Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Disabilitites And Disaster Response

For those who live with some form of disability life can be quite challenging.  In some cases it can prove fatal.

The Sacramento Bee reports that many of the 85 plus persons who died in the Camp Fire disaster were affected by a disability that prevented their escape to safety.  You can read the full article at

This sobering fact highlights the need to form a strategy to deal with future efforts of evacuation during times of crisis.  If you or someone you know is dealing with a disability it is advisable to plan now for every possible scenario.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Gift Of Life

August 25, 1921.

A big stone house in a small, rural township.

The gift of life is celebrated once again.



On this same day a Peace Treaty is signed.  Again.

Twenty years later it will fail.  Again.

The child was named George Showers Gehr, the third to bear that name.

Like most individuals, his was a life of contrasts.

His first eight years were an age of prosperity & growth.

The next ten were just the opposite.

They called it The Depression, but it was more than that.

For a child becoming a man it had to make a mark.

Lessons learned;

Life changed;

Change is constant and at times, traumatic.

In his 22nd year he learned a new lesson: War!

The country boy was now on foreign soil.

The quiet, peaceful farm was traded for horror and death.

He was forced to fight the country of his ancestry,

            In a plane,

            With no engine!

Though he survived, he paid a price.

            The loss of his friend;

            The loss of his brother;

            And the loss of innocence.

But wars end and life resumes.

A new career leads to a new love.

The kid with 13 siblings marries an only child.

(The ironies of life are revealed in multiple ways!)

By some standards his life was modest, but don’t tell him that!

He celebrated the Gift of Life daily

            Through his family, his friends, his faith.

Through ups and downs,

            Through sorrows and joys,

                        He found a peace he longed for.

His was a life of the highest ambitions:

·         Love

·         Joy

·         Peace

·         Patience

·         Kindness

·         Goodness

·         Gentleness

·         Faithfulness

·         Self control

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, in full bloom, in one man.

My father.  My hero.  My friend.


Written by George Douglas Gehr on November 27, 2018

as a tribute to his father, George Showers Gehr,

who went home to be with Jesus November 24, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018

Alotta Is Everywhere!

Everywhere I go it seems I keep running into someone named Alotta.  I have been a pastor in the Church of the Brethren for 35 years, serving in 6 different congregations.  The congregations I served are quite varied.  Some were urban, one was extremely rural, a few were located in small towns.  The age of the membership also reflected a wide range.  In fact, there were many characteristics that distinguished each congregation as unique.  But the one unifying observation was the presence of my friend Alotta.

Alotta is a master of disguise.  She can appear as male or female, but because of the name I usually refer to her as female.  She can be virtually any age but typically seems to prefer middle aged or older.  Alotta is short, tall, thin, or not so thin.  I have seen her as a brunette, a blond, silver haired, black-haired, a redhead, and even mostly bald.  Her voice also seems to change from place to place.  Alotta never ceases to amaze me with her ability to change.

There are a few ways, however, in which Alotta is very consistent.  For example, Alotta never talks but is often talked about.  She can be complimentary at times but, more often than not, she is a complainer.  To hear others speak of her Alotta sounds like the kind of person who likes to ruffle the feathers.   In fact, I have heard more complaints about Alotta over the years than anyone else I have ever known.  Alotta has a way of drawing controversy.

Interestingly, Alotta has been known to use more than one last name.  For example, in one Church I heard someone say “Alotta People do not like the praise songs we sing!”  Another said “Alotta Folks think the sermons are too long.”  At first I used to think that there was more than one person named “Alotta”.  But seriously, what are the chances of that?  The more I heard about this person the more I was convinced that it is the same individual who just likes to assume different identities.

If there is one thing I learned its that Alotta is very opinionated.  I have heard so many complaints about her.  Here are just a few:

·         “Alotta People do not like when we have altar calls.”

·         “Alotta Members wish we had more altar calls.”

·         “Alotta Folks wish the choir would sing every Sunday.”

·         “I hear complaints about that Alotta Times.”

·         “Alotta People believe we need to offer coffee and donuts each Sunday.”

·         “I understand that Alotta Members are upset about the decision that the Board made.”

·         “There are Alotta Things wrong with this church.”

·         And my favorite, “I absolutely disagree with that, and I am not alone!  Alotta Folks feel the same way!”

And on and on it goes.  My dear friend Alotta has been used and abused many times.

The biggest problem I have with Alotta is the way well-intentioned people use her to justify their own personal agenda.  You see, its one thing to be against something.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I can respect that.  But we have this idea that there is strength in numbers.  We feel compelled to overwhelm others by convincing them that the vast majority of people feel the same way we do.  Consequently, rather than admitting that we are only one of perhaps two or three who feel the way we do we use Alotta to give strength to our argument.  I mean, to hear some people speak, one would think that Alotta sits at the right hand of God.  If Alotta says so, then it is settled.  Who can argue against Alotta?

