Tag Archives: Copper Hills Church

The 2016 Election

Surely, you must have seen this coming. You didn’t think I’d let this year’s presidential election pass by without offering at least a few words on the subject…did you? It probably would’ve been better, for our peace of mind and our health in general, if we all would’ve just paid less attention to the campaigns that have seemingly been going on forever. I once had a boss who would periodically say, “If you ignore a problem long enough…it just might go away.” Maybe not the soundest advice, but every so often his words rang true.

Unfortunately, there’s been way too much, and at times extremely biased and senseless, media coverage concerning the 2016 presidential race to just ignore. We’ve been undeservedly subjected to whining, bickering, mocking, false claims, half truths, and out and out lies for the past year and a half. Finally, the end is in sight. To clarify, only the days of our answering machines filling up with unsolicited political endorsements, our mailboxes overflowing with umpteen unwanted slick mailers recommending even slicker politicians, and our days of being bombarded with those nasty television commercials are almost over. However, the arguing, finger pointing, and political rhetoric will never end. It’s simply unavoidable with America’s two-party system firmly in place.

It’s still so surreal, and quite baffling, knowing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two remaining candidates we’re left with. I’m well aware there will be other choices for president on the ballot, but they have absolutely no chance (zero, zip, nada) of winning a 4-year stay at the White House. It’s been reported numerous times that Trump and Clinton hold the highest unfavorable ratings ever as nominees of their respective parties. The 2016 presidential election is apparently about electing who we despise the least. I’m not here to offer an endorsement, or attempt to change anyone’s mind (not that it would do any good), but I would like to offer a few observations concerning this year’s election.

I haven’t met anyone who is totally on board with either Trump or Clinton. I know those people must exist because I’ve seen them on television, but I’ve discovered firsthand that most supporters tend to be more anti-Trump or anti-Clinton rather than pro-Trump or pro-Clinton. I also recognize I fit into one of those anti categories. I’ve been sporting a “Nobody For President” t-shirt (thank you Kohl’s) during the last few months, and I have received numerous compliments from passersby. An evening at the Arizona State Fair alone produced no fewer than 30 fairgoers concurring with my 100% cotton statement. It was quite refreshing seeing Blacks, Whites, Latinos, both men and women, and the young and old alike in agreement with one another on something. My t-shirt, albeit not the most positive of messages, has been a reminder that we’re all in this together.

I was all set to use this space to assure everyone the 2016 presidential election is not rigged, but then I looked up the meaning of the adjective Donald Trump has been using on a regular basis, and I must admit he is not wrong. Prior to expanding my knowledge through Wikipedia, I thought The Donald was only suggesting that even if he won the election he would still somehow lose due to some sort of corruption behind the scenes. If that’s truly what Trump thinks then I would have to strongly disagree. However, the word rigged does mean manipulated, distorted, and misrepresented. I think many in the media have been guilty of all those things; hence, a rigged election. Sometimes there have been isolated incidents of voter fraud during an election cycle, but I don’t think that’s germane to what’s been going on these past couple of months.

I do believe this year’s presidential election has been skewed (I like that word better) for a long time now. The resistance to a Trump presidency began on August 6th, 2015, during the first Republican debate, with Megyn Kelly’s initial question for Trump. Actually, it really wasn’t much of a question – it was more of an attack and an assortment of accusations. (I think we all know by now how The Donald responds whenever he’s attacked.) The pushback to Trump occupying the Oval Office has been relentless ever since. I cannot think of any other time in America’s history when droves of respected members from one political party defected to support the opposing party’s candidate.

In addition, for the first time in its 34-year existence, USA Today decided to “endorse” a presidential candidate – NOT Trump! The “pile on” continues. I suppose the overwhelming resistance to a Trump presidency makes perfect sense because The Donald is not your typical Republican. In fact, some might even suggest the American businessman is a RINO (Republican In Name Only). That might explain why the ultra-conservative Mitt Romney initiated the Never Trump movement. There’s no denying Trump has endured a skewed election like no other (some deserved, but some not).

