East Valley Tribune

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  • Police arrest man in connection with Tempe sex abuse case

    Authorities say a 22-year-old man is behind bars after admitting to sexually abusing a woman at her apartment in Tempe.The incident happened around 4:30 a.m. March, 27 near Mill Avenue and 5th Street.Tempe Police Lieutenant Michael Pooley said the victim was sleeping in her bedroom when she was awakened by a man touching her genital area.The woman confronted the suspect and chased him out of the apartment.On Friday, Nathan Whipple was taken into custody Friday after a woman called police to report him walking around in her backyard.Pooley said officers recognized Whipple from a composite sketch released from the March sexual abuse case. Police said when they questioned Whipple, he admitted to the crime.

  • Follow-up work requested in probe of dog deaths

    Prosecutors are asking the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for follow-up work in the investigation into the deaths of more than 20 dogs at a Gilbert kennel.The Maricopa County Attorney's Office says Monday that the extra work was needed before it can decide whether to bring charges against the owners of the Green Acres Boarding Kennel and two caretakers.The sheriff's office had recommended that felony charges be filed.The kennel owners say the animals died of heat exhaustion in June when one dog chewed through the air conditioner's power cord after two caregivers had left the facility.Investigators say no evidence was found that a chewed-up electrical wire had cut power to a cooling unit.A veterinarian says the dogs likely suffocated to death.

  • Tempe football coach suspended for praying

    A Tempe school football coach must miss his team's game Friday as part of a punishment for praying with his players.Tom Brittain is serving the second week of a two-game suspension from his job as coach at Tempe Preparatory Academy.Headmaster David Baum says Brittain instructed a player to lead the team in prayer after they won a game.Baum says staff cannot appear to condone religion to students on behalf of the state-funded charter school's behalf.Some students hung a sign in support of Brittain at the school's homecoming game last week.Some parents have expressed outrage at Baum's decision. But others say the school is not a religious institution and that Brittain violated school policy.

  • Fundraiser organizer says Corona Del Sol in Tempe is truly helping one of their own

    The community of Corona Del Sol High School is stepping up to help with a beloved classmate's fight with leukemia and his family's mounting medical bills.Student council members, the volleyball team, members of the Make-a-Wish club and more all gathered Saturday morning to put on a fundraising car wash to help pay for Ridge Vanderbur's medical expenses."People sometimes think kids are so self-centered, but you see here a great group of kids," the fundraiser organizer said, pointing out the huge turnout from the young community.Since Ridge has aspirations of becoming a firefighter someday, Chandler Fire Department showed up to the event. They not only washed cars, but donated hundreds of dollars to the cause as well."Chandler Firefighter Charities and Chandler Firefighter Health and Medical wanted to help out and show support for someone that might be a brother in the future," said Chandler Fire Chief Jeff West.The car wash was held until 1 p.m. Saturday near Rural Road between Warner and Ray roads in Tempe.

  • Gilbert woman uses daughter’s death to educate about domestic violence

    Joannie Sandoval will never forget the day when Gilbert police officers knocked on her door asking about her daughter’s whereabouts. It was Dec. 6, 2009, and the department had received a call from a man claiming then-21-year-old Dartanion Stroud killed Sandoval’s 26-year-old daughter, Angelita “Lita” Montano, and the police were there to verify the report.Sandoval received a call later from Banner Desert Medical Center stating her daughter was dead. She drove right away from her home in Gilbert to the Mesa hospital.“The faster I tried to get there, the slower it went,” she said.Sandoval told her story to the audience at the sixth Domestic Violence Awareness Event in Chandler on Sept. 18. It’s become a cautionary tale about how domestic violence escalates, one she tells as part of an attempt to turn a horrible moment into something positive.A destructive relationshipMontano’s death was the proverbial final chapter in an abusive relationship with Stroud, who is the father of her daughter Aaliyah. Sandoval said her Dallas Cowboys-loving daughter was an outgoing person who possessed a big, gummy smile that could light up a room along with a strong will, except when it came to Stroud. He had a strange power over her and was able to separate Montano from her family — daily visits to see her parents and siblings dropped to a couple of times a week before falling all the way down to monthly drop-ins.

