Category Archives: news

A Voice from Theater 9

Marie, who wrote this blog post, was one of the unsuspecting innocents sitting in theater 9, in Aurora, Colorado when the gunman opened fire. Here is her take on what happened and why it happened. BTW, just for the record, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

STEPcoach Bob


(Maybe, just maybe God spared my life because He loves YOU and wants you to hear this..He wants you to believe that He loved you so much He gave His only begotten Son that if you would believe in Him you would have eternal life.)

“So, you still believe in a merciful God?”  Some of the comments online are genuinely inquisitive, others are contemptuous in nature. Regardless of the motive behind the question, I will respond the same way.

Yes, I do indeed.
Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.

Let’s get something straight: the theater shooting was an evil, horrendous act done by a man controlled by evil.  God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.
Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

I was there in theater 9 at midnight, straining to make out the words and trying to figure out the story line as The Dark Night Rises began. I’m not a big movie-goer. The HH and I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home…where I can use subtitles and get a foot rub. I don’t like action movies. And I don’t like midnight showings.  But, as I wrote in my last post, parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos and I decided I would take my fourteen year old and sixteen year old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy. Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did.

So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God. When there was a pause in the shooting, people began to clamor for the exits. The girls and I jumped up and joined the masses. We had to step over a lifeless body, not knowing where the shooter was. We raced to our car and I dumped my purse, frantically searching for keys, looking all around, prepared to hit the ground. I yelled at Michelle to call Matthew and find out if he had made it out of the theater next door. She did. He did. We booked on out of there.

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them; the youngest shared this verse: Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught.

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil.  It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act.  Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.

We have not yet slept, so the girls and I are overtired and a bit emotional.  But overall, we are praising God and resting in His Goodness.

I love this word of wisdom and encouragement from a former pastor of mine:
Up to this point I haven’t had words to say that would matter. Of course we are all glad that you and the family are safe. Of course we would all state the obvious that this is horrific and senseless. But those words still don’t carry weight that remain in the midst of the questions. Then it hit me… Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. Marie, I know your heart and I’ve seen your worship lived out before your family. Before the weight of this becomes unbearable… worship. Your profile pic was not coincidence, not by accident that you changed it on July 15th, but a beautiful foreshadowing of your need to hear the cry of your heart and give Him praise.

Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What  can mere man  do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

God is always good.
Man is not.
Don’t get the two confused.

We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do.

If you want to know how to pray for us: first and foremost, we need sleep. Somehow our bodies seem too wired. We also want the life that God has graciously allowed us to continue to live to not be a gift given in vain, we want our lives to draw others closer to Him. We do not want fear to dominate, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. We want His joy to be seen and experienced in all that we do.

Pray for the families who lost loved ones, and for young people who witnessed such horror. Pray for this to be an opportunity for God to manifest Himself in mighty ways.

As for you…we will pray that YOU might know His goodness.
Still grateful for this wonderful life,
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Divorce issues

[The following “guest column” by me appeared in “The City Wire” this last Sunday. The story refers to an incident where a divorced dad walked into a county courthouse with three guns, tried unsuccessfully to find and kill the family court judge who has handled his divorce, then shot up the courthouse. He only wounded one person, but was killed when he walked outside and continued firing toward the assembled police force.]

When James Ray Palmer burned his home, loaded up his arms, and marched into the Crawford County courthouse last week, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. Friends and family say he had been leaving clues for awhile that things were about to boil over.And, in fact, it seems the kettle had been bubbling for 12 years, since his divorce. The feelings percolating in his heart weren’t too alien from those many other divorced parents have felt.

Divorce, it has been said, is one of the greatest tragedies we can go through. It is personal in a way few other injuries can be. It strikes to a person’s heart, their self-image, their very soul. The death of a relationship you had counted on being life-long reshapes your concept of life and the world you live in. If you’ve been divorced, even if you were the one who filed for your divorce, you understand the intimacy of the disturbance.

As a family mediator specializing in divorce and re-marriage, I have seen thousands of instances of divorce, some handled well, and many handle poorly. Far too many of the individuals I meet with tell of being just a few steps away from the tragedy that ended Palmer’s pain. They speak of great, burning anger, dreams of revenge, personal agony that never really goes away.

The disturbing fact is that James Palmer acted out what so many divorced parents have fantasized. Most of us just don’t pick up the guns and charge in shooting.

