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Life Community Church hosted a holiday event to entertain more than 100 kids with life-threatening illnesses.
On Sundays you will usually find me in a church somewhere talking about issues of Christian faith.
The Eucharistic Community of Francis of Assisi emphasizes “community” over going to church to pursue personal piety or to fulfill religious obligations. We consider the spread of Christianity in the early church due to how Christians loved and served one another. Therefore, we are devoted to one another through prayer and service.
Hundreds of volunteers from across the country are donating time, money and goods to spread holiday cheer to children across the globe.
Whenever I would get to this one gym, there was one particular gentleman that embodied the whole feel of the place. He was an unexpected surprise. Albert was an amazing gift to many different people. Patrons go to the gym to work out and feel good. Albert, a janitor, was a broad-shouldered man. He was dark-skinned with a distinctive shiny head. He had served our country in the U.S. Navy. He worked hard to make the place look good. He cleaned up other people’s mess. It was a dirty job — a thankless job on hands and knees cleaning dirty toilets. He served people with pride and professionalism.
Every time I load updates on my computer, I seem to get a lot more than I want. It’s so slow now I’ll have to ask one of my tech-savvy friends to declutter it. The reason for my angst is the mysteriously enhanced prevalence of the aptly named spinning wheel of death. You know the little symbol that appears to let you know that your web page selection is supposed to be loading. That tiny whirling dervish that just keeps on going round and round, while you stare at the screen wondering what’s taking so long, take a brief timeout to water your plants, visit the washroom, get a cup of coffee, and still end up twiddling your thumbs. Strangely enough, I can watch dreamy-eyed at clothes whirling and flopping around the laundromat dryer. But the moment that mini-me dryer equivalent appears whirling on my computer screen, I get restless and agitated. At least we know something purposeful is happening at the laundromat, whereas the computer offers no guarantees.
‘Elf: The Musical’
The town of Gilbert will have its annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25.
A few years ago I returned to speak at the church that was my first pastorate. The church was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and it had been more than a decade since I had stood in their pulpit. They welcomed me back with incredible grace and affection, and I was truly glad for the reunion.
She was a normal-looking young woman. Her baseball cap and glasses shielded most of her face. She sat in a row of chairs. There were people on her left and right. With a book in one hand and a bag in the other, she looked familiar. I could not place her but I had seen her before. Something was familiar. Maybe it was her logo on her bag. I walked around to get a different angle on her facial features. My heartbeat was beginning to pick up. Should I approach her or not? What if I make a fool of myself? What if it is her, and I miss the opportunity to meet her?
Numbers have meaning. If I walked up to a die-hard Arizona Cardinals fans and just said the number “11”, I bet they would say, “Larry Fitzgerald.” Or if I said the number “3,” I bet they would say, “Carson Palmer.” To be able to walk into a room, speak one number aloud and have someone know exactly who and what you are talking about shows that numbers have meaning.
Phoenix Veterans Day Parade
Taya Smith is like a lot of girls: she loves to skate, volunteers in her community and hates to travel without a stash of Clif Bars. She’s also one of the leading ladies of Christian music and member of the Australian band Hillsong United, who perform Friday, Nov. 7, in the Valley as part of the Winter Jam West Coast tour, which also features Francesca Battistelli, Colton Dixon, Trip Lee and Jeremy Camp.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my friend, Charles, and missing him. He was a husband, father, English teacher, social worker, canoeist, bluegrass player, therapist, connoisseur of green-apple moonshine, and a good friend.
As a person who speaks in front of crowds on a regular basis, I often get into funny conversations with people I meet. We have five campuses across the Valley so most people in our church hear me preach at a distance. When all you know is what you see from afar, or on video, real life has a way — evidently — of surprising you. I’ve been told that I’m shorter than they thought and even that I have more gray hair than they’d expect. I’ve been told all manner of observations that catch me completely by surprise. People tend to turn off their regular social filters in moments like these. Normal etiquette falls by the wayside as blunt truth takes over.
