Randall Church Commits Crime to Get Back Into Prison

Stepping out to freedom, “I didn't know how to use computers or cell phones or the Internet,” Church said. “The weirdest thing was walking into a store, like Walmart, and have parents hide their children from me, like I was supposed to jump at them.”

Fed up on July 10, 96 days after his release, he poured gasoline through a window of the empty house on the Southeast Side, then threw in flaming rags and paper towels, setting the place on fire.
The story goes on:

He made his way to San Antonio and was living on a small ranch with a relative of a friend he met in prison. On her property was a dilapidated, three-story house, abandoned for almost a decade. Things weren't getting any better, and Church decided to burn it down...Three days later, he turned himself in by treating himself to a hamburger, French fries and two chocolate shakes at the Jim's restaurant on Loop 410 and Perrin Beitel. He savored every taste, knowing he only had 31 cents in his pocket. Then he asked the waitress to call police, saying he did not want to cause a scene.

Her manager told Church he could leave if he never came back, so he told them he had committed a crime, Church recalled. 

Wisdom from (ab)Normals

Phoenix Jones is a real-life superhero without any superpowers. I guess that just makes him a hero. He has been patrolling the streets of Seattle since mid-2010. The first major story about him came in January 2011, when Seattle's CBS affiliate covered the story of Jones stopping a car theft.

On October 9, 2011, he was arrested for breaking up a street brawl (the video below), charged with misdemeanor assault, and outed as Benjamin Fodor. Now he faces the situation that Spider-Man always dreaded, the public knowing his real name. It raises some new complications like being fired from his day job of teaching life skills to autistic children and facing whether to receive endorsements.

Phoenix Jones Stops Assault from Ryan McNamee on Vimeo.

On, November 23, 2011, charges were dropped. What I like about Jones, despite being a little crazy, is that he is out there in the streets of Seattle doing what needs to be done. It is crazy that this is the place we have come to. It seems that every city has an area that the police force has just given up on. Jones patrols that neglected area and makes a difference.

In his statements, District Attorney Peter S. Holmes said: 
 “Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual. He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed.”
In Jones' press release stating his release, he rebutted:
Holmes claims I am a 'deeply misguided individual.' My concern about that statement is if I am 'misguided' while out on the streets of Seattle protecting people from violent assaults...would a 'guided' person just keep walking and allow someone to be kicked repeatedly in the head?
Phoenix Jones is weird. A great weird. This world needs a little more weird. 

Here Am I, Send Me

While hanging out with friends and discussing changes in our church and in our community, I was reminded about how resistant people are toward change. Talking about change unfurls feathers and causes stress. This impulsive reaction ignores the fact that most of the things we were doing that night were a result of changes. We were having fun with a game that was made in 1989. We were watching a show made in 2007 to spur discussion on equipment that wasn’t around thirty years ago. And yet in the midst of enjoying all these new things, all these changes, the idea that change was bad was still being expressed.

Many of the things that we truly enjoy were started in the last ten to twenty years. I go down to the park with my children and enjoy the playground. That was a change that became reality in October 2005. A change that came about from the result of the hard work of many. Then I look at the library. That didn’t open up until 1991. Nearly everything we enjoy in our community was a change at one time that probably faced resistance and required a lot of hard work. I look around and I see others working hard on changes that will impact the future. From planting new trees in the park to replace the dying ash trees to the people hard at work on the youth center to a new program at the school, tomorrow will be a better place because of the hard work of people who are bringing about change today.

Maybe change would be more palatable if we would sugar-coat the word “change” by calling it “improvements.” Whatever we want to label the concept of making things different tomorrow than they are today, it is all still the same. It is always difficult to bring about. It will always face opposition, but it is always necessary.

What legacy are we going to leave for future generations? I look at the hard work of the people who have come before and made this community the great place it is to live in today. That didn’t just happen by accident. That also didn’t happen without change.

The natural state of things is decay. If left untouched, our towns and churches would slowly dwindle. I look around and miss some things from my childhood. I miss the Ice Cream Depot, Dana providing living wage jobs in our community, and Ray’s Restaurant down on the corner. The sad reality is that a town or a church building can exist long after the life and community has left.

We need to be willing to stand up, work, and bring about the changes needed whether or not we face resistance. We need to ask ourselves what we can do to really make tomorrow a better place in our churches and our community. The question of whether our community and churches are where they are destined to be in the future is predicated on whether we are living in His will today.

Change is going to happen. The question is not whether things will be different tomorrow; it is whether things will be better tomorrow because of the changes happening today. Those changes can be good if we bathe them in prayer, bring others along with us, and work diligently to make our invisible dreams break through into a better reality. Or they will be bad if we ignore the fact that change happens. We are either building up a better tomorrow or watching the hard work of the previous generation decay.

