‘Grinch’ group bullies elementary school into canceling live Nativity

Judge: Artistic performances don’t ‘establish’ a religion

December 11, 2019

A live Nativity scene in Stuart, Florida (Photo by Joe Kovacs, used with permission)

A “grinch” organization that flexes its influence each year during the holiday season, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has “bullied” a school district in Oklahoma into canceling a live Nativity scene that had been part of the school’s annual Christmas celebration.

Liberty Counsel said it’s prepared to represent the school if officials decide they want to restore the holiday display.

LC said FFRF not only was wrong to insist such displays aren’t allowed, it mischaracterized a court ruling on the dispute.

FFRF wrote to Supt. Bret Towne of Edmond Public Schools in Edmond, Oklahoma, declaring “the Chisholm Elementary School Christmas program may not include a live Nativity scene in the performance.”

Liberty Counsel, which has handled many such disputes, said that while FFRF cited a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the atheist organization failed “to accurately describe” the decision.

“The 7th Circuit simply did not make the sweeping ruling claimed by FFRF. FFRF has once again selectively related what actually happened in a suit, in order to frighten a school district into compliance,” Liberty Counsel explained.

The ruling stated clearly, “We are not prepared to say that a nativity scene in a school performance automatically constitutes an Establishment Clause violation.”

FFRF had said, “While a public school can hold holiday concerts, religious performances and instruction that emphasize the religious aspects of a holiday are prohibited.”

It continued, “Please note that including a live nativity performance in a school’s holiday concert remains illegal even if participation in the nativity scene is ‘voluntary.'”

FFRF cited a previous dispute in which it wanted to ban a 20-minute Nativity within a program that covered about 90 minutes.

The appeals court said: “The district court found that the Christmas Spectacular program. … A program in which cultural, pedagogical, and entertainment value took center stage – did not violate the Establishment Clause.

One judge wrote: “It is not sound, as a matter of history or constitutional text, to say that a unit of state or local government ‘establishes’ a religion through an artistic performance that favorable depicts one or more aspects of that religion’s theology or iconography. [The school] would not violate the Constitution by performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor or Handel’s Mesiah, although both are deeply religious works and run far longer than the nativity portion of the ‘Christmas Spectacular.’ Performing a work of art does not establish that work, or its composer, as the state song or the state composer; no more does it establish a state religion.”

“Liberty Counsel therefore stands ready, along with our affiliate attorneys in Oklahoma, to provide assistance at no charge to Edmond Public Schools, if the district desires to resume a live Nativity in a school Christmas program,” the organization promised.

 

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How you Can Become a Better Person Starting Now

Can you Really Change?

Most people wonder if it’s possible to become a better person after maturity. The answer is a resounding yes. There’s actually room for change at every stage of our life. With a willing spirit, you can transform your personality. Once you figure out the best and easiest approach to take, you can decide the most important personal aspects to work on. Taking into account the best interest of others and your well being, below are some of the most important things you’ll need to work on, in order to make the changes.

Photo by Freshh Connection on unsplash

Help Others:

Good people support and encourage others to do and become their best selves. I believe one of the greatest responsibilities we have is to support ourselves and others to live as close to their unique potential as possible. Because everything we say and do has a negative or positive influence on others. We should always take into consideration the words we speak to and about others.

How you can show Support?

  • Have some faith in others.
  • Hold high expectations.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be honest.
  • Share yourself.
  • Set the best example.
  • Challenge them.
  • Be mindful of your questions.
  • Invest your time in them.
  • Acknowledge them.

Let go of Anger:

Your relationships can create a haven from stress as well as help you become a better person. But if you walk away from unresolved conflicts, they can become a significant source of stress. Let’s face it, conflicts are common in our society. They happen with our families, neighbors, friends or colleagues. You have to face them in the right manner and come up with a fair solution. The best way to improve in this area is to learn conflict resolution strategies. Let’s take a look at 5 of this tools that are more effective:

Conflict Resolution Strategies:

  • Recognize that all of us have biased fairness perception.
  • Avoid escalating tensions with threats and provocative move
  • Overcome an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Look beneath the surface to identify deeper issues.
  • Separate sacred from pseudo-sacred issues.

