Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Archive for February, 2008

This Should Make US Think!

mug_hinkle.jpgIn an editorial entitled, Why Should This Advocacy Group Get State Taxpayer Funding?”, Bart Hinkle of the Richmond, Virginia newspaper – The TIMES Dispatch – raises eyebrows and raises some good points.  When I read this editorial today I thought you – my readers – should see it, too.  I want to commend Bart for making some great points about taxpayer funding.
 Friday, Feb 29, 2008 – 12:09 AM 
By A. BARTON HINKLE
TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST

Why in the world is the Commonwealth of Virginia giving taxpayer money to the National Rifle Association?

Even passionate defenders of the right to keep and bear arms — includ ing yours truly — might be shocked to learn that Virginia has been shoveling money into the pocket of the gun lobby for years. Law-abiding citizens have a right to own firearms. But that doesn’t mean the state should be underwriting a political advocacy group.

Gun-rights activists say the money isn’t being spent on political advocacy; they say it subsidizes the NRA’s many other valuable services. Those include its Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program, which teaches children in elementary schools, “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” (And, yes, that is indeed an extremely valuable message.) The NRA’s Law Enforcement Activities Division hosts tuition-free seminars for police officers and sheriff’s deputies; the program is so popular participants must be chosen by lottery. Then there is the educational work performed at the National Firearms Museum, which features (among many other things) muskets and pistols from Colonial times. All very commendable.

Trouble is, you can’t corral money that easily — any more than you can pour water into the shallow end of a pool without raising the level in the deep end, too. Giving the NRA taxpayer dollars for its other services enables the NRA to spend more money on . . .

WHOOPS! HOLD ON a second. Got my notes mixed up. It turns out Virginia hasn’t been giving money to the NRA for years. It’s been giving money to the abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood for years. And now Republican lawmakers want to bring the practice to a halt.

On Wednesday the State Senate narrowly voted for a budget amendment introduced by Ken Cuccinelli of Fairfax to cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood. The House of Delegates has long been on record opposing such funding, but this is the first time the Senate has concurred.

Abortion-rights supporters are, of course, up in arms (pardon the expression). They say the taxpayer money goes to programs that enable Planned Parenthood to prevent teen pregnancy, screen for cancer, test for STDs, and walk on water.

Listening to its friends, you would never know Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider. According to State Sen. Janet Howell, the group provides “contraceptive planning which prevents abortions . . . . Planned Parenthood probably prevents more abortions than any other organization in the country.” Uh-hunh. That’s like saying that because the NRA supports instant background checks, it probably has done more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals than any other organization. But the NRA is the nation’s leading gun-rights group — just as Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading abortion-rights group. Indeed, it was a principal litigant in the major abortion-rights cases before the Supreme Court such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart (which incorporated Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood).

THERE’S NOTHING inherently wrong with that, either: Women have a right to reproductive autonomy — up to a point. Gun rights stop short of the right to harm innocent persons, and abortion rights ought to do likewise. The precise location of that point is debatable, but it certainly should preclude partial-birth abortion — a grisly procedure whose purpose is to guarantee not a healthy woman, but a dead baby. Planned Parenthood has vigorously fought against any attempt to circumscribe such infanticide. Its stance regarding abortion is even more extreme and absolutist than the NRA’s stance on guns.

All of which is, in the end, irrelevant. The real question isn’t whether Planned Parenthood’s position on a particular question is correct.The real question is why it gets taxpayer funding in the first place.

Doing good works is not sufficient reason. Every group in existence, from the Catholic Church and the Girl Scouts to Hezbollah and the Hell’s Angels, claims to be doing some good, somehow. If good works alone justify state funding, then all of them — and the NRA, too — deserve state funding. But they don’t — and neither does Planned Parenthood.

“My thoughts do not aim for your assent — just place them alongside your own reflections for a while.”  – Robert Nozick. 

If you appreciate Bart’s observations, why don you contact him at:  A. Barton Hinkle  bhinkle@timesdispatch.com.

 

 

Larry Norman – Dead at 60 – The Man Who Introduced Me to Christian Rock

I found a fantastic article on The Huffington Post – an Internet newspaper and blogging site.  The following is writtenlarry-norman.jpg by Mark Joseph, and appeared in today’s Huffington.  When I was a brand new Christian I discovered Larry Norman for myself.  His music thrilled me – it was an outlet for my soul.  I hope you will discover or re-discover Larry’s music yourself.  He’s so interesting.  But be ready to be offended or bowled over by his candid observations.  He doesn’t pull any punches. 