  • Bridgestone opens research center in Mesa

    Bridgestone Corporation is venturing into producing rubber from a new source at a brand-new biorubber process research center in Mesa. The plant is already in operation but will host a grand opening on Sept. 22.Rather than use the famed Hevea rubber tree, the firm is looking toward experimentation that reveals there may be a plant in North and Central America capable of producing quality rubber.The plant is called guayule, and it produces latex exactly the same as the Hevea tree normally used in this process. The difference is that guayule grows to fruition in half the time and can be farmed right here in Arizona. Even with plenty of cheap, natural rubber on the market, Bridgestone is convinced this is the better way to go.“Domestic shrubs grow easily in their natural habitats,” said Bill Niaura, Bridgestone’s director of new business development. “The guayule we’re growing does particularly well in Arizona’s climate. The selection of guayule also diversifies the world’s supply of natural rubber, both biologically and geographically.”Although he declined to discuss financial specifics, Niaura said the center will provide jobs for a staff of 35 researchers and technicians, the kind of education-friendly jobs that Mesa strove to attract in recent years. That is besides the efforts of growing the guayule at the company’s local farms.“We found that the Mesa area, specifically, is a great fit for Bridgestone, as it has an impressive master planning program in place and a vision of becoming a high-tech industrial area, perfect for a company like Bridgestone,” he said, “There is a long history of farming in the Mesa and Eloy regions of Arizona, and our location is in close proximity to universities that have historically worked with guayule, which is also a benefit.”

  • Neeson shines in 'Walk Among the Tombstones'

    Painted along the edges of “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is the urgent reminder the end of the world is nigh. That was life in 1999 in the months leading toward the current millennium – a period loaded with paranoia about how humanity will end because of the Y2K virus once Dec. 31, 1999 became Jan. 1, 2000.Amid the panic and newspapers headlines heralding the dawning of dread and destruction portrayed in the film is a moment when one character reads one of the hyperbolic headlines and mutters, “People are afraid of all the wrong things.” What makes that line so intentionally effective is how it reveals “A Walk Among the Tombstones’” true intentions. It's not the big catastrophes that are worthy of fear; rather, it's the people flittering about your periphery who should invoke your terror, as you can never know what they can do to you. Or, more importantly, what they can force you to do.It's worth emphasizing “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is not a Liam Neeson revenge flick, despite an opening sequence that has the human embodiment of lurching despair paired with two shots, a gun, and three armed robbers to shoot. All that action occurs in a flashback eight years prior to the events of 1999, when Neeson's Matt Scudder, now a private detective and recovering alcoholic, is asked by a drug dealer (Dan Stevens) to investigate the kidnapping and murder of his wife.Neeson discovers the brutal death was the most recent in a spree in which the killers hold the wife of a drug dealer hostage, collect a ransom and then kill her anyway. It's a dark world Neeson has stumbled into, and all he has to help him are his wits, a homeless teenage assistant who references fictional private eyes (Brian Bailey), and a pressing desire to do the right thing. The lattermost attribute pushes Neeson toward a confrontation with the two killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson), an encounter he may not come back from alive.It still may sound like a film befitting Neeson's recent ouevre like “Non-Stop,” but the brooding Irishman is not hyper-violent mode like he is in those (effectively) trashy Luc Besson films. The opening blood splatter in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” instead motivates Neeson to drop the gun and replace it with cunning and conversation – in one scene he defuses a potentially violent confrontation with a threat backed by a haunting glower and his patented gruff. That's all a good shamus like Neeson needs to solve a case no matter how convoluted it is and no matter how many punches he receives for his efforts.That's the primary enjoyment from “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” as watching the weathered Neeson (does any A-lister look as rundown as he does?) attempt to unravel a peculiar and horrifying case is captivating and engaging. His Scudder is not on the same par as other fictional detectives like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe (they get name dropped by Bailey alongside Daunte Culpepper of all people), but he's a good facsimile and more befitting a world of brutality than the sloppily suave characters played by Humphrey Bogart.