God is at work, prompting people to help shape our community and our churches into what God has destined for them to be. But God is not a dictator. He never forces His will. It is up to us to respond like Isaiah did. The story goes, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).

Send me. Not my neighbor. Not the person sitting across the aisle. Send me! That needs to be our reply if we want our community and our churches to be what God wants them to be next year, five years from now, or even twenty years from now. Please join me in saying, “Here am I, send me.”

Statements of Belief, Division, and I Am Second

Recently, I ran across the organization I Am Second when looking for a video to share before a sermon I was working on. They made an awesome Tony Dungy video that I was debating on using. I went to see how much it would cost to use, when I found out that I needed to agree with their statement of belief to use it. What turned into a brief attempt at finding an appropriate video clip turned into a diatribe on church unity.

Below is their statement of belief followed by the letter I wrote after facing, "You must accept the statement of faith."

I Am Second's Statement of Belief

THE GOAL OF UNITY. The task of finally finishing the Great Commission is bigger than any one part of the Body of Christ. God wants to use the entire Body of Christ to finish this task. I am Second and its parent organization, e3 Partners Ministry, seek to be an answer to the prayer Christ Himself prayed in John 17:20-21:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word: that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

UNITY BASED ON TRUTH. I am Second and e3 Partners Ministry seeks to serve as a catalyst for spiritual, Biblical unity in the Body of Christ as we serve various parts of the Body. While we pray and work toward unity, we also are mindful of Paul’s caution in Galatians 1:8, 9:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

STATEMENT OF FAITH. Unity must be based on truth. Cooperation that results in a dilution or compromise of the essential truths of the Bible is ecumenism, not Holy Spirit-breathed Biblical unity. We seek to work with those who believe in the following Statement of Faith:

God. We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—and that these three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections.

Jesus. We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, death on the cross to provide for our redemption, bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, present ministry of intercession for us, and His return to earth in power and glory.

Holy Spirit. We believe in the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, that He performs the miracle of new birth in an unbeliever and indwells believers, enabling them to live godly lives.

Bible. We believe in the divine verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The whole Bible, in the original manuscripts, is without error. As the revelation of God, we believe the Bible to be the sole authority and sufficiency with regard to Christian faith and practice.

Man. We believe that man was originally created in the image of God. Adam fell through sin, and as a consequence of his sin, lost his spiritual life. This spiritual death, or total depravity of human nature, has been transmitted to the entire human race of man, the Man Christ Jesus alone being excepted. Thus every person is born into the world with a nature that is essentially and unchangeably sinful apart from divine grace.

Salvation. We believe that, due to universal death through sin, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless born again. Our redemption has been accomplished solely by the blood of our Lord Jesus. We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ. No other acts, such as confession, baptism, prayer, faithful service, or manifestation of certain spiritual gifts, are to be added to believing as a condition of salvation.

This statement reflects a contemporary summary of the central doctrines in the Bible, which are also presented in the historic creeds of the Christian church.

I understand that membership in the I am Second network is intended solely for churches, ministries, leaders and other individuals who affirm an orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity, including the above affirmations.

I agree with the Statement of Faith written above.

My reply to being asked to agree to the above statement in order to use their materials


Thanks for your time. Your organization has a lot of potential. Your purpose is powerful as I also long for unity in the body of Christ.

I wanted to download some of your resources and use them in the church that I serve as pastor at, but I cannot agree with your statement of faith on every issue.

I had three points where I couldn't press "agree" in good conscience.

Let me briefly summarize. I am sure that you have heard these before, but I summarize in the hope that you consider modifying your statement so that I an other followers of Jesus like me can "agree," work with you, and use your materials. Even more important than that, I think these statements will alienate other people who are completely in agreement with what you are doing except in the case of these three statements.

"We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ"

James 2:24 disagrees sharply with this statement. It states, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24 ESV). If you mean by "faith in Christ" the surrender of rule in my life to Jesus, then I agree with that. But faith is a word that implies thoughts, and receiving a new birth is more than just thoughts. It is a realigning of one's life from personal lordship to a position under Jesus as Lord. We are saved through a surrendering of our heart to the Lord, not through faith alone.

"The whole Bible, in the original manuscripts, is without error."

This is a powerful statement, but we have no way to prove it. Unprovable, useless speculation regarding what the original manuscripts were like is not worth dividing over. Can we not agree on a position on the manuscripts as we currently have them rather than speculate on what they were in copies that we no longer have?

Total Depravity and Man

The whole section on "man" relies on the concept of "total depravity." I have been in conversations with brothers who share this thought before, and I doubt anything I say would change your thoughts on this. However, I thought I would lay out an approach that would be more unifying without compromising the Bible.