You can also identify what your anger triggers and eliminate them as much as possible. Also learn to let go of any grudge and residual anger.

Be a good Listener:

Listening to others and is one of the best things you can do for another person and yourself. It shows them that you value their opinion and allows you to develop closer connection with others. You also get to hear perspectives you might otherwise dismiss. It is important to engage in active listening with the people in our lives. Being an active listener can change your life for the better. It fosters deeper relationships and exposes you to thoughts, ideas world wide views beyond your own experience. You never know what you might learn from someone.

Self Care:

Self care is vital for building resilience when facing life’s unavoidable stressors. Making sure that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Less sleep can make you less able to brainstorm solutions to problems you come across. I don’t know about you, but when l don’t sleep enough, it makes me very edgy the next day.

Eating a proper diet is also essential in keeping your body and mind healthy. When you eat healthy, problems like bloating and constipation are never going to be on your worry list. That means you will be in optimum shape for handling stress – which gives you added resilience to manage those challenges that come up unexpectedly.

Be Polite:

Being polite is an act of kindness. We can show politeness to everyone we come across. It is not a trivial thing. This little act instill positive feelings in the people around you. Maintaining a certain level of politeness and civility is appreciated because it shows thoughtfulness, considerations, and kindness.

Live with Integrity:

Personal integrity is a cornerstone of whom we really are. It also shows what we stand for. Integrity is part of our mortal foundation. Integrity shapes the person you become with time. Living with integrity means being true to your ideas. It means that your outward actions reflect your inner beliefs and values. It means making necessary changes to live up to your standards. Take time to understand what integrity means to you and how your decisions align with your values. These things can help propel you towards becoming a better person.

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VIDEO A Christmas Story

December 7, 2019   By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

 

 

The Christmas Story is story of a hero. The greatest evil the world has ever known made the greatest hero the world has ever known. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of torture and execution man devised or used.

Not every hero since has given up his life for another. Heroes generally take no concern for their own life while trying to save the lives of others.

The acknowledgement and veneration of heroes has existed for centuries. It was the ancient Greeks who are accredited with first coining the designation.

A very recent tragedy brought to light another hero.  A young graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, whose dream was to become a pilot, is a hero after he reportedly related crucial information about the identity of the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola shooter to first responders, despite having been shot several times, a family member revealed.

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who were killed Friday morning when Saudi national Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire on a flight training program for foreign military personnel, Adam Watson revealed in a Facebook post. (1)

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who was killed Friday morning.

“Today has been the worst day of my life. My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting. Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. When we were little I gave Kaleb the name little poot and it stuck. It eventually evolved into pootis and finally uncle poot. Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time even though he could probably take me now. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. “(2)

Simply put, the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need—a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward.

Philip Zimbardo: What Makes a Hero?

 

Christians who helped Jews during the Holocaust were in the same situation as other civilians who helped imprison or kill Jews, or ignored their suffering. The situation provided the impetus to act heroically or malevolently. People choose one path or the other.

Some choose a path to meet the needs of others. For example there is New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson will use his custom-made “My Cause, My Cleats” cleats to bring attention to his One More Foundation. H e created the One More Thing Foundation to spread the love and hope of Christ to one more soul.

“And, we do that by following the three charges that are given in Micah 6:8 when it talks about doing justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with our God,” he explained.

Watson said that, for the last decade, the foundation has given him the opportunity to meet people with “real needs” and “to know the one who can meet their needs forever and ever.”

“Whether it’s promoting and giving food to those who are hungry, doing events around the holidays, promoting education, standing against injustice — whether that be sex trafficking, abortion, or racial injustice … and also, just bringing kindness to people,” he continued. (3)

Courtesy of Eric J. Adler and the New England Patriots

Heroes | Restoring Faith in Humanity | 2017

 

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” — Arthur Ashe, professional tennis player.

There have been thousands of unnamed and unknown heroes over the centuries. Heroes include those who stood ready, who fought and who died for the cause of freedom, first responders, those who served others, and the many that have helped someone without regard to their personal safety,

The true Christmas Story is an everyday story.