  • Downtown Mesa introduces monthly festival

    A new event is coming Sept. 19 to downtown Mesa in the form of Flash Park Friday, with the businesses lining Main Street offering “parks” on the sidewalk next to their storefront that are related to a monthly theme — the first being splash parks. Attendees of all ages will enjoy cooling off on a large water slide and playing in a pop-up splash park free of charge. Other activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to fishing for concert tickets and free giveaways add to the festivities. The event is also pet-friendly, so don’t hesitate to bring Fido along for the fun.Vendors and live musicians will also be on hand to feed and entertain the crowd. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. For more information, visit DowntownMesa.com.If you goWhat: Flash Park FridayWhen: 6-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19

  • Alice Cooper lets young musicians prove themselves

    Rock musician Alice Cooper’s annual youth music competition showcases his passion for furthering education by giving young musicians a shot on stage.Alice Cooper’s Proof is in the Pudding talent search, now in its 10th year, brings together musicians younger than 25 years old from every music genre to compete for an opportunity to perform on stage with Cooper. One soloist and one band are chosen every year to perform with Cooper and other rock musicians, such as KISS and The Tubes, during Cooper’s annual Christmas Pudding charity concert.“It gives them the opportunity to play in usually the biggest crowd they’ve ever played, with musicians that have been heroes of them forever,” said Jeff Moore, executive director of Solid Rock.Solid Rock, a nonprofit organization founded by Cooper and Chuck Savale in 1995, puts on the annual competition. The foundation works to help teens in the surrounding community through education, music and dance.A community center for teens, called The Rock at 32nd Street, was built by Solid Rock in 2012 to provide a learning space for the arts that might not be offered in some schools. The center offers a space for bands to rehearse, free dance classes and a “safe space” to spend time, Moore said.“It was really meant to meet a need that wasn’t being met at the time: teenagers,” Moore said. “Teenagers don’t want to be next to a kid drinking milk and coloring in a coloring book.”

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.A Walk Among the TombstonesFormerly a detective with the NYPD, now a recovering alcoholic haunted by regrets, Matt Scudder has a lot to make up for. When a series of kidnappings targeting the city’s worst drug criminals escalates to grisly murder, the circuit’s ruthless leader convinces Scudder to find the culprits and bring them to bloody justice. Working as an unlicensed private detective, Matt sees what the police don’t see and treads where they most fear to. Operating just outside the law to track down the monsters responsible, Scudder stops just short of becoming one himself. Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Sebastian Roché, Mark Consuelos, Boyd Holbrook, Whitney Able, Ruth Wilson, Maurice Compte. RGod Help the GirlEve is a catastrophe — low on self-esteem but high on fantasy, especially when it comes to music. Over the course of one Glasgow summer, she meets two similarly rootless souls: posh Cass and fastidious James, and together they form a pop group. This film is a poignant coming-of-age story that doubles as a sublime indie-pop musical from Stuart Murdoch leader of the band Belle and Sebastian and one of indie pop’s biggest songwriters. Starring: Emily Browning, Hannah Murray, Pierre Boulanger, Olly Alexander. Not RatedLast Weekend

  • Football Friday Night Out

    There’ll be no such thing as a boring game this week on the high school football circuit, and you’ll need plenty of good eats to keep up with the action. Here are five options to find a tasty bite. Go team!Liberty (Nev.) at HamiltonHamilton faces a foe from outside the state borders this week as it faces a Liberty squad that is one of the best in Nevada. Hamilton’s 6-foot-7 quarterback James Sosinski will look to get the ball to dynamic playmakers like running backs Kyeler Burke and Ari Johnson. One thing though — Liberty is big. Four of the Patriots’ players tip the scales at 300 pounds or more. WHISKEY ROSE SALOON(480) 895-7673 or WhiskeyRoseChandler.com135 W. Ocotillo Road, Chandler, (.2 mile from Hamilton HS)Pregame: One of the few places to go where you can actually see the field from the restaurant, Whiskey Rose sits across the street from the field at Hamilton and from the right angle, you can see the scoreboard, so you know just how much time you have to finish your food or your drinks before kickoff.