What’s surprising to me is how much Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seem to have in common, yet supposedly the majority of Sanders’ supporters are now in the Clinton camp (although some reluctantly) at the former presidential candidate’s urging. Both Trump and Sanders are “outsiders.” Senator Sanders has somehow managed to represent the state of Vermont as an Independent (instead of as part of the establishment), and Donald Trump is certainly no politician. The “odd couple” frequently speak out against corporate lobbyists and special interest groups. Both Trump and Sanders tend to take a non-interventionist approach regarding foreign policy which happens to differ from Hillary Clinton’s stance. Yes, Trump blathered about “bombing the s**t out of ISIS,” but Clinton has hinted at declaring war against Syria. Those are two entirely different things.

Trump and Sanders were against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from the beginning. The pair consistently link the TPP to NAFTA and insist the proposed agreement would only further the outsourcing of American jobs and hurt our economy. Hillary praised the TPP while acting as Secretary of State in President Obama’s administration, but she has since come out against the trade agreement as well. However, some political insiders, including Eleanor Clift: a liberal panelist from sadly the now defunct The McLaughlin Group, believe Clinton may secretly still be in favor of the TPP. I guess only time will tell.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have recently voiced their opposition to the possible merger of AT&T and Time Warner. I’m not too familiar with the specifics of the planned merger, but once again the real estate mogul and the Larry David look-alike appear to be of the same mind on this particular issue. Meanwhile, Clinton has taken a position of neutrality by only saying the AT&T-Time Warner merger “raises questions and concerns and they should be looked into.” It’s a little difficult, at least for me, to understand why any Sanders supporter would completely loathe Trump when some of the odd couple’s reasoning and proposed policies are identical. Likewise, I don’t know how any Trump supporter can dislike everything about Sanders. There are definitely some conflicting views between Trump and Sanders, but it sure would be nice if occasionally someone from one political party would publicly acknowledge when he is in agreement with someone from another party. I reckon that’s just asking too much in this day and age.

I assume lots of people will go to the polls this year with an angry us versus them mentality, and that’s disappointing, but at least they’ll be exercising their right to vote. I think if we’d all take a closer look then we’d see that the majority of candidates are more alike than we are usually willing to admit, and by acknowledging that maybe we’d have less vitriol in this country during election cycles. Some people will vote their party while others will vote their conscience. Some will go to the polls very concerned about possible Supreme Court Justice nominations while others will be more interested in a candidate’s proposed policies. I do think not voting though, when a person favors one candidate over another (even if it’s ever so slightly), in actuality aids in the success of the less liked candidate.

This past Sunday, my pastor said he needed to say a few words about the upcoming election. I must confess I cringed at first because I’ve witnessed pastors overstepping from the pulpit before, but then I quickly remembered – this is Pastor Brad. Our leader began by telling the congregation that Copper Hills is an apolitical church. He then acknowledged his flock included both Democrats and Republicans who are equally passionate about their candidates. Pastor Brad then said we should vote. He and his family moved here from Canada several years ago, eventually becoming American citizens, so he cherishes his right to vote and believes the rest of us should as well.

Pastor Brad also stressed the importance of praying for our elected officials at all levels of government whether we agree with their agendas or not. The Bible tells us to do so. The Apostle Paul doesn’t halfheartedly suggest Christians pray for their leaders – he practically commands it (1st Timothy 2: 1-3). Pastor Brad finished relaying what was laid upon his heart by assuring his congregation that regardless of how the November 8th election turns out, “God’s got this.” Those three words are always a comfort to me. Before, during, and after the 2016 presidential election…God’s got this!