 “Larry Norman, the most amazing artist you’ve never heard of has died. I found Norman’s 1976 record ‘Only Visiting This Planet’ on vinyl when I was a kid and was amazed at Norman’s creative genius-later I wrote a chapter on him in my book The Rock & Roll Rebellion.

“Norman will be mentioned in obits as the Father of Christian Rock, but that’s a misunderstanding of who he was. Someone once said “I’m too saved for the Sinners and the Saved don’t want me around” and that best described Norman’s amazing life and career.

“He first cracked the pop charts in the late 60’s with his band People and their smash hit ‘I Love You,’ but became disgruntled when Capitol Records wouldn’t let him call his album “We Need A Whole Lot More Jesus and A Lot Less Rock & Roll” and put a painting of his Master on the cover. That led Norman to quit the band and go solo, recording for MGM Records, but they too tired of his religious imagery and Norman soon formed his own label, Solid Rock Records. The Christian world was freaked out by the blond hippie and had little use for his music and despite his association with the term “Christian Rock” he was always an outsider and always strived to make his records for everybody.

“While Christian Rock is sometimes assailed as formulaic and derivative, Norman was anything but and his admirers included Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Pixies, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp and Sammy Davis, Jr. among others.

“Martin Luther, no slouch of a songwriter himself once said ‘Why should the Devil have all the good tunes,’ and Norman took that line and wrote a memorable song ‘Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music’ which included these lines:

“‘I want the people to know that He saved my soul but I still like to listen to the radio/They say rock and roll is wrong give you one more chance/I say I feel so good I gotta get up and dance/There’s nothing wrong with playing blues licks/If you gotta reason tell me to my face/Why should the Devil have all the good music’

“Norman further alienated many churchgoers with his song ‘Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus’ which went: ‘Gonorrhea on Valentine’s Day/You’re still looking for the perfect lay/You think rock and roll will set you free/But honey you’ll be dead before you’re 33’

“And only the eclectic Larry Norman could write a song about his Master Jesus, comparing him to a U.F.O. and singing this memorable line: “If there’s life on other planets than I’m sure that He must know and He’s been there once already and has died to save their souls”

“Norman gave the world one last gift as he lay dying dictating these words shortly before his heart gave out. Who wouldn’t want to go out like this?

“‘I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home… I won’t be here much longer. I can’t do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone…My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside… I want to say I love you. I’d like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort…Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again Somewhere beyond the sky. I pray that you will stay with God. Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.'”

 

Aloha From the Three Amigos!

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Some friends have been asking about an update on the whereabouts and activities of my sons, Brandon and Chris.

Brandon is continuing to live on Maui, Hawaii – working for a roofing company five-plus days a week, and a restaurant two nights a week.  He’s never had a problem with work, always willing to do whatever it takes to put bread on the table and keep the rent current.  He’s got a ton of friends (as you can see from the photo at right),img_0152.jpg and when he’s not camping around the islands he’s surfing.  One of my favorite things to do is meet up with him at one of the awesome surf breaks on the island (Honolua Bay, Ironwood, S-Turns, etc.), and while I’m watching the sun set I’m also watching him catch wave after wave.  I try to photo and video every time he’s up.  I’m making a short DVD for him – I’m taking it to him on March 18th.  He’s a blast to watch, and the smile on his face after an hour or two of surfing can light up a room.

Chris is still living in China – Beijing actually.  He’s continuing his studies in Mandarin.  His loves include camping and riding his motorcycle off-road (it doubles as his daily mode of transportation).  He’s super active in the “ex-pat” community (ex-patriots – people from other nations – living in and around Beijing).  Beijing continues to prepare for this summer’s Olympics, so it’s bustling with construction and modernization projects.  When the Chinese government encouraged the nation to become the next economic super-power (surplanting the US and the EC), the people took to the challenge in amazing ways, and with amazing results.  It’s incredible, watching this country of 1.5 billion people change from crippling communism to energized Chinese-style capitalism.   Chris is right in the middle of all this growth and change, and he loves it.

img_0296.jpgOne cool thing that Chris told me and Brandon about recently was one of his off-road adventures in north-central China.  Two of his buddies were traveling with him; the three were traveling pretty close to the Great Wall, taking in the sights.  Suddenly they stopped dead in their tracks!  They had inadvertently trespassed onto a military base.  They were surrounded by soldiers with AK’s, being asked what their business was.  Since they were foreigners, the soldiers weren’t kidding around.  They were let go, a little shaken but with an awesome adventure story.