  • On the rim with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson

    Legendary progressive pioneers Jethro Tull featuring Ian Anderson hits The Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, Sept. 20, to perform the best of Jethro Tull and songs off Anderson’s latest album “Homo Erraticus.”Anderson, the seminal frontman for Jethro Tull, has performed in more than 54 countries over a 45-year period, and is widely considered an icon of the progressive rock genre and protagonist of the flute in rock music. With more than 60 million albums sold in its career, Tull has been characterized by Anderson’s trademark acoustic textures created with ethnic flutes and whistles and the mandolin family of instruments.While on tour in Scotland, Anderson spoke exclusively to GetOut to promote his upcoming show, his new double album and why he doesn’t consider himself an artist.Q: You were born in Scotland and raised in England. Your father was from Scotland and your mother is from England. How has that shaped your personal and artistic sensibilities?IA: I think it gives me a sense of the length and breadth of our small country and a rich understanding of our people and culture, because the Brits are a mongrel breed much like the Americans. Being a small island off the northwest coast of Europe, we are insular in some ways and the product of travelers who settled in Britain at the end of the last Ice Age to the Roman invasion after the birth of Christ … and of course, the huge cultural invasion of the USA, particularly in the post-war years. We are rich in a variety of culture, history and ways, which I think gives me a certain perspective when I am writing lyrics.Q: You’ve never catered to public tastes but rather have always made your art very personal.

Tech Data Doctors Deals

  • Gilbert plans new mixed-use building for fall 2015

    A new mixed-use building is planned to open in downtown Gilbert next fall.The 13,000-square-foot building will be located at 313 N. Gilbert Road in the town’s Heritage District. The building is planned to be three stories tall and will accommodate restaurants, retail stores, a rooftop bar and reception rooms for special events.The second floor of the building will also feature office space for TicketForce, a full-service ticketing company for businesses.Construction is set to begin January 2015.

  • Bridgestone opens research center in Mesa

    Bridgestone Corporation is venturing into producing rubber from a new source at a brand-new biorubber process research center in Mesa. The plant is already in operation but will host a grand opening on Sept. 22.Rather than use the famed Hevea rubber tree, the firm is looking toward experimentation that reveals there may be a plant in North and Central America capable of producing quality rubber.The plant is called guayule, and it produces latex exactly the same as the Hevea tree normally used in this process. The difference is that guayule grows to fruition in half the time and can be farmed right here in Arizona. Even with plenty of cheap, natural rubber on the market, Bridgestone is convinced this is the better way to go.“Domestic shrubs grow easily in their natural habitats,” said Bill Niaura, Bridgestone’s director of new business development. “The guayule we’re growing does particularly well in Arizona’s climate. The selection of guayule also diversifies the world’s supply of natural rubber, both biologically and geographically.”Although he declined to discuss financial specifics, Niaura said the center will provide jobs for a staff of 35 researchers and technicians, the kind of education-friendly jobs that Mesa strove to attract in recent years. That is besides the efforts of growing the guayule at the company’s local farms.“We found that the Mesa area, specifically, is a great fit for Bridgestone, as it has an impressive master planning program in place and a vision of becoming a high-tech industrial area, perfect for a company like Bridgestone,” he said, “There is a long history of farming in the Mesa and Eloy regions of Arizona, and our location is in close proximity to universities that have historically worked with guayule, which is also a benefit.”

  • City Council OKs demolition of Elevation Chandler

    After standing unfinished for roughly a decade, Elevation Chandler is finally going to be torn down.The Chandler City Council approved a development agreement last Monday that allows Houston-based real estate firm Hines to demolish the old Elevation Chandler skeleton in January 2015.“It’s pretty exciting to finally have it down and move forward,” said Vice Mayor Rick Heumann. “It’s kind of an eyesore in our city, so we’re excited for having it torn down.”Once the current structure is torn down in January, Hines will begin construction of a new mixed-use development on the site called Chandler Viridian.Chandler Viridian will be a combination of multi-family residential units on the south end of the land with office, retail space and a hotel planned for the northern end.“It provides a development opportunity for more employment,” said Jeff Kurtz, city planning administrator. “With a couple of office towers and a hotel, it really does complement that whole growth corridor up and down Price Road.”