All indications are that Palmer didn’t intend to harm anyone except the judge he blamed for his broken family. The only person shot was the judge’s assistant, and it’s difficult to imagine someone so poor a shot that more than 70 rounds accidentally didn’t hit anyone in the enclosed halls of the courthouse. He was looking for a way out of his misery, and just maybe willing to take out the man he saw as responsible. Notice that in his final act, he didn’t go after his ex-wife or any other family members, just the one outsider closest to the mess.

If that is so, what drove this father and reportedly quiet man over the edge? Why, after more than 10 years fretting over his problems, did he snap now? The answer to that, of course, only James Palmer himself knows for sure, but we know the effects of divorce never really end for a person. As I said before, divorce cuts deeply and re-shapes a person’s attitudes and ideals. The perceived betrayal or abandonment by a person you trusted completely is a life-changing event. 

When a child is involved, it can be even more disturbing.

Through a class I teach for divorcing parents, I have the opportunity to hear and sometimes reach many of these individuals in the middle of their breakup. The mix of feelings — from anger to despair to hopelessness to desperation — leaves them unsure of their position or their future. If they do not properly settle their feelings, the damage can go on the rest of their lives.Some divorcees deal with their loss in socially acceptable ways that are still destructive. 

Drinking, taking drugs, jumping into inappropriate relationships, or throwing out mementoes they will want later are just ways of acting out their pain and confusion. They might use a bottle or someone else’s body instead of a gun, as Palmer did, but the effects are often the same — lives torn up, futures crashed, and, ultimately, their own life lost along the way.

What may someone do to prevent this sort of divorce-related tragedy in their own or a friend’s life? Most important is to deal with the real problem. All the forms of acting out are really ways of avoiding the loss that’s been suffered. Find someone to talk to about how you’re hurting — a close friend, a minister, or a counselor, but someone who can hear your pain, sympathize, understand, and offer encouragement to push on through to more sane times.

Next, get help dealing with the other party in your tragedy, your ex-spouse, if they are at all willing to talk. Mediation always helps, as long as both sides can understand the need to settle the issues. Divorced parents have a relationship that will last the rest of their lives. As long as they have children or grand-children alive, they will have to encounter each other regularly. 

For the sake of their own sanity, as well as their children’s well-being, they must create a new way of being family. Divorce never ends that parental connection, so it is vital they find a way to endure and accept the new relationship. Clearly, Palmer and his son’s mother never successfully re-created their partnership.Using legal avenues didn’t help the Palmers to find peace. They rarely do.

Counseling can help, and Mr. Palmer appears to have needed some intense therapy. But too many people view counseling as a sign of weakness or illness, and the process can be lengthy. 

Mediation is a proven process that goes directly to the point of conflict and guides the two parties to reasonably consider ways to take the pressure off both of them. Children almost always benefit when their parents are willing to sit down and at least try mediating their differences.

Perhaps if the Palmers had been willing to talk through their arguments and let someone guide them to consider methods of working together for their son, the explosion of emotions might have been prevented. No one can say for sure, but there is a great chance.

Mediation may not solve all the problems, but clearing the air and rationally discussing disputes has helped many in the past. It may just be the first step, but it is always better to consider understanding than to just hope things will magically get better on their own.

They rarely do.

STEPcoach, Bob Collins

How will American Christians Cope?

I get emails and newsletters every day, speculating about the collapse of the American economy and what it will mean to us, as Christians, as our civil and religious freedoms are taken away. We’ve seen the 10 Commandments removed from public; God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity in history verboten in schools; Cursing Jesus’ name is OK, but praising it is ridiculed or forbidden; evolution the new state religion; constitutional foundations cast aside as old fashioned … on and on and on. What does all this mean to us, to individual Christians and to our children and our families?

I can tell you exactly what it all means to us – relatively little! People, of all the  American citizens, WE have the least to be concerned about. Why? Because we have been through all this and much worse before! Time and time again!

We like to ignore history because it’s hard to keep up with, and it’s uncomfortable to think of how things have been before. I don’t know about your (step)children, but for mine getting her interested in history was like trying to feed her spinach! But if you push your children (and yourself) to take a bit of time to look back, you’ll be very encouraged by what you see … eventually.

Just after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the brand new baby church was almost snuffed out by the current general public. Civil religious rights? How about being shunned by businesses and government services? How about a school system that taught our kids to actually worship idols? How about being hustled out of our beds and homes in the middle of the night to be dragged into mock courts where we were charged with everything under the sun, found guilty without representation or recourse? How about having your family taken from you and probably tortured and killed? How about being the entertainment for a blood thirsty mob as you are murdered publicly in cruel and imaginative ways?

In the Dark Ages, we true Christians even had these things done to us by “The Church.” If we refused to accept the world government’s twisted version of Christianity, the very religion (in name) that we followed would jail, torture, or kill us!

