The quest for community

Something is gravely amiss in our culture today. Every day there’s a new headline that, no matter how carefully crafted, simply cries out, “HELP!”

The public was stunned and outraged last year when David and Louise Turpin of Perris, California, were arrested for the longterm abuse and neglect of the majority of their 13 children, ranging in age from two to 29.

It’s the kind of abuse that is frankly unconscionable to most people in modern-day America. To think that anyone of sane mental status could torture their own children in such a cruel and grotesque way is impossible to comprehend. The couple was recently sentenced to 25 years to life, after their children read prepared statements that were a curious cocktail of shame, forgiveness, resolve, and resilience.

Now another California couple is in the news for keeping their 22-month-old twin boys locked in stacked cages (actually, modified cribs) that were secured to the wall. The couple, Ramon Zendejas and Mercadies Williams, were arrested last Friday on weapons charges, in addition to charges of child endangerment, drug possession, and manufacturing a controlled substance. Authorities later dropped the child endangerment charges, reportedly because they believe the the couple was actually trying to protect their 22-month-old twin boys from the dangerous items all over the house.

Both these cases are alarming in their own right. But one must wonder how many similar situations are never discovered. Which brings up the obvious question: how can this happen?

Granted, these two cases are different in many ways. But they are alike in that they should drive us to carefully consider what we can do to help prevent these kinds of egregious offenses.

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It’s like losing a good friend

Fresno, CA store

What do you do when your favorite Christian bookstore closes its doors? That’s a question many people are pondering all over the country.

There’s simply no way to sugar-coat it. The first quarter of 2019 has been devastating for the retail industry. Among the chains announcing major closings are Payless Shoesource, Gymboree, Charlotte Russe, Family Dollar, Fred’s Discount Stores, and Pier 1 Imports — just to name a few. Even larger stores like Lowe’s, Target, JCPenney, and Kohls are shuttering under-performing stores.

The losses add up to 5,399 stores in just the first 12 weeks of the year. Compare that to the closure of 5,726 stores in ALL of 2018, and it’s easy to see why economists are referring to this as the ‘retail apocalypse.’ Most experts see this as only the beginning of a trend driven by changing consumer habits, which continue to annihilate shopping malls throughout the country.

The number of jobs affected is mind-boggling, already numbering in the tens of thousands, and by some projections on track to eclipse 160,000 by year’s end.

Nearly every genre and niche of retail is being impacted, from soft-line clothing to five-and-dime to hardware. As Doug Whiteman of Moneywise so cleverly put it, “Even a chain of religious stores doesn’t have a prayer in the current retail environment.”

It has been one month since Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources announced its decision to close all 170 brick-and-mortar retail stores in an effort to focus on its digital and online platforms. LifeWay, formerly Baptist Bookstores, is the publishing arm of the largest Protestant denomination in the world, the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I was just a kid, I remember riding in the car with my parents to Jackson, Mississippi, to do some serious shopping — almost always taking time to stop in at the Baptist Bookstore. Even as a youngster, I was fascinated with the vast number of books, Bibles, and gift items available there. And there was always familiar Christian music playing.

Upon entering that bookstore, I sensed a certain peace and calm that was distinct from other shopping venues. The employees were always friendly and helpful, never pressuring anyone to buy anything. Instead they just made every effort to help their customers the best way they knew how.

Continue reading “It’s like losing a good friend”