  • Fuel prices continue autumnal decline

    The price of gas for Arizona drivers have dropped by nearly five cents this week as part of a continued decline.AAA Arizona reports the price at the pump is down to an average of $3.348 in Arizona, representing a drop of almost a nickel. Tucson has down the lowest average at $3.239 and Flagstaff has the most expensive at $3.585. The national average has fallenl by almost 6 cents to $3.364.

  • Assistance League’s thrift shop: A lot for a little

    An authentic leather jacket: $30. A Tommy Bahama button-up: $10. Finding the best deal on high-end, low cost clothing in town: Priceless.That’s the reality at Assistance League of the East Valley’s thrift shop, where new and used name-brand clothing like Tommy Hilfiger, Coldwater Creek, and Levis are donated and sold daily.There’s literally something for everyone. The shop offers clothing and accessories that cater to babies, toddlers, children, teens, and adults – but instead of paying retail prices, customers pay a fraction of that, and all money goes toward a good cause.All proceeds received at Assistance League of the East Valley’s thrift shop will be directed toward the organization’s several philanthropic programs of which a few are Operation School Bell, Assault Survivor Kits, Adults Day Care Socials and Scholarships. Clothing is also donated throughout the year to Share Our Spare and Clothes Closet for those in need.These programs, in collaboration with schools and community agencies, help support needy students and families in the area.“It’s a great way to give back,” said Bonnie Domin, the thrift shop’s public relations director. “It’s rewarding for us to be able to provide hard-to-find deals and at the same time knowing the proceeds are going back into the community.”

  • Gilbert Mayor’s Ambassador Forum scheduled for Sept. 25

    The bi-annual Gilbert Mayor’s Ambassador Forum to address issues related to the town will take place on Sept. 25.The event will feature several speakers, including Rep. Matt Salmon, Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Town Manager Patrick Banger, who will discuss the town’s growing workforce and issues in Gilbert in need of collaboration between the local education leaders and businesses.The event is from 7 to 9:30 a.m. at the Gilbert Council Chambers, located at 50 E. Civic Center Drive. Visit https://general.gilbertaz.gov/eForms/MayorsForum/default.cfm to register.

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  • Engineering for Kids Summer Camp

    Engineering for Kids offering STEM Based Summer Camps at Primavera in Chandler. Announces Summer Camp Open House on May 17thWhat is East Valley Engineering for Kids?Engineering for Kids is an enrichment program that teaches concepts on a variety of engineering fields in classes and camps for kids’ ages 4-14. We want to spark an interest in the kids for science, technology and engineering. The camps are all themes based and require the kids to work in teams to address engineering challenges and problems. All programs meet national education standards for STEM and align with Common Core for math and science. Engineering for Kids has operated since 2009, is in 26 states and 4 countries. When and what is the open house for?The open house on May 17th is an opportunity for parents to come and see the facility, meet the staff from Engineering for Kids, and get their questions answered. The summer camps will be offered at Primavera Blended Learning Center at 2451 N. Arizona Avenue in Chandler. The open house is from 11 am to 3 pm.  From 1-2 pm we’re having our popular robotics workshop where the kids will build, program, test and improve the robots. At the end of the workshop, the kids will compete against each other in a Sumo Bot tournament. An RSVP is highly recommended as seating is limited. Please email your RSVP to eastvalley@engineeringforkids.net. What is Primavera Blended Learning Center?

  • Keeping the Faith: What is wrong with the world?

