Some Updates

Your shepherds (elders) and sheepdogs (individuals who intentionally look after your safety) met together a couple of weeks ago to evaluate what we are doing, and to explore additional measures we might take, to keep everyone safe at church. This is obviously not a new concern for the elders. We’ve long had procedures in place to assure the safety of our children, fire alarms are at all exits, a smoke alarm system was installed years ago, we have an AED defibrillator in the hallway, and several have been carrying concealed since it was made legal.

We started locking the front doors after the worship service starts a couple of months ago, and have now started locking the side entrance before the morning message. Church doors will also be kept locked during the week. Last week we had the alarm system completely tested, and put up additional signs to indicate that we do have security in our church facility. Specific protocols in case of weather emergency, fire, or hostile incursion are being formulated to share with ushers, nursery workers and teachers.

Obviously the specifics of every possible emergency cannot be anticipated, but we do feel a responsibility to do what we can to keep everyone as safe as possible. If there is something more you feel we should be doing, please let me, Mark, or one of the elders know what it might be.

On a different note, I want to update you on personal plans. I’ve shared with you the fact that cancer has been found in my prostate, and that I was exploring options for treatment. I have now decided to proceed with brachytherapy, the implantation of radioactive seeds. I’m scheduled to have a volume study on March 20 to make certain I’m a good candidate for this form of treatment, and to determine how many titanium seeds to prepare for implantation that will take place a month later.

In the meantime, I’m heading for Mickey Mouse World for my last trip there with the grandkids. Now don’t get the wrong idea. I simply mean this will hopefully conclude my obligatory grandfatherly trips to a place that has never been on my personal bucket list.

Mark will be preaching next week, but I’m planning to be back in the pulpit on the 11th.

God Bless, Rick

Guarding a Child’s Character

In view of the school shooting last week, I’m surprised no one asked to borrow Assassination Generation. If someone had, however, I wouldn’t have been able to read to the class from it the shocking story line from Grand Theft Auto V. And to say it was shocking is an understatement.

If I can’t get parents to read the book, I do hope I can at least get them to look over the video games that their children and teens are playing. The video game industry came up with a rating system that leaves much to be desired, but at least does indicate that A (AO): Adults Only, and M: Mature videos contain intense violence, blood and gore, graphic sexual content, and strong language. Even T: Teen may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, blood, and strong language. E10: Everyone 10+ is considered to be generally suitable for ages 10 and up, but may contain mild violence, mild language, and minimal suggestive themes. E: Everyone is generally suitable for all ages. At the very least, parents should monitor what kind of games their kids are playing.

Acknowledging the connection between what children see and hear, and their behavior, is nothing new. More than two thousand years ago Plato had this to say:

“And the beginning, as you know, is always the most important part, especially in dealing with anything young and tender. That is the time when the character is being molded and easily takes any impress one may wish to stamp on it.
…Then shall we simply allow our children to listen to stories that anyone happens to make up, and so receive into their minds often the very opposite of those we shall think they ought to have when they are grown up?
No, certainly not.
It seems, then, our first business will be to supervise the making of fables and legends, rejecting all which are unsatisfactory; and we shall induce nurses and mothers to tell their children only those which we have approved, and to think more of molding their souls with these stories…
A child cannot distinguish the allegorical sense from the literal, and the ideas he takes in at that age are likely to become indelibly fixed; hence the great importance of seeing that the first stories he hears shall be designed to produce the best possible effect on his character.”

God Bless, Rick

Shepherds and Sheepdogs

I mentioned in my Sermon last Sunday that several of us attended a Sheepdog Seminar in Peoria. The seminar took a hard look at the violence that is not only in our society, but that is invading our churches as well. It explored ways that we should prepare for the possibility of armed aggression from without, and the need to protect our children from predators that often come from within.

Our shepherds and sheepdogs will be giving serious consideration to action that should be taken to keep us all safe in the near future, but for now you shouldn’t be shocked to find doors locked more than usual. We recently started locking the front doors after the service begins, and will probably begin locking even the side entrance doors after the offering has been taken. Doors will also be kept locked during the week.

The main presenter for the afternoon sessions was Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman. Not only does he instruct military and law enforcement agencies on how to handle violence, he has also written books on the relationship between violent video games and the explosion of violence in our schools and homes. We showed one of his videos nearly twenty years ago that called our attention to this problem, but now I have his latest book on the topic, Assassination Generation.

The connection between violence in the media, violent video games, and violent behavior is indisputable. Col. Grossman concludes his book by stating: “Early childhood exposure to cartoons and media violence lays a foundation for bullying and violent behavior at a young age. This, in turn, sets the stage for a society where children and adolescents immerse themselves in addictive video games that teach them how to kill, attack, and bully. In this way, media violence is a progressive problem. What starts with cartoons, movies, and television shows in the early years slides into violent video games in adolescence, causing children to sink deeper and deeper into the psychological and biological conditions that I’ve explored in these pages.”

If you aren’t controlling what your kids are watching and playing, you need to read this book.

God Bless, Rick

Florida & Fellowship

It’s always good to come back to below zero after a week in Florida. My nose may not actually be frost-bitten, but it’s surely growing longer! Anyway, it is good to be home.

Since I’m really not one for sitting in the sun, our hosts graciously took a break from their regular vacation schedule of relaxing around the pool, and joined us in a whirlwind of activity for a week. After driving 1250 miles in two days to get there, I talked them into driving across Alligator Alley to Key West on Saturday. We spotted 30-40 alligators, one endangered Key Deer, a lot of hurricane damage, and had the best fish dinner they had ever had. On Sunday we went to Anchor Christian Church, enjoyed a sermon by Jeff Chitwood, and made arrangements to have dinner the next day with Rocky and Deby Barron.

On Monday and Wednesday Alan and I went shooting at the Alamo while the girls sat poolside, and on Tuesday I spent $100 fishing with a guide on Lake Trafford. I caught one crappie. Not sure how much that comes to per pound. On Thursday we headed back to the Everglades and rode an airboat, saw lots of gators, and had a another great seafood dinner. On Friday Alan and Becky had a day of rest, and we drove 850 miles to Matt’s so we could celebrate Josie’s 8th birthday on Saturday.

I didn’t spend enough time poolside to read Killing the Rising Sun in the sun, but I did get the book read. Two chapters focused on the battle at Peleliu, where my dad earned a Purple Heart. Like so many WWII vets, he didn’t talk much about the war, but reading what he went through gave me a much deeper appreciation for what he endured. He often told me that God spared him in battle because He had big plans for my life. I pray my life honors my dad’s sacrifice, and my Heavenly Father’s plan.

According to another plan, I didn’t get back in time for the Super Bowl party. It’s not that I don’t enjoy fellowship, just that I don’t like games, or football. However, on the drive home, “They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired,” did somehow get into my head.

God Bless, Rick