I’ll be seeing Brandon and Chris again soon, and I’m really excited about it.  The boys are meeting me in Barcelona, Spain – and we’ll be together for about three weeks, exploring the Mediterranean, and ending up in Prague (the Czech Republic)!  We’re planning the last part of the trip now, going from Venice, Italy, through Austria, to Prague.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Creation – God Loves to Blow Our Minds

  

Enjoy!

This is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken … and for it to be of Quomulongma (Mt. Everest) humbles me.

I was very blessed that day. I had my two sons with me – Brandon and Chris – and they enjoyed this trip of a lifetime immensely.

Pubu, me, Chen – and Mt. Everest

With PuBu and Chen at EverestThe patch I’m holding in my left hand is from “Blue Ridge Mountain Sports.”

I gave them a few pictures of the mountain, with their logo patch in the foreground.

If you go to their Midlothian, Virginia – Chesterfield Towne Center (Mall) store, you’ll see one or two.

I hope to return to China and Tibet sometime in this lifetime. If not, then the next.

EPIC – New Perspectives

Mt. Everest 

   People have been asking me, “What are you doing?” My response, typically, is, “I’m writing … and waiting.” I’m writing articles and books (like “One Little Bite” “Dancing With The Healer,” “At Cross Purposes,” and “Under New Management”), and I’m waiting for God to open doors that will allow for face-to-face ministry … ministry to congregations and pastors.

The only clues I’ve received from Him as to what I might be doing in the future revolve around the following paragraphs that describe something called “EPIC.” Back in June and July of 2005 God spoke to me about the following:

EPIC (Eternal Perspectives In Christ, or E-Perspectives International Corporation) will “Challenge Conventional Thinking, Provide Innovative Solutions, and Produce World-Changing People” in two spheres:

1. The way churches and pastors approach and do local, national and international missions (including the support and selection of home and foreign missionaries in particular) and mission trips (cultural exposures, building/construction, medical, evangelistic, etc.), and …
2. The way pastors and church leaders approach local church ministry.

These two primary goals will be accomplished by using four means or methods:

1. Books and magazine articles,


2. Seminars and conferences,


3. Video materials, and …


4. One-on-one mentoring relationships

By “Challenge Conventional Thinking” I mean, to address the American and Western postmodern Church “consumer mindset,” and the misplaced priorities and values of that Church. I believe these things are rooted in secular, contemporary culture (that has been shaped by postmodern, existential, nihilistic, and relativistic philosophies) as opposed to being based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ concerning the Kingdom of God.

I believe the end result will be changed churches and church leaders – “World-Changers,” or “World-Changing People.” These churches and church leaders would not be “mainstream” as much as they would be “swimming up stream” – against the current of the culture. Scary thought, eh?

In order to bring about change, I hope to “Provide Innovative Solutions” to the contemporary Church. I believe that by reexamining biblical principles, values and priorities, change will occur in the Church to better reflect Kingdom principles, values and priorities. I will be using the following to encourage change: print and electronic media, teaching that revolves around what I have learned about these things after 30+ years of ministry, introducing current “World-Changers” to my audiences, and opportunities to experience (“hands-on”) intercultural adventures. I will also make myself available to mentor prospective “World-Changers.”

Why I’m Writing DWTH

 DancingWithTheHealer Websitevic-jazz-lawn.jpg

I have been a pastor, or engaged in some form of specialized ministry since 1971, so when I let everyone know I was going to resign from Trinity Assembly of God in 2005, it caught my family and friends off guard.

“What will you do, and where will you do it?” were the questions I heard most often, and my answer was, “I’m going to sell my home, move to Hawaii, write a very special book, and find time to write some articles for pastoral trade journals.”

Not many had a problem with the idea of me moving to Hawaii, and several put in the common request when someone announces their intention to move to paradise: “Need any help?” When I said to one guy, “Yeah, you can help me get my house in shape so I can put it on the market,” he smiled and walked away laughing. “Qualls, you’re such a tease.” But I wasn’t kiddin’.