    “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” goes the French proverb credited to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s not that a society or organization cannot be transformed. But such change is often cosmetic or superficial. Reality isn’t altered at the deeper, more profound levels.Simply examine today’s news feeds. There is conflict in the Middle East; fresh bloodshed in Iraq; a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Africa; upheaval with Russia; political unrest at home; is it 2014 or 1985 or 1978 or 1959 or 1913? Has nothing changed within these geopolitical situations? Of course, everything has changed.There have been new regimes, new faces, and new promises; the old guard has passed; generations have come and gone; the young and the restless have replaced the traditional and the settled. But the root issues and causes — things like greed, selfishness, sexism, patriarchy, racism, and tribalism, remain untouched.Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world; but no one thinks of changing himself.” Everything we see in the larger world - the good, the bad, and the ugly - is a reflection of the individual, human heart. You can’t maintain a sane world when everyone in it is crazy. So we can’t begin with the world. We have to begin with our own hearts.One of the greatest British writers of the 20th century was G.K. Chesterton. He was great in size — a 300 pound, mountain of a man — and great with his words: Newspaper articles, short stories, essays, novels, theology, and poetry. But my favorite essay of his is a tiny one written to his local newspaper, The London Times.The editors solicited responses from the paper’s readership by asking this question: “What is wrong with the world?” Hundreds of long, verbose letters poured in. Then eminent authors and leading thinkers of the day were asked to respond to the question. The shortest and most powerful response to “What is wrong with the world?” came from Chesterton. He wrote: “Dear Sirs, I am.”

  • Shapiro: ‘Sacred Waters’ looks at water’s role in ritual, contemporary life

    Jews from across the Southwest will gather in the Valley on Oct. 11-12 for “Sacred Waters,” a program sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), to explore the role of water in Jewish tradition and ritual, as well as the relationship Jews have to water in the Southwest and, geopolitically, in the Middle East.“Sacred Waters” will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 11, with a Havdalah service, marking the end of the Sabbath, followed by a performance of “The Mikveh Monologues” and a dessert reception at Temple Chai, 4645 E. Marilyn Road, Phoenix. The play, by Janet Buchwald and the weekend’s special guest, author Anita Diamant, is based on interviews with men, women and children who marked a life transition by immersing in a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath.Diamant, the author of 11 books — with a 12th on the way, is the keynote speaker for a Day of Learning on Sunday, Oct. 12, at Congregation Beth Israel, 10460 N. 56th St., Scottsdale. Diamant is well-known for her novels such as “The Red Tent” and nonfiction books such as “Living a Jewish Life,” as well as many articles for magazines such as Real Simple and Parenting. As the founding president of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in the Boston metropolitan area, she is ideally suited to discuss the ancient ritual of immersion in “living waters” and contemporary use of the ritual as a means of spiritual renewal. As the home of the Stein Family Community Mikveh, the only Reform community mikveh in Arizona, Congregation Beth Israel is ideally suited to host the day of learning.The program will also include speakers from Reform Jewish leadership and clergy, as well as the education and business worlds. The Day of Learning begins with registration at 8 a.m., and the program will run from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.Registration is now open for “Sacred Waters,” the first lay-led URJ community event convened in the Southwest. It is open to anyone interested in the Jewish community. Cost to attend is $55 for the full program, $36 for the Saturday program only, or $30 for the Sunday program only.For more details or to register, visit www.urj.org/west/sacredwaters.

  • Take me Home: Budda is a gentle boy

    Budda was found as a stray and he wasn’t very good at it, nor did he like it. He was dirty and very hungry and skinny. It was obvious he was once someone’s cat as he was very affectionate and seemed to be OK with children. A veterinarian’s estimate of Budda’s age is about 7 years old. Budda is a laid-back and gentle boy. He loves belly rubs and seems to be good with other cats. It isn’t known if he’d enjoy the company of a dog. Budda has gotten his teeth cleaned, he’s neutered, up to date on vaccinations, and microchipped. His adoption fee is $85.If you’d like to meet Budda or just learn more about him, contact Friends for Life at (480) 497-8296 or visit www.azfriends.org.