In 1951 the television show Dragnet premiered.  It aired for 8 years, then had a reboot in   1967.  Dragnet was a groundbreaking police detective program that set the stage for the numerous imitators that followed.  The show was a no nonsense, straight-forward, realistic program.  This approach became best symbolized by its lead character, Sergeant Joe Friday, who became synonymous with the phrase, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”  Compared with today’s drama-filled, highly intense, action packed, complicated cop shows Dragnet seems a bit drab.  Yet in reality it likely remains the most realistic.  The truth does not need hyperbole.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”  There is nothing complicated about that.

One of these days when I run into my friend Alotta I think I might have to remind her that “All we want are the facts, ma’am!”

George Douglas Gehr
October 20, 2018
Comments are always welcome.  Please feel free to add yours.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Thoughts On the Issue Of Gun Violence


This is becoming exceedingly frustrating.

It used to be shocking.  A lone gunman walks into a crowd of people and randomly shoots and kills numerous individuals for no apparent reason.  We found it to be unbelievable.  Numbing.

Sadly, it is becoming almost routine.

How did we get to this point?  That is a loaded question.  In many ways it is far too complicated to answer in a few paragraphs.  Besides, it is highly subjective in that most people who seek to explain this phenomenon do so with clear bias, whether to the right or the left.

Opinions aside, there are a few facts that cannot be disputed.

·         The United States of America has more mass shootings than any other country.

·         The venues are varied and unpredictable, including schools, concerts, night clubs, political rallies, movie theaters and city streets.

·         Big cities, small towns and country settings are all vulnerable.

·         Each shooting is followed by emotional debates and legislative deadlock.  In other words, nothing changes.

·         American factories manufactured over 100,000,000 firearms in the past 25 years.  Almost half of these (50 million) are in civilian hands.

·         40% of the guns made in America come from three companies:  Sturm, Ruger & Co; Remington; and Smith & Wesson.

·         The United States has 4.4% of the world’s population but 44% of the civilian-owned guns.

·         There are more gun shops in the United States than there are Starbucks coffee shops in the entire world.

·         15,000,000 semi-automatic military-style AR-15 rifles are in civilian hands in this country.

The statistics are absolutely staggering.  The Los Angeles Times published a disturbing timeline of the 50 most deadly mass shootings from 1984 through 2017.  The article can be found at  This list includes a total of 50 events resulting in 524 deaths and an injury list of over 987.  That is thirty-four years with an average of over 15 deaths and 29 injuries per year!  Sadly, however, these shootings are becoming more frequent and more serious in recent years.  According to the LA Times article there were 3 mass shootings/40 deaths in the 6 years from 1984 – 1989.  Compare that to 6 shootings/77 deaths in 2016 & 2017 alone.

Imagine for a moment that these deaths and injuries were not the result of mass shootings but rather airline accidents.  Without a doubt there would be an uproar and extensive studies performed with both Federal regulations strengthened and airline safety inspections enhanced to prevent future accidents.  Perhaps that is why in 2016 and 2017 there was only one commercial airline crash in the United States resulting in 20 injuries but no deaths.

Consider Amtrak’s response to their recent accidents.  In the past three years Amtrak experienced six accidents resulting in 10 deaths.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made numerous recommendations which Amtrak accepted and enacted, including the process of installing Positive Train Control to monitor traveling conditions and override manual control when necessary.

None of these examples will result in perfection.  There will still be accidents and tragedies.  But the significant thing to remember is that each fatality results in careful follow up studies and determined efforts to protect lives at all costs.  That is, with one glaring exception.  Gun violence.

Gun violence does not involve accidents.  No rocks unexpectedly found on the tracks causing derailments.  No fog resulting in low visibility, or icy conditions leading to uncontrolled landings.  No mechanical errors or mental lapses.  Instead, deaths from gun violence are intentional and well planned by the perpetrator.  Yet we do nothing to prevent them.

And remember, I have only been talking about mass shootings thus far.  Suicide alone accounts for 60% of the deaths from gunshot wounds.  This country averages over 33,000 gun deaths per year, according to the Center for Disease Control.  33,000!  That includes suicides, homicides, mass shootings and accidents.  That is roughly the same number of deaths that result from automobile accidents, yet the auto industry has extensive regulations and laws controlling it even though nearly all those deaths are the result of extenuating circumstances (such as weather or driver distraction) rather than a deliberate, planned attack.

There is a war going on in this country.  I do not say that lightly.  Consider the fact that more Americans have died from gun violence in the past two years (over 66,000 lives) than during the entire Vietnam War (58,318), a period of 20 years (1955-1975).  Just last year alone more Americans died from guns in this country than those killed and injured in the entire war in Afghanistan.  That sure sounds like a war to me.

I thought we lived in a representative democracy where we, the people, elect members to Congress and a President who are to serve the public good and protect us.  That does not appear to be the case when it comes to gun violence.  Congress remains terrifyingly silent.  They refuse to do anything to address the issue.  Instead, they defer to the Grand Puppet Master known as the National Rifle Association.

