East Valley Tribune

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  • Valley districts waiting for education funding debate to end

    School districts in the Valley remain in limbo as their representatives and state officials discuss compensation for missing funding.The heart of the issue lies in an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of school districts in Arizona. The suit alleges lawmakers violated state law when they didn’t adjust school funding to account for inflation. A judge subsequently ruled in favor of the districts.The state could owe the schools $1.3 billion in back funding and up to $331 million in immediate state aid. Lawmakers have said the state’s current deficit — the Legislature’s Finance Advisory Committee estimates a $520 million funding gap — prevents the state from paying back the full total.“The dilemma is where will they get the money to pay us?” said Jack Eaton, executive director of business for the Dysart Unified School District in the West Valley.Representatives from the Arizona School Boards Association and the state Legislature will meet Monday to discuss a possible settlement between the two sides.Heidi Vega, the director of communications for ASBA, said the organization can’t comment about the case until after the mediation session.

  • Secretary Johnson calls for more funds to secure border during his ASU lecture

    Pressing Congress for an increase in funds for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a new budget is needed in order to continue to secure the border, Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a lecture at Arizona State University on Wednesday.“I cannot print money, I cannot appropriate money,” Johnson said. “I need Congress to give us a full year’s appropriation bill to fund.”With an appropriations bill set to expire on Feb. 27, Johnson urged Congress to pass a full year’s funding bill while giving a presentation on 21st century border security on Jan. 28. As long as the DHS is on a continuing resolution, he said, the department would not be able to secure the border, nor grant government funds to local governments for security measures, such as the security provided at Sunday’s Super Bowl.“We cannot engage in what are called new starts, new initiatives, new spending on the things we need to do to advance our border security mission,” Johnson said.Vanessa Ferrero, a student at Arizona State University, related the budget to the unaccompanied migrant children who arrived through the Rio Grande Valley last summer.“The less money the department has to work with, the less immigrants they can take on at a time,” she said.

  • Sheriff Arpaio to run for re-election in 2016

    PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced plans to run for re-election Friday morning, and is reaching out to his supporters for assistance . The email from Arpaio's re-election campaign detailed his plans to run once again, calling it the “toughest re-election” of his career. “My opponents (of which you and I know there are many) would love nothing more than to see me defeated,” he said in the email. The 82-year-old has served as sheriff for Maricopa County since 1993. With six consecutive four-year terms under his belt, Arpaio is now aiming for his seventh. Arpaio, nicknamed the “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” will be running in the 2016 election.

  • Tastebuds travel south of the border at Tapacubo

    Tempe passersby looking for a new and unique dining experience different from anything else can add Tapacubo to their must-try hot spot list.This new restaurant, located in The Graduate hotel, which recently replaced the Twin Palms on Apache Boulevard, offers customers Mexican and South American-styled food at affordable costs in a vintage ’60s and ‘70s garage-themed location.“We have these large, vintage gas pumps that dispense our margaritas, hubcap chandeliers, and some old cars hanging … that will make you feel like you’re in South America (or) down by the border,” said Tapacubo executive chef, Brian Archibald.Tapacubo, meaning hubcap, is also fully equipped with a bar counter made of 38,000 pesos from Mexico.Archibald said he’s especially proud of Tapacubo’s diverse menu, which offers everything from street-style tacos, to Honduran ceviche and even vegetarian arepas.“Vegetarian dishes are always hard to come across,” Archibald said. “(Tapacubo’s) has a lot of flavor.”

  • Revenue from the sky lifts Valley airports this week

    As fans and visitors descend upon the Valley for the week leading up to the biggest sporting event of the year, so are dollars for the area’s private airports.Falcon Field in Mesa, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Chandler Municipal Airport, Goodyear Airport, Glendale Municipal Airport and others are part of a coordinated program established by the federal government to handle anticipated traffic into and out of the area via charter and private craft.Falcon Executive Aviation, the company in the industry referred to as the fixed-base operator of Mesa’s Falcon Field, will reap a yield from the services it provides aircraft operators, according to Dee Ann Thomas, the airport’s marketing and communications specialist.As of Thursday, the airport had two dozen reservations beyond the usual for a late January week, and the number was climbing.“We work with private recreational or corporate aircraft. Our . . . Falcon Executive Aviation, is taking and managing reservations. They handle and service planes. They’ll park, fuel and take care of planes,” she said.In addition, some airports are offering extra services for pilots and passengers, she added. At Falcon, this includes a lounge where pilots can stay, rest or relax. Some operators also provide a concierge for pilots and passengers.