My plan after leaving TAG was to use my savings and the proceeds from the sale of my house to cover what minimal expenses I would encounter. I didn’t know how long my cache would last, but I figured that when my funds decreased to a certain level I’d seek employment, somewhere. By that time I hoped to have the bulk of the book finished.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Minimal expenses! On Maui? Is he nuts? He’s moving to Maui for crying out loud!” Then I’d explain that my sister Claudette, and her husband Gene, had graciously invited me to come live – rent free – with them for a while. They had a lovely home on the island, overlooking Kahana and Napili bays. When you looked north from their lanai you could see the fairways and greens of Kapalua. Looking south you could make out the high rise condos of the Kaanapali resort village. Their home was also a stone’s throw from where my oldest son, Brandon, lived … and seven thousand miles closer to my other son, Chris, who was living in China. I could walk to the beach, or drive a short distance to play some of the best golf courses on the planet. Not bad, eh?

Now I ask you, who couldn’t write in a setting like that?

After nodding in approval (and trying to veil their jealousy), next I was asked, “Why are you writing this book?” Knowing that I had never been published, and being polite, my kith and kin were concerned about it’s “emotional nature,” and that I’d have no regular salary.

I’d explain my strategy for dealing with the financial issues, and then tackle the trickiness of the book question. I was as honest as I could be, in hindsight. I gave several reasons for writing it in the order that I was feeling at the time.

My first response early on was, “I made a promise to Vic, and I’m going to keep it.” That is still my first reason for writing. It is a book born out of the deepest kind of love between a man and a woman. It is truly a labor of love, and mirrors the commitments to Vicki I kept throughout our marriage.

Next I’d say that I want to provide our sons and progeny a record of a wonderful life. I want my sons to know their mother in a more intimate way, to better under-stand her earthly priorities, and to read about her dreams for and about them. I want my sons’ wives to “know” their mother-in-law. I also want her grandchildren to have something to hold that was “hers.”

These first two reasons for writing have not changed.

The first two objectives are personal and familial. The last intention can be distilled to this: I hope to inspire.

I know there will be people picking up a copy of this book who are looking for answers to serious questions about the immaterial part of battling a terminal illness. I’ll share what I’ve learned while observing an extraordinary woman dance her way through tumultuous times. I have some strong opinions. I’ll be candid. And I hope Vicki’s sincerity and frankness will inspire you to dance with The Healer, too, understanding there are treatments even the most skilled surgeons can’t provide unless they understand the spiritual dynamics of dealing with disease.

I hope to inspire couples with dysfunctional marriages to find healing in their home. After reading our story, I believe couples headed toward marital breakup will be encouraged to seek out a solution. Marital discord is so much like cancer. Such discord eats away at the core of a relationship until something dies in the soul of one or both partners. Depression soon robs the relationship of its vitality. But there’s hope!

I hope to inspire the spiritually curious to investigate the life and teachings of Jesus, maybe for

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 a second time. If you haven’t taken a good look at Him lately, I think you’ll see Him activity at work in our life-story. Then I hope you’ll become fascinated.

I hope to inspire pastors, who most often live lives of quiet desperation, to develop meaningful collegial relationships. My father used to say, “The banana that gets separated from the bunch gets skinned!” That was his way to saying, “There is no way we, especially in the ministry, can go it alone.” I feel very strongly that “going it alone” in ministry is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for trouble. And because I’m one of you, I think I get most (at least many) of concerns pastors and ministers have. I think I understand the fear of betrayal that develops in our hearts in proportion to the closeness of the relationship, whether it be peer or professional. I think I understand the root of many pastoral stressors that causes our occasional depressions to look Goliath-like. For the most part I get the nature of ministry, with its blindsides, hostilities, and threats. Been there. So, I’m writing for pastors.

I also hope to help and then inspire, coincidentally, those who have been spiritually abused by a few popular pastors and Christian “teachers.” Religious abuse happens. It can be sexual or psychological. Every kind of abuse certainly is spiritual.

Not everything that comes our way through Christian media outlets or from Christian bookstores is from the throne room of God. Some of the stuff desperate people are exposed to in times of unbelievable difficulty is whimsical, faddish, or heretical. There’s a lot of confused and anxious people in the Church of Jesus Christ buying in to some really goofy teachings that further muddle innocent minds.

I’m sharing our story so that vulnerable believers will have another point of view because many Christ-followers are told they are sick, diseased, going through trials, or financially wanting because they lack faith, that there’s sin in their life, they let some stray thought become a confession, or God is hacked off at them for only-He-knows why. So I’m writing for those who need to hear something biblical that doesn’t need to be dug out of the Scriptures by a prophet who has a special revelation, but can be discovered by any truth seeker.

I’m writing to inspire hope.

May God help me.