Yes, I am convinced that the NRA is singularly responsible for the lack of inaction on the part of Congress.  This makes absolutely no sense, but it is true.  Through its vast financial resources the NRA, along with their dear friends in the gun lobby, has bought their way into the halls of the U. S. Capitol, owning enough Senators and Congressmen to effectively block any legislation that even hints of limiting gun sales.

How can this be?  According to PolitiFact 90% of Americans support universal background checks on all gun sales.  This is not even close!  90%!  Even among members of the NRA 72% support universal background checks.  That’s almost 3 out of 4 NRA members.  Yet the NRA officially opposes this and has successfully controlled enough members of Congress to block any effort to do so.  This is not how a democracy works.

The NRA would have you believe that background checks have no effect on gun violence.  Do not believe their lies!  Currently nineteen states already have criminal background checks for all gun sales.  In these states the difference is stunning since this law was enacted.  For example:

·         47% fewer women are shot by their partner

·         47% fewer suicides by firearms

·         48% less gun trafficking

·         53% fewer law enforcement officers have been shot

During the 2016 campaign then-candidate Donald Trump boldly claimed, “I am the Law and Order candidate!”  Yet as President his policies prove just the opposite.  Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress remain paralyzed by the NRA and refuse to pass reasonable measures to protect our citizens and our law enforcement officers.

Trump vainly tries to deflect the discussion away from gun control by blaming mass shootings on mental illness.  If he really believes this why on earth is he making it easier for people with mental illness to obtain guns?  On February 28, 2017, about a month after his inauguration, Trump signed HJ Resolution 40, a bill that made it easier for people with mental illness to obtain guns.  Interestingly, the White House loves to produce pictures of the President signing bills, resolutions, and Executive Orders.  Trump is particularly fond of such attention.  However, in this case, the White House has repeatedly refused to release the photo in spite of countless requests to do so.

During the Obama administration measures were taken to prevent 75,000 persons with mental illness from obtaining guns.  In a secret moment without the press in the room Trump undid that with his signature.  In addition, Trump’s budget drastically reduced funding for mental health.  Thus if this administration truly believes that mass shootings are the result of mental illness then they are intentionally endangering the lives of American citizens by encouraging this health concern and enabling such persons to purchase guns.

How are we to respond to this madness?  I refuse to simply sit back and remain silent.  I do not accept that there is nothing we can do.  Instead, I see two possible steps that could be taken, though in all honesty they probably won’t.

First, the members of the NRA must reclaim their organization.  Since almost 3 out of 4 members support gun control efforts let them force their own leadership to fall in line and represent their views.  If the NRA fails to respond, then let the 72% break ties with the NRA and form a new, alternate organization.  Call it the American Rifle Association, or the Responsible Gun Owners, or whatever name they choose.  Let them take control of their future.  If the NRA lost 72% of their members they would also lose significant funding and influence resulting in a loss of control over Congress.

This may not be so far fetched.  Even as I am writing this I noticed that Al Hoffman, Jr., a prominent GOP fund raiser, just announced that he will not support any candidate who does not favor universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.   It is said that money speaks.  People of conscience are beginning to roar!

Second, if PolitiFact is correct, let the 90% of Americans who support gun control organize and actively demonstrate to demand change.  We have historic precedent for this.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Civil Rights movement took to the streets in support of equal rights.  Under the inspired leadership of persons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson and many others an entire culture was changed, forcing the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Likewise, during the Vietnam war it was the masses who opposed the war and demonstrated against it.  College students, churches, and concerned citizens refused to be silent and joined together to force the issue.  Only then did our elected officials listen to them and began the process of ending the war. 

Of course, the Civil Rights movement had support from Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  The Vietnam War opposition had support from Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and eventually, Richard Nixon.  Sadly, we have no such leadership in the current White House.  Rather, we have a gun lobby lackey who hasn’t a clue how to represent the people or bring a sense of unity and purpose to the public discourse.  There are encouraging voices in Congress, however, even if they are not currently in leadership roles.  Still, the key is public determination.  We need to organize the masses and demand change.  But we need to do this with a commitment to nonviolence and the legal process.

In fact, this is already beginning.  The Associated Press reports:

Organizers behind the Women's March, an anti-Trump and female empowerment protest, called for a 17-minute walkout on March 14 to "protest Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods."

The Network for Public Education, an advocacy organization for public schools, meanwhile, announced a "national day of action" on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two students opened fire on their classmates, killing 12 students and one teacher.

The organization is encouraging teachers and students to organize sit-ins, walkouts, marches and any other events to protest gun violence in schools.

Sudhin S. Thanawala, Associated Press


A group of high school teenagers and adults did just this, holding a protest demonstration against guns on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  We need more events like this, and not just in the week following the most recent massacre but relentlessly until legislators respond with meaningful measures.

After each mass shooting the Republican dinosaurs regurgitate the same old lines to claim that “now is not the time to talk about gun control”.  In saying that they imply that there is a time that is appropriate for this conversation.  So please, tell me:  When exactly is the time to talk about this?  If not now, WHEN?
By G. D. Gehr
February 17, 2018