The word watermark doesn’t tend to come up in casual conversation. Yet consciously or unconsciously, watermarks are a big part of daily life and faith. Here are a few examples. High-quality stationery has long been associated with watermarks. I can still remember my mom’s special bond-quality writing paper, with the curious watermark on every page. We all handle money regularly, but if you work in retail, banking, or any profession that deals with money frequently, then you’ll be more than familiar with the watermarks used in paper currency to help stop counterfeiting. The same is also true of those who work in airport security checking passports for the safety of all travelers. If you’re in any kind of construction work, home or building repair specialist, then watermarks have a whole different meaning, especially if you’re called in to deal with the aftermath of a flood or some other type of water damage. Then there’s digital watermarking used in audio or image data for copyright purposes. Other types of digital watermarks protect data integrity and computer security. Last, but not least, from a spiritual perspective, the word watermark reminds us of our baptism.
Gays are now legally marrying in Arizona.
PHOENIX -- Gays are now legally marrying in Arizona.
The historic move came just moments after Attorney General Tom Horne said Friday he will not appeal a decision earlier that morning by U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick declaring Arizona's ban on same-sex weddings unconstitutional and immediately ordering the state to "permanently cease enforcement of those provisions of Arizona law declared unconstitutional by this order.'' That followed a similar ruling earlier this week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voiding similar laws in Nevada and Idaho.
"The probability of the 9th Circuit reversing today's district court decision is zero,'' Horne said at a hastily called press conference just hours after Sedwick's ruling. "The probability of the U.S. Supreme Court accepting review of the 9th Circuit decision is also zero.''
Horne said while he believes the rulings are wrong, he is bound by rules that make it unethical -- and subject to discipline -- for an attorney to file legal papers solely for the purpose of delay. He said that would be the case were he to appeal, calling such a move "an exercise in futility.''
Potentially more significant, Horne directed the clerks of superior courts in the state's 15 counties to immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"The emails have gone out,'' he told reporters, noting that even before he announced his decision there already were 10 couples waiting at the clerk's office for Maricopa County.
Horne said he personally disagrees with Sedwick's ruling. He cited the 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment defining marriage in Arizona as solely between one man and one woman.
"We fought a revolution against England on the understanding that we're smart enough to rule ourselves as a people and we didn't need a British aristocracy ruling over us,'' he said.
"I believe we're still smart enough to rule over ourselves as a people,'' Horne continued. "And this is an important decision and it's a policy decision that should be made by the people and not by the courts.''
But Horne conceded that right of voters to set policy is not unlimited.
For example, he said Arizona voters could not legally deny marriage between people of different races or different religions. Horne said there are constitutional provisions prohibiting such discrimination.
"There's no provision in the Constitution protecting sexual orientation,'' he said. "In my opinion, this would be a policy matter for the people to decide.''
Friday's order means more than gays living here can marry. It also requires Arizona to recognize same-sex weddings performed in other states.
"We're legal in Arizona, finally,'' said the Rev. Debra Peevey who, with spouse Candy Cox went to Horne's press conference. Peevey, who in 1981 became the first openly gay person to be ordained by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), said the pair, who have been together 30 years, went to California in 2008 to get married when it became legal for same-sex couples to wed in that state.
Peevey, who works with Why Marriage Matters, said her organization was instrumental in arranging to have ministers of various faiths available at courthouses around the state so that gay couples could wed as soon as they got their licenses.
Gov. Jan Brewer, in a prepared statement, called Friday's ruling "not only disappointing but also deeply troubling that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states.'' She said judges are creating rights "based on their own personal policy preferences.''
"Simply put, courts should not be in the business of making and changing laws based on their personal agendas,'' Brewer said in her statement, saying "that power belongs to the states, and to the people.'' She said such changes should be allowed only through the Legislature or at the ballot.
There was already an organization formed to put such a measure on the 2016 ballot. And the chances for approval appeared good, with a statewide poll last year of 700 adult heads of households finding that 55 percent said they would support allowing gays and lesbians to wed, with just 35 percent opposed.
But that same survey also showed a deep cultural divide along party lines: Just 36 percent of Republicans were in favor of repealing the 2008 ban.
Friday's ruling makes that initiative drive not only unnecessary but also makes what the majority thinks legally irrelevant.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said Friday's ruling -- and even the failure of the U.S. Supreme Court to so far review similar rulings from elsewhere -- does not mean the fight over same-sex marriage is over.
She pointed out that several federal appellate courts have yet to weigh in on the issue. And Herrod said that if any one of them uphold a state's ban, that conflict between circuits could force the justices to step in.