  • Mesa PD chief Milstead appointed to lead DPS

    Mesa Police Department Chief Frank Milstead will leave his post to serve as leader of the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS).According to a statement, Gov. Doug Ducey selected Milstead to become the director of DPS. He will replace Robert Halliday, who was appointed to that position by former Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010.“Chief Milstead has led a long, dedicated, and successful career improving the safety of our communities while creating efficiencies in his departments,” Ducey said in the statement. “I am proud to announce he will continue to serve our state and defend the safety of our citizens.”Mesa Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Steve Berry said via email the department is not sure when Milstead will leave to assume control of DPS, and no timeline is set to find a replacement for Milstead. A statement released by the city indicates it will select someone from within the department to serve as the police chief in the interim.Milstead has served as the head of the Mesa Police Department since 2010; he previously worked with the Phoenix Police Department for 25 years. Under his watch, the department was tabbed as the third-safest city for violent and property crimes by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in 2014, and the city has seen its crime rates drop in recent years.“I can state unequivocally the Mesa Police Department is recognized and ranked as one of the most exceptional law enforcement agencies in the United States,” Milstead wrote in a letter to department staff.

  • Celebs, attendees at Scottsdale Super Bowl party split on Big Game favorite

    One night before the Super Bowl and the main question posed to the attendees of the Rolling Stone Live in Arizona pregame party in Scottsdale was, who's going to win on Sunday night?For Craig Robinson, known for his work on “The Office” and for “Hot Tub Time Machine,” the answer was resoundingly the Seattle Seahawks over the New England Patriots.“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin doubled down with Robinson and sided with Seattle's squad. Then again, Martin, who regularly blogs about football, said he's an devout fan of the New York Giants and New York Giants – two of the Patriots' biggest rival.One of the quirks of the night and impending game for Martin came 20 years ago when he pitched a pilot in which aliens invaded the Super Bowl. The show was never picked up, but Martin said the screenplay he wrote is going to be released as a graphic novel in the future.The crowd at the party hosted at the The Venue Scottsdale was split relatively evenly, with numerous fans garbed in either Seahawks or Patriots gear. Show headliner and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler didn't reference the game during his performance, although he is a known Patriots fan, while opener Charli XCX didn't advocate for either team during her set.Still, there were others in attendance who just happy to watch tonight's game in Glendale.