The Real Thanksgiving

I’m intentionally writing about the real thanksgiving in July, so there’s less chance of it being confused with the autumn holiday with the same name. What I’m speaking of is not confined to just a single day in November, although I surely don’t mind a designated day for feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie, but rather it’s a way of life. It’s not just about seeing the glass as half full, instead of half empty, or even trying to stay positive. I realize my words have been a bit cliché, up to this point, but I’m alluding to so much more. The real thanksgiving is recognizing there are many blessings to be thankful for on a daily basis. It’s possessing an authentic grateful heart. The real thanksgiving is being thankful for what you’ve got…not what you hope to get.

As a follower of Jesus I’m aware God owes me nothing, but He gives me everything! However, recently I almost forgot that fact after facing yet another physical ailment in a fairly short amount of time. I had simply bent over to pick up a tiny, weightless object (a leaf of all things), and when straightening up I instantly knew I had done something to my back. I had considerable discomfort, on my left side, and was now forced to walk with a limp. After about a week the pain was unbearable, and had put me completely out of commission, so I went to the doctor. I had a series of x-rays (which showed nothing) and was given a prescription for the pain (which barely helped). I was told that maybe I’d get better with time. What? Maybe?

I left the doctor’s office discouraged, and I quickly found myself engrossed in anger and having nothing but negative thoughts. I’m not even 50 years-old yet, but I already have a bad shoulder, bad hips, and have also been dealing with Plantar fasciitis for the past several months. My bodily afflictions have undoubtedly hampered my weightlifting and tennis playing, and they’ve somewhat put a damper on my spirits as well. Now I had a bad back to add to the list, so I figured if anyone was entitled to a pity party…surely it was me. Of course, I was wrong. I knew my health issues could be so much worse. That evening I apologized to God.

A few days later I saw a specialist, was diagnosed with (and treated for) a herniated disc, and have been improving ever since. I’m thrilled my lovely wife no longer has to put my shoes and socks on for me. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. In the midst of my ordeal I thought a lot about the real thanksgiving. My mother-in-law has a decorative plaque, hanging in her sunroom, which reads “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” Just imagine that: if whatever you’ve been blessed with today, but did not give thanks for, was gone tomorrow. Those words of wisdom certainly puts into perspective that we all have things, whether proportionately abundant or few, to be grateful for everyday.

God’s blessings to us, if we are totally honest with ourselves, are exceedingly greater than all of the negatives in our lives. One Sunday morning, last November, my pastor made a suggestion from the pulpit. He urged the congregation to individually make a list of everything we were thankful for. He then recommended we thank God, sometime during the week, for each blessing we had jotted down. I took my pastor’s “homework assignment” to heart. I was even compelled to retrieve a previous list, of things God has blessed me with, that I had written down as part of a “Soul Training” exercise found in the book, The Good and Beautiful God. My “Life Group” had been exploring the life-applicable book when I wrote my list of 107 blessings.

In the quiet of my home, with hands clasped and on my knees, I gave God my humble thanks. I began each praise aloud with “I bless you Lord God, King of the universe for…” as instructed by my pastor. I would then fill in the blank, from my extensive list, and add to my conversation with God by expanding my thoughts on most of the blessings before me. My list included everything from family, friends, and Copper Hills Church to mountains, the smell of fresh-cut grass, and homemade ice cream. The experience was so out of the ordinary (for me anyway) and well out of my comfort zone. I must admit I was somewhat apprehensive at first, and I certainly did not like hearing the sound of my own voice; however, I was only uncomfortable for about a minute.

I was expecting something from the exercise although I didn’t know what exactly. I do know I got much more out of it than I had anticipated. The 53 minutes went by quickly, and I was no worse for wear (except for maybe my knees). There were lots of tears, and I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. Our human nature tends to focus on the negatives of life rather than on the numerous positives. Therefore, we must deliberately call to mind all of God’s blessings around us if we want to experience the real thanksgiving.