"We believe that man was originally created in the image of God. The Bible teaches that man, created by God, willfully sinned against God and is consequently lost and without hope apart from the divine grace revealed through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23)."

One other brief thought. This wasn't a deal breaker although it did make me uncomfortable. Your statement describing the godhead as "having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections" seems to minimize the concept that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three unique distinctions of the same God, hence the different manifestations and names. Nothing in your statement expressed their uniqueness. I could probably agree with your statement in theory, but " precisely the same" nature and attributes are some really loaded thoughts that would need to be unpacked.

The Tony Dungy video I watched was well made and powerful in its message. You guys did a great job with that. Unfortunately, I am currently unable to use it and share the thought that you have so superbly packaged because I cannot agree with your statement of belief in good conscience. It is your right to put whatever stipulations or costs on your materials. I hope that you would reconsider agreement to above statements as a stipulation.

I share my thoughts, not to stir up trouble, to be divisive, or to attack your organization. I bring them up because I desire to be part of what you are doing but cannot on the terms you have laid out. The "statement of belief" contains some positions that I do not hole, nor do I think they are essential to unity as you aim to be about. If you feel that the points above are worth excluding people who are followers of Jesus over, that is your right as it is your organization.

You say, and rightfully so, that "Unity must be based on truth. Cooperation that results in a dilution or compromise of the essential truths of the Bible is ecumenism, not Holy Spirit-breathed Biblical unity." Unfortunately, you put what I perceive as man-made obstacles in the way of that unity through the points I described above. I am not asking for compromise but for unity on essentials eliminating divisions that are man-made.

Grace and peace,
Regan Clem

I don't think it needs to be said, but please let me know what you think.

Homebirth: A Father's Perspective


When my wife decided to give birth to our fifth baby at home, I was against it.

I understood her reasons. At the hospital you don’t get much rest. The nurses are adamant to do things their way even when we persist that we want things done differently. She is forced to give birth in an uncomfortable position. She didn’t want to travel while in labor. She wanted a quiet setting for contractions.

Now, I am making it sound like we have had terrible hospital experiences with our four previous children, but we did not. We had great experiences with awesome doctors who were considerate of all our special requests. But my wife was dreaming of something different for her next birth.


For me, going to the hospital centered on two things: money and safety.

Financially, insurance would cover a hospital birth while an at-home birth would be completely out-of-pocket. I understand that the cost, if we didn’t have any coverage, would be much cheaper for a homebirth compared to a hospital birth, but, for our bottom line, it would be more expensive to have the baby at home. Insurance would cover the birth at the hospital while I would have to pay out-of-pocket for a midwife.

Safety concerns also plagued me. What if something would go wrong? I envisioned the need for an emergency c-section or some situation with our newborn that would need immediate attention. The hospital we use is approximately fifteen minutes away from our home while speeding. That’s faster than the EMS typically gets to people in our small, rural town, but that seems like a long time if there is an emergency.

Plus, a completely selfish reason. I like the day off of just spending time with my wife in the hospital following the birth.

In the end, it really came down to being a battle that I don’t think I could win. When she told me, “Well, I am just going to have this baby alone,” it was all over. I finally gave up.

So we prepared. We interviewed and then hired a midwife. We watched Born in America and the Business of Being Born. Both documentaries showed the main people in the show struggle with birthing at home. Eventually, both headed to the hospital to finish it off. That was something we feared would happen.


Fast forward to the day of labor. My wife had been having contractions erratically spaced with differing intensity for nearly two and a half days. It was a week before our baby’s due date. Eventually, the contractions started happening regularly and intensely. We decided that she was in labor for real and called the midwife. It was a little after ten at night. Our kids were already tucked into bed and asleep, so we weren’t able to send them off. My wife moved to the bathtub because that is where she wanted to camp out for the evening.

The midwife came around eleven and measured my wife’s cervix. She wasn’t dilated enough to be in the bathtub as that would slow down the labor. Our midwife wanted my wife to be dilated to 5cm. According to her, that is the point at which being in the water would speed up labor. Before that, being in the water could slow it down.

My wife has a history of fast labors. For our second child, She was only dilated to 2cm when we arrived at the hospital. Fifty minutes later we had the baby. I had to be adamant with the nurses that they come back to our room to measure my wife again. They begrudgingly did, but then it was all business from there. They actually tried to get my wife to hold off on pushing until our doctor arrived. I don’t think a woman with the urge to push can hold it back.

About forty minutes after the midwife had arrived, my wife was dilated enough and returned to the bathtub. I camped out next to it. Actually, I was a crappy husband and dozed off for a while. But the thing with my wife is that she really doesn’t want to be interacted with and wants to be left alone while laboring, especially while experiencing a contraction. I was there for whenever she needed anything like a cup of water or the feared emergency ride to the hospital.