Herrod has more than a passing interest in the issue. It was her organization that pushed the successful 2008 ballot measure defining marriage in Arizona as solely between one man and one woman.
She said the issue does not go away even if the Supreme Court does conclude there is a constitutional right of gays to wed. As proof she cited the historic 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade which declared that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
"The pro-life movement is stronger than ever,'' she said, citing a series of new restrictions on abortions that have been approved by states and upheld by courts. None of those rulings, however, have disturbed the basic premise of the 1973 decision.
Herrod has not disputed that public attitudes toward same-sex weddings have softened over the years. But she said that will change.
"We are in the midst of a social experiment,'' she said. "And we don't know the full outcome.''
Horne, however, said he cannot view the issue as a social one but a legal one.
"I fought it as far as I ethically could,'' he said of the challenge to the Arizona law. But Horne said his decision not to drag the case on "does not diminish my disagreement with the decision.''
Horne was a little more circumspect when asked about his feelings for gays now that they have the ability to marry.
"Obviously, I have good personal feelings for gay people that I know,'' he said, saying he is involved in "the world of classical music'' where he said gays are represented disproportionately. But Horne said he had the legal obligation to defend the Arizona ban as long as it was defensible.
Pressed for whether he shares in the happiness of gays who now can marry, he responded, "Without detracting from the legal position I have taken, I would say, 'Yes.' ''
While traveling in Central America, I had the opportunity to worship at an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church. The congregation contained Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Latinos, Americans, and Asians. We sang old Irish hymns and modern, Australian worship choruses. The service was a mixture of Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal elements. The welcome was given by a Canadian, a German read the Scripture lesson, and an American did the preaching. It was a wonderful, diverse experience, and for a little while I thought the kingdom of God had come.
Oct. 5 is World Communion Sunday. It is an annual event, the first Sunday of each October, in which Christians worldwide celebrate our oneness in Christ. There is a unity to the faith, scarcely as it might appear and in spite of our many differences and traditions. Special services will be held around the globe testifying to this fact.
Our society loves labels of all kinds. Many of us now check out the label on packaged food products before we buy them. Perhaps because we’re watching our weight, avoiding allergens, or trying to reduce the salt in our diet. Or maybe because we’re trying to make healthier choices about what goes into our body. Some of us just like to know where our fresh food is grown. When it comes to clothing, we may prefer a certain designer label, or a brand that we know fits us well. With greater social awareness of injustices around the world, many of us also look at labels so we can shop wisely for fair trade products, or avoid buying from countries with unfair or abusive labor practices. Then there are other labels such as nicknames, or descriptors that we use to conveniently label and categorize people. These labels, which are largely subjective, quite often determine our attitudes and our treatment of others. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the cruel and hurtful labels that children of all ages use to dehumanize, taunt, or exclude others.
I grew up during the era of the video game. I had the good fortune to be a kid at the time Nintendo hit the market. This was long before the Xbox and PlayStation. This was when controllers were rectangles and buttons were few. My experience was unique to what my parents had growing up. Most games were shockingly simple, especially by today’s standards. But one game in particular stands out to me all these years later.
Alex Nsengimana wasn’t familiar with many of the contents in the shoebox delivered to his Rwandan orphanage, so he pulled out the candy cane and bit into it — wrapper and all. He received his first Christmas present from Operation Christmas Child — an organization that packs shoeboxes with presents and delivers them to impoverished children across the world.
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.
Chandler Christian Academy
19620 S. McQueen Road
(480) 899-9197 or ChandlerChristianAcademy.org
Originally an extension of Chandler Church of the Nazarene, Chandler Christian Academy came into existence in 2012 as a preschool-through-eighth-grade educational option. The academy offers a curriculum rooted in Christian principles mixed with a strong academic program. Chandler Christian Academy also has special activities like a passport club, volleyball, guitar lessons and other options for students to create a well-rounded educational experience.
St. Mary-Basha Catholic School
(480) 963-4951 or EDline.net/pages/stmarybasha_catholic_es.
THIRD PLACE — TIE
Seton Catholic Preparatory High School
1150 N. Dobson Road
(480) 963-1900 or SetonCatholic.org
Valley Christian High School
6900 W. Galveston St.
(480) 705-8888 or VCHSaz.org.
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