God

They say you should never talk about politics or religion if you aim to keep your friends, or in my case readers, but I have never been one to really care what others think of me, so why start now. I’ve already scratched the political surface with my previous writings and have even touched on religion a bit, but as I was worshipping at Copper Hills Church this past weekend I was suddenly and overwhelmingly compelled by the Holy Spirit to share with you my thoughts on God. As I began seriously considering what needed to be said I couldn’t help but rethink the situation, and I started searching for reasons not to discuss this subject. That is what sometimes happens when the human flesh battles with the Spirit. Sitting in my usual spot (the comfy chair by the windows) at Starbucks, where I do most of my writing, I continued thinking about other possible topics to pursue, but the voice of the Holy Spirit is not easy to dismiss nor should it be. That being said, I am still struggling some with the subject matter since there is so much I could say, yet I feel a heavy sense of responsibility for conveying it in a complete and accurate way.

Therefore, the following is not me speaking on behalf of all Christians, but it is simply the truth as I know it. I also know that being prompted to write this at this time, with Easter upon us, is not just a coincidence. I have never been a big fan of the Easter Bunny, but I have enjoyed coloring eggs and participating in Easter egg hunts in the past. The reason I celebrate Easter though is because it is a special time for me to acknowledge that God’s only Son, Jesus, rose from the grave. He did so after suffering a painful and brutal death on an old wooden cross; therefore, conquering death for everyone who truly believes in Him. Jesus Christ was a spotless (sin-free) man, yet he willingly and humbly paid the ultimate price for each and every one of our sins. The sacrifice he had to endure seems very unfair, and it was, but fairness died in the Garden of Eden when man chose to disobey God, so now all believers and non-believers alike lead imperfect lives and experience unfairness while on this earth.

Although the sun shines and the rain falls, on both those who believe and those who don’t, believers are no longer enslaved to sin whereas non-believers still are. The only way out of enslavement is to acknowledge the one and only God, believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then accept Him into your life. That is precisely when the Holy Spirit begins to dwell inside of you and the gift of eternal life in Heaven with Him is given. Please be advised though that you’re not immune to sin after becoming a believer. Bad stuff still happens, and life remains unfair, but now you have your Savior walking by your side at all times. That’s the Good News! I cannot imagine dealing with the perils of everyday life such as losing a job, family issues, health issues, or even death and tragedies like 911 without having God in my corner.

Every Christian has their own story as to what brought them to the realization they needed God and to that certain point in their lives when they finally made the decision to follow Him. On the testimonial scale of 1-10, ten being the most earth-shattering, mine is maybe a two. I am almost envious of the numerous powerful testimonies I have heard over the years of people overcoming addictions, abusive backgrounds, and rotten childhoods with the much needed help of Christ. On second thought, maybe I’m actually more thankful I did not have to endure anything like that to lead me to Him. I was raised in a Christian home, so I knew the truth at an early age, and at some point I made the most important decision I will ever make of accepting Jesus into my life. As a Christ follower I am not perfect and still have many faults, please don’t tell my wife, and I would be a bit leery of any Christian who would pretend otherwise.

On that note, I would now like to apologize to any non-believer who is reading this and who has ever encountered a judgmental, arrogant, or hypocritical person that call themselves a Christian. I know it’s not that far fetched because even I encountered some of them at the church I grew up in. I am reminded of an episode of the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon finds out his very religious single mother is having, in his character’s all too familiar expanded word choice, “coitus.” He is extremely disappointed in his mother’s actions and tells her, “I’ll condemn you internally, while maintaining an outward appearance of acceptance.” Sheldon’s mother responds with the humorous line, “That is very Christian of you.” There are so many things wrong with the aforementioned scenario that I wouldn’t even know how to address it, but I do believe my responsibility as a Christian is to accept others as who they are and allow God to do the judging if and when He sees fit. There is a huge difference between being a Christ follower or just being religious. I once had a keychain that read, “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord,” which I think says it all. Well, I have now blogged about both politics and “religion” at great lengths, and I truly hope the Holy Spirit is pleased. Happy Easter!