Even following the Great Enlightening and the Reformation, which broke the monopoly of the false Catholic church, we were subject to the nearest king’s warped ideas of how we should worship, pray, or even believe. When we finally got miraculous freedom to worship publicly and we gained some influence over our own lives here in this new experiment of America, we saw enemies confront us on every front.

Despite political challenges, evolution, and a slowly eroding government, we have been able to relax into our illusion of security, forgetting where we have been and what we have come through to get here. We have found it easy and comfortable to think we have permanent home here in this world, when Jesus Himself regularly reminded us that we are strangers in a hostile land. We used to sing songs that were to serve as reminders: This World Is Not My Home, I’m only passing through, among others. But history is just to pesky to remember. And we’ve let ourselves and our children get lazy and complacent about our real position in a lost world.

And so, here we are again, about to be shaken from our reverie and woken to the harsh reality that we are Christians in a lost world. We may lose our temporary liberties to exercise our beliefs freely and openly. We may lose the right to worship at the corner church or promote our convictions in elections or wear t-shirts or bumper stickers that shout our ideals to the world. And we may feel really, really put upon and downtrodden and persecuted. And we may in fact be outlawed.

But, whatever else we lose, whatever else is taken away from us (or pried from our cold, dead fingers), Christians – true Christians will never lose our faith. Just as school boards may insist on no prayer in schools, but our kids can still pray silently whenever they want, in the same way we, their parents, can never be stopped from believing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We may have to use codes, as some of our ancestors did in Ireland or Poland, but we will still be able to encourage each other. We may meet in back rooms and basements, but we will still pray and praise together.

So my idea of preparing for hard times is not to stockpile gold or bonds. Rather I’m concentrating on increasing my dependence on God’s providence, my familiarity with scriptures, and leading my family into a greater understanding of those Words of life. I know that, no matter what happens with the government, the economy, the ecology, the world community, or even the New World Order, my God will still answer prayer, He will still watch over His children, and He will provide for His own.

If we only survive a few years or months or weeks as fugitives and secret worshipers, we will leave others behind who know the truth and who know how to share it. And we will still have a wonderful, perfect future to look forward to in Heaven, then the New Earth with our God and our family. And it will be unimaginably better than anything we have had here, in America, over the last couple of centuries.

So, bring it on world, and Come Lord Jesus, Come!

STEPcoach (and Christian!) Bob Collins

Should your Family Bother with McDonalds Wifi?

I visited our local McDonalds today with my wife and grandson, to try out their much-talked-about free wifi service which launched this week. We chose the newest McDonalds of the six or so in our immediate area, at 3010 Alma Hwy in Van Buren. This one was very nicely laid out. It even had a seating area with comfortable chairs and a large screen TV on the wall.

However, the problems began when we tried to find a spot to use the Internet. I searched through the entire restaurant and found only one booth that had a plug-in, and in fact only one plug-in in the entire restaurant. I asked the counter attendant where I could hook up our computers and she didn’t know what I was talking about. I assumed she didn’t know about the computer policy, not what a computer was.

When the single computer user-friendly booth came free, we grabbed it and went on-line. Maneuvering through their sign-in screen was fairly easy, but it seemed to take a long time for the system to clear us to go on-line. When we did, the first thing I did – as always – was to check the speed of the link. I always use the same service so results are the comparable. I use Speakeasy Speed Test at The speed of the link at this McDonalds was fair, but not as fast as most other retail outlets (coffeeshops, bookstores, etc) in our area: 1044 kbps download speed; 296 kbps upload speed.

I believe in being fair, so rather than just report on their service here, I also took time to leave a comment at the McDonalds web site. I wrote:

“11,000 free wifi locations, 7 wall sockets to plug in the computers.” You have a very nice restaurant here, but you have ONE plug in at ONE booth. How much money was spent publicizing your free wifi service, which will be wasted because many first-time visitors (like my family) will not return since we can’t get to a plug in for our computers.

Randal, the restaurant assistant manager, said that he thinks the restaurant owner, Jim Hadley, may be thinking of adding some plug-ins at some point in the future. We’ll see.

Anyway, bottom line is our family probably won’t bother with McDonalds again. Panera Bread or Books-A-Million (or even Taco Bell for that matter) are much more conducive to an hour or two noshing and surfing with family or friends or by myself. Not that McDonalds will mind though. I expect they are much more interested in presenting the appearance of being the place you can gather than actually having people cluttering up the place. McDonalds has, after all built their empire on fast food and quick turnover.