  • ‘Black or White’ a solid story about race relations

    There are two movies currently in theaters about American heroes. One of them is “American Sniper,” which centers on a white American hero. The other is “Selma,” which centers on a black American hero. “American Sniper” has exceeded all expectations with its box office results and Oscar nominations while “Selma” has done just okay. While both of these movies are great and important achievements, they seem to have created a wedge between some people. Given this controversy, it’s appropriate that we’d get a movie like “Black or White” right about now.Kevin Costner gives one of his strongest performances in a while as Elliot Anderson, a lawyer raising his biracial granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell). Elliot’s daughter died in childbirth and his wife was recently killed in a car accident. Octavia Spencer is right at home as Rowena, Eloise’s paternal grandmother who doesn’t think Elliot can raise her alone. With a big family and steady job of her own, Rowena hires her lawyer brother (Anthony Mackie) to get full custody. Things only get more complicated when Eloise’s druggy father (André Holland) returns and Rowena pushes him to take responsibility for his daughter. What ensues is a bit like the interracial version of “Kramer vs. Kramer.”The reason “Black or White” works is because its characters are never, for a lack of better words, black and white. None of these people are bad per se, but they all have human flaws. Although he loves his granddaughter with all his heart, Elliot isn’t sure how to be a single parent and often turns to the bottle for answers. That doesn’t mean Rowena has the right to take Eloise away from Elliot either. As nurturing as she is, Rowena doesn’t always know what’s best. After all, the woman did raise a crack addict whom she forgives one too many times. “Black or White” is all about finding the middle ground when it becomes to race, family, and simply doing what’s best.With powerful performances, honest characters, and wise commentary, there are times where “Black or White” demonstrates the makings of a great picture about race relations. There are a few problems, though. For starters, the humor can occasionally feel awkward and out-of-place. Sometimes the comedy works, particularly the scenes involving Mpho Koaho as a tutor always equipped with credentials. But then we get an uneven scene, such as when Elliot tells Eloise about her grandma’s departure and the conversation is partially played for laughs. A film like “The Help” did a much better job at juggling drama and comedy, despite what some say about that infamous pie scene.Also, for a film about the dynamics between black and white people, we spend a lot more time with Costner’s character than any of the African-American ones. They’re not underdeveloped per se, but a few more scenes told from Rowena’s point of view definitely would have elevated the story. Even little Eloise is kind of overshadowed at times, although the film does effectively develop her relationships with all her parental figures. This is actually one of the few custody movies where we see the adults talk to the child involved about who she wants to live with. At the very least, Eloise is a significant figure here and not just a puppet.  Then there’s the film’s final act. Without giving too much away, “Black or White” leads to an action climax in which two characters butt heads. It’s forced, it’s cheap, and it just seems tacked on. As unnecessary as the climax is, it still doesn’t ruin the experience. Writer and director Mike Binder’s film might not be a transcendent story about race, but it is a solid one that will hopefully encourage more pictures like this. Considering how divided people sometimes are, we can never have too many movies about compromise.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    New this weekBlack or WhiteThis is the story of a grandfather who is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter. When her paternal grandmother seeks custody with the help of her brother, the little girl is torn between two families who love her deeply. With the best intentions at heart, both families fight for what they feel is right and are soon forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness, and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white. Starring: Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Jillian Estell, Gillian Jacobs, Jennifer Ehle, Anthony Mackie, Bill Burr.  PG-13Black SeaA rogue submarine captain pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control on board their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival.  Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Michael Smiley, Jodie Whittaker, Karl Davies.  RLegends From the Sky

  • AP Source: Missy Elliott to join Perry for Super Bowl half

    PHOENIX (AP) — Missy Elliott is going to "Work It" at the Super Bowl with Katy Perry. A person familiar with the plans for Sunday's halftime show told The Associated Press on Thursday that Grammy winner Elliott is slated to make a surprise appearance during Perry's performance. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Elliott's participation had not been announced by the NFL. Elliott was featured on a remix of Perry's song "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" in 2011. During a news conference Thursday, Perry hinted at Elliott's involvement in the Super Bowl act, which also will feature Lenny Kravitz. Perry said the halftime show will include an "old school" female singer — but did not say who that would be. "When you hear the first ring of the chord," Perry promised, "I think jaws will drop and faces will melt." Elliott is a multiplatinum rapper, singer and producer whose Grammy Awards from the early 2000s include Best Rap Solo Performance for "Get Ur Freak On," and Best Female Rap Solo Performance for "Work It" and "Scream a.k.a. Itchin'." Other Super Bowl halftime shows have included unannounced performances, including by singer Usher and former Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash in 2011.

  • Julian Sands celebrates life of Harold Pinter with solo show

    Almost a decade ago actor Julian Sands was approached by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter to prepare a special selection of his poems for a charity event in London. Pinter, considered Britain’s greatest living playwright, personally apprenticed Sands, spending hours together and sharing his thoughts on how his work should be delivered, down to every pause, nuance and tone.Sands, whose outstanding work in “The Killing Fields,” “A Room With A View,” “Oceans 13” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” established a bond with Pinter, initially thought the collaboration would be a one-off. After Pinter’s 2008 death, Sands performed it as a tribute at a Los Angeles memorial, where it was seen by John Malkovich, who became the show’s director.On Feb. 4, Sands will bring “A Celebration of Harold Pinter” to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The affable and respected thespian spoke to GetOut while on a work break in London to discuss the passion and poetry of Pinter.Q: You knew you wanted to be an actor at a very young age.  What was that moment that sparked you as a young kid, where you said to yourself, “This is what I want and will pursue as a vocation”?JS: Well, I think it was an intuitive thing. I wanted to be an actor without really knowing what being an actor was. I just knew that in the 1960s growing up in the North of England in a very rural area that I got very excited whenever there was any live theater to see in town. I’d also go to the cinema at the weekends, and whatever I saw it was thrilling, exciting, inspiring. I saw Lawrence Oliver’s “Richard III” without comprehending all the Shakespearean language. I knew that what he was doing was incredibly important to me, and I felt this great certainty about what I should do. Between then and becoming an actor I finished my schooling, I thought about every other job you could imagine because becoming an actor didn’t seem to be a realistic possibility. There was no precedence for it in my village, but the way providence creates a passion I did find myself getting school at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. That was almost 40 years ago.MT:  Did you find the American film industry a bit crazy when you made the jump from the stage to the silver screen?