The real reason for the season was born to die and save us all.

——-

(1) https://www.foxnews.com/us/naval-academy-grad-shot-5-times-hero

(2)  https://www.facebook.com/adam.watson.397/posts/3471855006187806

(3)  https://www.foxnews.com/media/patriots-benjamin-watson-one-more-foundation-my-cause-my-cleats

——-

Below are a handful of links to heroes

https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/local/2019/11/14/sons-american-revolution-honor-first-responders-heroic-acts/4193217002/

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/08/05/soldier-praised-for-heroic-act-at-el-paso-shooting-what-i-did-was-what-i-was-supposed-to-do/23788523/

https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2019/09/17/hero-westchester-cops-honored/2354177001/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bradley-plane-crash-heroic-acts-saved-lives-in-deadly-b-17-bomber-crash-official-says/

https://www.usla.org/page/HEROIC

https://publicholidays.la/anguilla/national-heroes-and-heroines-day/

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/a-christmas-story/


Teeing Up Our Nation’s Heroes For Recovery

Reflecting on the healing powers of adaptive sports after the World’s Largest Golf Outing

Earlier this month, I had the chance to witness hundreds of golf courses and golfers across the country join forces to participate in the World’s Largest Golf Outing (WLGO). As an avid golfer, seeing so many golfers take the courses was even more special for me because, for the fourth year in a row, the event sought to raise awareness and funds for Fisher House Foundation.

For most WLGO participants, the tournament is another great way to hit the links, but for our nation’s heroes, golf and other sports can mean so much more. For many returning service members and veterans, the battle is only just beginning. Thousands of veterans have wounds both visible and invisible that require an incredible amount of strength to overcome. In fact, in 2016, approximately four million veterans reported having a disability related to their time in service (U.S. Census Bureau).

After an injury and a world turned upside down, patients embark on the difficult path to recovery. Throughout the rehabilitation process, some turn to adaptive sports. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, those who participate in adaptive sports experience less stress, lower dependency on pain medicine, fewer secondary conditions and greater independence.

Captain Will Reynolds has experienced the healing power of sports firsthand. In 2004, Will was severely injured by in an IED explosion that led to 26 surgeries and the eventual amputation of his left leg. In an effort to relieve stress and set recovery goals, Will turned to sports, going on to compete in the Warrior Games and the Invictus Games, where he won three bronze medals and served as captain of the 2016 U.S. Invictus Games team.

Or take a look at U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder. In 2011, Brad stepped on an IED while helping victims of a nearby bombing, leading to severe injuries including a shattered eardrum and loss of vision. In his difficult recovery and journey back into civilian life, he found solace in swimming and went on to win seven gold medals at the Warrior Games and one gold medal at the Paralympics.

Fisher House is proud to support our military members throughout their recovery and to work with the unique organizations paving the way through adaptive sports. At the WLGO, it was incredible to watch community members of all ages coming together to honor our military and witness many recovering veterans and service members get out on the course and play. Through this support, Billy Casper Golf raised more than $308,000 to help us continue to our mission to serve our nation’s heroes.

At Fisher House, we know that the best medicine doesn’t always come from a doctor’s office. It can come from a family’s love, the connections we make with one another or the healing power of sports. We’re proud to stand with military families through the tough times and be there to witness their triumphs on or off the field. Giving back and standing beside our military can also come in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s through a donation, volunteering or simply thanking a veteran for their service, I urge readers to take the time to give back to our nation’s heroes.

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VIDEO What Is Going On?

 

 

 

 

By Reverend Paul N. Papas II  September 7, 2019

 

I admit sometimes I forget, and sometimes I can’t remember, and I don’t remember which it is. I tell the kids don’t get old and that I don’t know how that can be done, just don’t get old. Yes, they just look at me.

Where does one call to find out the offense of day, moment is? Is there a central clearing house? It sure seems like you can turn TV stations to find the same words and the same outrage coming from different talking heads. I figure someone is passing out words to say. Would someone please give me the phone number of who has a list of the current offense words, hats or whatever? This growing list is giving me a headache.

When I grew up our news came from newspapers where opinions were found in the Editorial section. News contained facts not propaganda.