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

This is the text of George Washington’s
October 3, 1789 national Thanksgiving Proclamation;
as printed in The Providence Gazette and Country Journal
, on October 17, 1789.

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.  
G. Washington.

Borrowed this, with thanks, from 

May you and your family have a blessed, peaceful Thanksgiving.

Just Found: New Resource

I am really beginning to love Twitter! I know, I know – some folk think of Twitter as a way for kids or celebrities with too much time on their hands to tell WAY too much about themselves.
And it is that.

But it’s also a super way to connect with like-minded businesses, individuals, and support organizations. That is where I’ve really come to appreciate this social network. And I just found another great resource for you (y’all) (youse guys):

WeParent is a neat web site with tons of useful information for divorced parents who are working together to raise their children right. As their “about” statement says:

We’re on a mission to support and facilitate a co-parenting “revolution” among African-American parents! We want to be support central for parents willing to face the challenges of co-parenting in order to enjoy the fulfillment of raising healthy, whole children.

I strongly encourage all my friends who are in divided families (and most of us are!) to check out the good folks at WeParent!

Have a super Summer!

STEPcoach Bob Collins
follow me on Twitter as

NUTS! more infected nuts – pistachios this time!

FDA Says Not to Eat Pistachios

Avoid pistachios amid salmonella scare

FRESNO, Calif. – In another food scare sure to rattle consumers who watched the national salmonella outbreak in peanuts unfold, federal food officials are now warning people not to eat any food containing pistachios, which could carry contamination from the same bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of its roasted nuts shipped since last fall.

“Our advice to consumers is that they avoid eating pistachio products, and that they hold onto those products,” said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety. “The number of products that are going to be recalled over the coming days will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers.

Good grief! You do realize that the FDA is not a government agency, don’t you? They were a consumer group set up by the government – us watching out for ourselves because no one felt like it was the government’s place to see to our health. But why aren’t these people finding this stuff before we get it in our homes?



NUTS! Which Peanuts Aren’t Safe???

The efficient folks at The Daily Green have compiled a nice list of which peanut products to avoid and which are safe.

“Nearly 300 brands have announced recalls related to the salmonella in peanut products since Feb. 1, and dozens more announced recalls in January,” the article states. The article also includes a Widget created by the FDA which I’ve included here:

FDA Product Recall List

FDA Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak 2009. Flash Player 9 is required.FDA Peanut Product Recall Widget. Flash Player 9 is required. Visit to search for peanut product recalls or call CDC-INFO at 1-800-232-4636 for more information.

<!–[if IE]>

FDA Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak 2009. Flash Player 9 is required.FDA Peanut Product Recall Widget. Flash Player 9 is required. Visit to search for peanut product recalls or call CDC-INFO at 1-800-232-4636 for more information.


To read the full Daily Green article,<a href=



Octuplet Poll Closed

Thank you for your opinions and votes regarding the single mom’s voluntary addition of eight more mouths for her parents to feed to the already staggering six previous children. As you’ll see in the right hand column, the majority of the voters felt it was “wrong because …” unfortunately, most didn’t specify a reason they thought it was wrong, just that it was somehow not right.

The poll results will remain available for a few weeks for you to review, as well as the comments to the questions.

thank you!

14 Kids! Could You? Would You???

By now you’ve probably heard at least the basics of the story about the mom who had EIGHT babies all at once. This story is stirring up so much controversy that I’m taking a survey of our stepparenting family.

First the basic facts (according to Time Magazine’s story at (,8599,1878080,00.html):
* Name, age: Nadya Suleman, 33 years old;
* Family: SIX other children already, plus her parents, with whom she currently lives;
* Situation: unemployed, unmarried
* Controversial points:

  1. parents had to file bankruptcy last year because of expense of raising seven children,
  2. mother begged her not to have more kids,
  3. she had to change doctors to get the fertilization treatments,
  4. she chose to be a single mom, several times over, said she hopes the dad will want to be involved,
  5. since she’s broke, tax-payer bill for this birth = $1.3 million
  6. looking to turn this into a windfall through book/movie/TV show deals

OK, that’s the scoop … now, what do you think?
As stepparents we, too, have chosen to “have” more children in our lives, sometimes many more children. So how do you relate to Suleman’s decision to purposely have more children, as a single mom, when she already had six?

Take the poll there, to the right, and share your feelings. If you have comments, just click on the word, “comments,” just below here.

This poll will be active for one week, and the results will be posted at least until the end of February, when I’ll let you know that the accumulated (but anonymous) results and comments are.