  • Keeping the Faith: Another brick in the wall

    Janet Hagberg was the first person who defined the experience for me. I had lived through it, but I didn’t know what to call it. In a book entitled, “The Critical Journey,” Janet called the experience, simply, “The Wall.” My summary goes like this. Many people begin their walk of faith, and everything goes as they expected. Out of genuine conviction, they attend church, learn from the Scriptures, volunteer, serve, give, and become “productive, committed, faithful, Christians” (whatever that exactly means, who knows?). But somewhere along the way things go wrong. Terribly wrong.The orderly, stalwart faith that used to “work” for these true believers becomes a muddled mess. Yes, they once taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, chaperoned the youth group, chaired the Stewardship Committee, and had bullet-proof answers to all questions of faith. But then, all at once or over an extension of time, their faith splintered into a million tiny pieces.The woman, who was taught that living a godly life would protect her marriage, goes through a divorce. The church to which a pastor gave his best years, his heart and soul, fires him because of some petty transgression or because he didn’t go visit a prominent church member who was in the hospital with the gout. A child falls deathly ill and heaven seems silent as a stone, all while the godly parents pray for a miracle. A husband/father dies, leaving behind a young wife and even younger children. An accident leaves the once healthy college student broken and mutilated, physically and spiritually.The circumstances come in variegated form, but the impact is the same. It is more than a crisis of faith, more than theological bump in the road; these are an unraveling that robs people of their confidence and comfort. The once unshakable believer descends downward into the blackness of doubt, what Saint John of the Cross called “the Dark Night of the Soul.” Adding insult to injury, sometimes the only thing the church or we ministerial types can say in those moments is, “Why don’t you pray more? Just believe. Let go and let God. Confess your sin. Try harder.” Not only is this insensitive, asinine advice, it simply won’t work. Those who have hit “The Wall” feel so lost and adrift, so dismantled at their very core, that to keep doing what they were doing – only with more enthusiastic dedication – is impossible.Like a bug striking a windshield, a sledgehammer falling on clods of dirt, or a ball sent through a bay window, “The Wall” breaks faith and people apart. I wish it were different. I wish such pain could be avoided. I wish there was a way to get over, under, or around these types of experiences, but if you live long enough, you will feel your faith being smashed and shattered. The only question left is, “What will come out of the splintered and scattered pieces?”Here is your choice: You can harden your heart and sweep the shards of your faith into the dustpan, giving up on faith and God completely; or you can pick up the broken pieces, with bloody hands and heart, and reassemble faith on the other side of doubt.

  • Keeping the Faith: Love is the final word

    This is the first year of the official Sept. 11th Museum and Memorial. Located underground, on the foundation stones of the World Trade Center Towers, it contains more than 10,000 artifacts of the day, 23,000 pictures, and an archive of more than 500 hours of video.Within the collection of artifacts and archives there is also an assembly of audio recordings; final conversations of those in the towers as they called home, spouses, parents, partners, friends, and left voice mails. Rabbi Irwin Kula is responsible for collecting a good many of these conversations.In the days after 9/11 he began seeking out the last words and sentences of anyone he could find who was killed that day. He took those words and adapted them into a chant for his synagogue. The tune and meter of the chant he chose was traditionally about the destruction of the Jewish temple. He thought it appropriate for the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.What he discovered was not only that the words fit the traditional chant perfectly, but also this: All the final conversations he had in his collection were about love. Not a single person used his or her last breathe to say, “Kill those bastards for what they have done … Be sure to get revenge … I hate them for what they did to me … Avenge my memory.” Every last word was an “I love you” of some variety.Here is what Rabbi Kula learned, “Then I recognized what the real Torah, the real wisdom…the real experience behind religion is … it is about love … and it’s no more complicated than that. As a rabbi, my community of rabbis, and I think priests, ministers, and monks — we’ve made it a lot more complicated than it is. When you make it more complicated than it is, you lose the experience.” Beautifully said.As I understand the Bible, particularly as I read it through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth, God isn’t much into religion. He’s not interested in carving up the world along tribal or cultic lines. He’s not officiating a spiritual contest, declaring winners and losers in who can most strongly declare how right they are. That’s all much too complicated. Rather, he works to put the world on the right path, on the road to redemption, on the way of love.

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