Newspapers were printed once, maybe twice a day, or weekly.

There were no computers, cell phones, texting, emails, twitter, facebook or other such things that instantly post pictures and information to people worldwide.  When someone needed or wanted to pass along information or pictures if they didn’t meet in person they put them in the mail.

TV news was on early in the morning, at noon, 6 and 11pm in black and white. There were no twenty four hour TV stations. AM radio was mostly music, FM broadcasts were rare.

No one was shot up into space yet. President Eisenhower had not yet warned us of the dangers of the military industrial complex.

In others words people looked each other in the eye and spoke to each other.

Yes, in some ways you could say life was slower compared to today. In some ways life was more relaxed than today.

There actually is a way to support my statement that life was more relaxed then.  The amount of people suffering from anxiety, which is the activation of the Fight or Flight System, rose in response to increase to the strains of everyday life from the 1950s on.

“The common psychological features of these problems include a mélange of symptoms involving nervousness, sadness, and malaise. The typical physical symptoms consist of headaches, fatigue, back pain, gastrointestinal complaints, and sleep and appetite difficulties, often accompanying struggles with interpersonal, financial, occupational, and health concerns. These complaints account for a large proportion of cases found in outpatient psychiatric and, especially, in general medical treatment.” (1).

Am I suggesting we go back in time, not quite? There are very many good uses of modern technology. The biggest downside I see to modern instant communications is the lack of interpersonal communications.

Interpersonal communication is the process by which we exchange information, feelings, and meanings through verbal and non-verbal messages through face-to-face communication. It is not always what is said, but how it is said and the expressions used.  The absence of interpersonal communications can lead to a misinterpretation of what was said which today could lead to quite a flurry of tweets.

My suggestions include: count to ten before sending an instant message, perhaps you’ll change what you want to say;  text less; meet as many people as you can in person to talk face to face; and take walks.  You just might find your quality of life will improve as will those around, doing your part to make the world a better place.

 

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2888013/


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https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/what-is-going-on/

VIDEO Veterans ride their way to recovery

Horses teach humans new ways to deal with anxiety and stress

July 19, 2019

 

Veterans at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System are partnering with horses on their road to recovery.

While participating in Equine Assisted Learning workshops at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy in Sarasota, Florida, Veterans in the Warriors in Transition program do a lot more than simply ride.

“What we do here is a lot of team building and grounding exercises,” explains Bay Pines Recreation Therapist Elizabeth Blankenship. “We learn about the horses, their behaviors, how they communicate with each other, and then we move into speaking about how we communicate and interact with others on a personal level and then draw a connection to what we’ve learned here, to our everyday lives.”

The goal is that by partnering with horses, Veterans will acquire new ways of coping with anxiety and stress. As prey animals, horses are highly sensitive to emotions and the messages behind them. Through observing how horses relate to one another and then interacting with the horses themselves, workshop participants learn to ask for space, set healthy boundaries, lead without force, relax without losing awareness and rebuild trust.

The program was developed by Terry Murray, a U.S. Navy Veteran, and Warriors in Transition facilitator, to help active-duty military and Veterans as they navigate the challenges of repeated deployment cycles.

According to Murray, equine-assisted learning can result in the growth of new brain cells. “There are biomedical changes in the brain that are occurring when people are in nature and are working with the horses in this environment.”

For U.S. Army Veteran Jesse Raoul, equine therapy has “helped me re-establish relationships with people that I’ve been dealing with. It also has helped me to learn to live a healthier and better quality of life.”


A horse, with the trainer and riderLong Description

Veteran Amy King (left) is introduced to a horse named Buddy.


The program “has helped me to connect the information I’ve learned in the classroom with real everyday life experiences,” says U.S. Army Veteran Amy King. “This experience has motivated me to really put in the work that it takes to get better.”

“You can’t reach everyone with conventional therapy,” says Bay Pines Recreation Therapist Jared Ezzard. “Some people respond better in this type of environment. We’ve seen Veterans who have had little to no interaction with people blossom here.”

Learn more about the Bay Pines Recreation Therapy program.


Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

All photos by Bay Pines VA Healthcare System 

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