August 5, 2016

Why I Don't Wear a Cross

As a child growing up in church, I strove to understand what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I attended Sunday school faithfully for years, but my teachers didn’t do much to help the process. That is, they filled my brain with theology, rules, and information, but not a lot of practical advice. We never (and I mean, never) discussed sex, dating, decision-making, discipleship, drug abuse, or any of the important real-world issues that affect the daily life of a 20th-century teenager in the big city. I wanted to live a righteous live worthy of my calling, but…how?

The physical trappings of faith confounded me. Jesus wore a robe and sandals, but I have to wear a tie and shiny shoes? Our Messiah worshiped in the open air and fed the poor, but we had to spend endless sums to repair our crumbling chapel? So many questions I dared not ask.

July 20, 2016

Intrigue at Pasadena

For about the past twenty years, my sister has been engaged in the research of our family history. In the course of this project, she has turned up dozens of relatives that we didn’t know we had. Sometimes she confirms information that we already knew, while occasionally she discovers that we had it all wrong.

This week she discovered an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Examiner (a Hearst newspaper, now defunct), dated December 31, 1908. As a writer, I was amused by the curious grammar and word choices. The headline:

June 28, 2016

Don't Be a Boob

Just yesterday, one of my friends posted an intriguing question of Facebook: Is it proper for a woman to breastfeed a child in a public place? What do you think? Ah, one of those topics that is sure to bring out strong opinions on all sides.

About a dozen people answered, all women, and the broad consensus was “Sure. Just be discreet, and don’t make a show of it.” But as the odds would have it, a couple of people came out on both extremes: “No, never expose yourself in public! It’s gross!” and “Yes, I’ve got my constitutional rights, and no one can stop me!” (I should mention, all of these respondents identified themselves as Christians. I will explain why this is significant, in just a moment.)

June 16, 2016

Of Guns and Crosses

I’m a Christian. There, I’ve said it.

When I out myself as such, I never know what to expect. Some people love me, some hate me (although they’re far too polite to say so), and some just don’t care.

Indeed, the unfavorable perception of my religion is not entirely undeserved. We all know a few grumpy religious hypocrites, don’t we? And of course, there’s the baggage of history: The Crusades, the Inquisitions, and so on. Without a doubt, some of the greatest criminal atrocities of all time have been committed in the name of Christ.

One thing for sure, these guys don’t speak for me. They’ve hijacked my religion, based on a false reading of my holy book. They don’t represent my beliefs or my politics. Further, most modern Christians will likewise quickly distance themselves from such things.

June 1, 2016

If You Seek to Be Understood, Seek to Understand

I found this article in the Huffington Post today, and the title intrigued me: Black, Gay Christians Do Exist, And It’s Time You Hear Us. While I have never endured the persecution and heartbreak that this young man describes, I nonetheless believe that he has drawn the wrong conclusions from the experience.

First, I was born and raised in Hollywood. So as you might imagine, my education in these matters began at a very early age, long before my juvenile brain knew how to process the information. Yes, I know you exist, and nothing in this article is new. I heard these arguments over 40 years ago.
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January 11, 2016

Writer Seeks Clear Communication. Hello?


I have a confession to make: In my old age, I fear that I’ve grown into a crusty curmudgeon. And for this, I cast all blame on comedian Jerry Seinfeld. That’s right. You might recall that he became famous with the line, “have you ever noticed…?” And sure enough, he has yielded hundreds (thousands?) of insightful observations about the quirks of human nature.

My latest gripe: fast-food joints.

About 20 years ago, McDonald’s introduced combo deals. That is, instead of ordering “Big Mac, fries, and a Coke,” you can just say “Number one.” The other chains quickly followed, and I always imagined that the new arrangement could make the ordering process much more efficient. Just imagine that your store serves 500 customers per day, and you could cut five seconds from the processing of each order. It adds up; that’s about 42 minutes that an employee can spend doing something else. Probably more, I would think, if the simplified new procedure cuts down on mistakes.
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October 26, 2015

My Fateful Ninety Minutes in Albuquerque



This weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking and teaching at the Heart of America Christian Writers’ Conference. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the highlight of my weekend.

During my stay in Kansas City, I watched the Royals win the big game. In the so-called City of Fountains, all of the water in said fountains was dyed blue. But that wasn’t the highlight of my weekend, either.

About an hour into my three-hour flight home on Southwest Airlines flight 3064, I heard a slight commotion a couple of rows behind me. The flight attendants seemed to be paying special attention to something or someone there. But it was none of my business, and I had a manuscript to edit. Nose back to the grindstone.

August 3, 2015

Shall We Kill the Killers?

Some political issues seem to go in and out of season, from one year to the next. For a while we obsess over abortion, then evolution, then racism, then equal pay. Rarely do they occupy the front page at the same time. Recently, the trial of James Holmes has brought wide attention to the issue of capital punishment, for the first time in a while. Should he give his life, as punishment for the murder of dozens of moviegoers in 2013?

Some would insist that capital punishment is a perfectly proportionate penalty: a life for a life, seems perfectly reasonable. Others argue the opposite, that a death penalty is the ultimate hypocrisy: That if it’s wrong for me to kill you, then it’s equally immoral for the state to kill me.

June 29, 2015

Humpf! So You REALLY Think You'll Gain Converts This Way?



According to the age-old axiom, there are basically two reasons why people don’t become Christians:

      1- They don’t know any Christians, who might share the gospel with them; and

      2-   They do.

For the uninitiated: Almost every American has a Christian friend or neighbor or co-worker. But the only example they see, is an endless flow of angry rants and hypocrisy. They don’t see faith, or love, or a genuine concern for the welfare of their neighbor. Instead, they see a pious and self-righteous nutcase. And who would ever want to join up with THAT?

June 20, 2015

"Transgender kids?" I don't think so.



My mother figured out early on, that she wasn’t like the other girls. While her peers played with dolls, she searched the creek for frogs. While the others hosted tea parties, she climbed trees. (Remarkable, seeing as she was born without a right hand.) She never wore a dress, or put up her hair, except under compulsion for Sunday morning Mass.

Clinical diagnosis, anyone?

For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading news stories about children who felt uncomfortable in their own skin. They don’t fulfill the roles, or display the behaviors, that “society” expects of them. And their enlightened, sensitive parents do…what?  They respect the child’s desire to self-identify as the other gender.