At 12:35, things got serious. My wife was ready to push. I was there to encourage. She always reaches a point where she thinks the pain is too much and she wants to give up. All of her births have been without pain killers, but there is this point right before labor is over that she clamors for them. Not that she can give up, but I always remind her that its almost over. And it was.

At 12:45, we had our new baby. A little while later, the placenta was out. All of my fears were alleviated. Both baby and mom were in great shape.


Some obvious differences struck me. There wasn’t a monitor causing us to worry about a coming contraction. They just came and went naturally in the silence that my wife longed for. My wife could do whatever she felt like doing; she just had to listen to her body. We once had a nurse who threatened a c-section if my wife didn’t push to the count of ten; however, her body only wanted to push to a count of eight. At home, nobody was counting. She just pushed when she felt like it and stopped pushing when she wanted. There was no stress of checking into a hospital room or driving with a woman in labor; we were already where we were going to be for the delivery. The only person that had to rush around was the midwife. Our homebirth was way more relaxing. Even after the birth, we were right in a relaxing place. Hospitals can make the most wonderful birthing rooms in the world, but they will never be home.

With a homebirth, the time following the birth is a little more difficult on me, the father. With that said, it is much more relaxing for my wife. And that is what is most important. In my previous experiences, we would come home from the hospital and my wife would already have had a few days of rest. At the hospital, there would be nurses helping us with every need and giving us time to catch up on sleep (except when they are poking, prodding, asking questions, making us watch instructional videos, or taking blood pressure readings). At home, I am in all intents the nurse, without the knowledge. I have to remember that my wife just had a baby. I am the one responsible for keeping her cup full, feeding everyone, doing the laundry, and cleaning. Thankfully, my mother took my kids the day following the birth of our baby, but it has been a lot more work afterward.

Our experience has been great. Our homebirth provided the birthing experience we were looking for.

Are You A Zombie?

Our society is fascinated with zombies. On Sunday, October 16, Season Two of Walking Dead, a television drama showing the life of a small town policeman after the zombie apocalypse premiered and broke a ten year-old ratings record for the most watched drama in basic cable history. Zombies are the thing.

In case you have been holed up in a time capsule, a zombie is a creature who is still here on this earth, wandering around, feasting on flesh, yet for all intents and purposes, they are dead. Hence the name, walking dead.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why would a pastor be writing an article about zombies?” Even if you aren’t wondering, I will tell you. I think we have the walking dead among us. Now they don’t go around and literally eat flesh, but they don’t really live.

Last week we talked about vampires and how we can be like them and be life suckers rather than life givers. Zombies take us in a different direction. Zombies can be wandering around but not really living. They are the walking dead.

Jesus came so that we could have life and live it to the fullest extent (John 10:10). All too often we focus on His work of salvation, that he died on the cross so that our sins could be washed away and we can have a right relationship with God. Now that is important, but he also claims that he came for us to have a better life before we die. It’s not just about some great, future reward.

Now, you might be thinking, “The Christian life sucks. Who would want to live that way?” In regards to many “Christian” lives you may be right. But all Christians fail to live the life that Jesus wants them to live. This isn’t some great conspiracy of hypocrisy. It is just that we are human. We fail to do the things we know we should do and continue to do the things we shouldn’t do. The difference between a Christian and others is that a Christian should never be prideful about their life because they should recognize that they fail to live up to the ideal they are striving to attain.

Struggling to arrive at the ideal life of Jesus is what makes one a follower of Jesus. Oftentimes we get confused into thinking that a theological position, a intellectual belief, reciting some prayer, or being baptized makes us a follower of Jesus, but those things, although important, just don’t get us there. It is the day in and day out struggle to live the life of Jesus in the here and now, with the understanding that God’s grace covers the ground between where we are at and the place we are supposed to be.

That doesn’t sound too fulfilling though, does it? A day in and day out struggle. Who wants that? But we have no problem struggling for things we really want and know will pay off in the end. Many of us have struggled through years of school in order to get to where we want to be, and then we continue to struggle in our careers to be successful. Others of us struggle to raise good children. Some struggle to master a sport. We have no problem struggling for the things, even if we are deluded, that we really believe will make us and those around us better.

It is in this struggling that life is really lived. And that is what makes the difference between zombies and the living.

Some of us have faced tragedy, tough circumstances, or even success, by pulling back into ourselves, focusing solely on our own selfish world. We have become zombies of sorts. When our world becomes about meeting our desires and ignoring the needs of those around us, we become the walking dead. Others go through similar terrible circumstances and continue to strive after who they were made to be; they are the truly living.

It’s your choice. Will you be a zombie, devouring those around you? Or will you be the living, striving for the best in a world that is falling apart. We are called to be the living, not the walking dead.