 we formed an organization, the Fort Trumbull Conservancy in order to launch legal actions against the city, state, and NLDC. In July 2000 we filed our first lawsuit. While we proceed to fight on state-level statutory levels, we also lobbied the support of the Institute for Justice– IJ, a Washington-based public interest law firm. They took up our cause in December 2000.

For the next four plus years, we continued to fight to preserve the property rights of the residents and hope for a modification of the plan in order to get the development going in uncontested areas of the project site. The results were disheartening on all sides. Through that period we went to superior court, the state supreme court, and finally, on February 22, 2005, the case was heard in the highest court in the land, the US Supreme Court.

From early on in the struggle, Amy and I participated in weekly prayer walks in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. It was led by myself and John Endler, pastor of First Baptist Church in New London. We had asked people and churched to join us in an effort to pray for reconciliation and peace in the city. A number of people were faithful to the call for over five years running. Sadly, only two churches participated. During those days I noticed there were three kinds of prayers being offered. The first was a general prayer for the residents and the resolution of the immediate problems. The second was a prayer that was more sharp-edged, with a call for justice against those who had violated the residents in the neighborhood. The last kind of prayer was one of reconciliation to our enemies in this particular fight and one that sought truth and mercy. I was one that prayed for reconciliation. That included prayers for John Rowland, Claire Guadiani, and our city officials.

I found that the more I prayed for my “enemies”, the more I felt God releasing love for them in my heart. Even though I would still continue to confront them over what I saw a injustice, I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to hate them. I had to pray for them, I had to love them. )

In 2004, I was not at all surprised to hear about Rowland being charged with tax evasion and other charges. For me and my wife, we KNEW since 2000, it was going to happen. We knew he would be kicked out of office. (Read NABOTH’S VINEYARD. In it I said in February 2000 that John Rowland would not make it through his term as governor.) After hearing the news, my heart was heavy and I began to pray for him and his family. I felt very strongly that God had His hand on John Rowland and was doing something special in his life. That special thing was fine-tuned after Rowland was sent to federal prison for ten months. I thought of him and prayed for him often, believing that God had him right where he wanted him.

When I heard that John Rowland was released from prison and that God had indeed done something in his life, I remembered the verse of scripture my mother would always encourage me by, Romans 8:28. Ironically, it was this same verse that got John Rowland through some really rough patches while in prison. That verse says, “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.”

It is so wonderful to see that God has used what man would consider a nail in the coffin of a life to resurrect a new man, that like David, after he was caught in the sin with Bathsheba, was empowered to preach God’s word. (Psalm 51) Wow!

Today, I heard my enemy speaking of God’s glory and the power of Christ’s resurrection. What a joy to see him redeemed. Actually he fell into grace instead of falling from it. He may have lost status, respect, and prestige in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes, John Rowland has status, respect, and prestige as a child of God. Grace is unmerited favor, that which is bestowed, not earned. The Scripture says that where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. (Romans 5:20) Indeed, John Rowland has fallen into God’s grace. I know, because I’m there with him.

Peace,

Steve

God’s Amazing Grace shown on Calvary’s Tree

Three Crosses Oh, I tremble, yes, I tremble,
It causes me to tremble, tremble,
When I think how Jesus died;
Died on the steeps of Calvary,
How Jesus died for sinners,
Sinners like you and me.
– The Crucifixion from God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson
For the next three days, millions of Christians will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, and my savior. On Good Friday I will be thinking and meditating on the AMAZING GRACE God gave willingly for sinners like me. He did that by sending Jesus to die on that atrocious cross at Golgatha, outside of Jerusalem. On that cross Jesus bore the shame of my sins and all my sorrows. There, God’s grace was poured from a bottomless cup of love, washing me with the blood of his son. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Man of Sorrows! what a nameFor the Son of God, who cameRuined sinners to reclaim.Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,In my place condemned He stood;Sealed my pardon with His blood.Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;Spotless Lamb of God was He;“Full atonement!” can it be?Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;“It is finished!” was His cry;Now in Heav’n exalted high.Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,All His ransomed home to bring,Then anew His song we’ll sing:Hallelujah! What a Savior!