  • Tastebuds travel south of the border at Tapacubo

    Tempe passersby looking for a new and unique dining experience different from anything else can add Tapacubo to their must-try hot spot list.This new restaurant, located in The Graduate hotel, which recently replaced the Twin Palms on Apache Boulevard, offers customers Mexican and South American-styled food at affordable costs in a vintage ’60s and ‘70s garage-themed location.“We have these large, vintage gas pumps that dispense our margaritas, hubcap chandeliers, and some old cars hanging … that will make you feel like you’re in South America (or) down by the border,” said Tapacubo executive chef, Brian Archibald.Tapacubo, meaning hubcap, is also fully equipped with a bar counter made of 38,000 pesos from Mexico.Archibald said he’s especially proud of Tapacubo’s diverse menu, which offers everything from street-style tacos, to Honduran ceviche and even vegetarian arepas.“Vegetarian dishes are always hard to come across,” Archibald said. “(Tapacubo’s) has a lot of flavor.”

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  • Financial advice: Keeping the peace when it comes to love and money

    Romantic relationships can be wonderful but also challenging when complicated by finances. Resources are limited, the pressures of life are often great, and partners may have different views and values when it comes to managing finances. In fact, money is among the top issues couples fight about, and it’s commonly cited as the primary cause of divorce.To help you better navigate the financial landscape of your relationship, I’m breaking down the most common disputes and offering tips on how to reconcile differences.Different financial “values”People are generally very emotional about money. Perhaps this is because money is tied to some deeper fear or insecurity such as personal worth or value. Or, it could be the result of traumatic experiences related to finances or attitudes fostered during childhood.Many individuals have a preconceived notion (often subconsciously) of the role of money in their lives. For some, the value in money may lie in enjoying life experiences. For others, it may be in financial security or independence. Still for others, it may be a status symbol or a method of self-validation.It’s important for each person in a relationship to identify their financial values and be honest with themselves about what money means to them. Only then can a couple have a meaningful dialogue about how to manage their money to meet both partners’ needs. There may be times when it’s appropriate to work with a professional to serve as a neutral facilitator.

  • Steep drop in gas prices over

    For the first time in weeks, gas prices in Arizona have fallen by less than a penny, while the national average has actually increased during that same stretch.AAA Arizona reports the average fuel cost is down in Arizona to $1.906, representing a 0.9-cent decline from the week prior. Tucson has taken hold of the lowest state average at $1.785 per gallon, while Flagstaff has the most expensive price at $2.217.The national average has bumped up by 0.3 cents to $2.044.

  • Gilbert Chamber of Commerce to host ReferenceUSA workshop

    The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce is hosting a workshop teaching business owners how to use the ReferenceUSA database on Jan. 29. The workshop will run from 4-5 p.m. at the chamber of commerce building.ReferenceUSA helps business owners compile business and consumer data.For more information on ReferenceUSA and the workshop, visit www.business.gilbertaz.com/events.

  • Take me home: Handsome Boston is playful and fun

    Boston is an incredibly handsome 2-year-old American Bobtail capable of charming the socks off of you with his engaging purrsonality. This sweet guy will happily run over and offer a greeting when you enter the room in the hopes of soliciting attention from you. This super snuggly fellow loves to be petted and will happily curl up in your lap so you can pet him until your arm falls off. Boston also enjoys being brushed, although playing with the brush is a prerequisite to being brushed. At the conclusion of snuggle time, Boston is content to follow you around until he finds a spot where he can hang out near you to either gaze at you adoringly or to continue the conversation that he might’ve started while on your lap. Boston is playful — he especially seems to enjoy chasing anything related to strings. However, if he had to choose one toy to take to a desert island, there is no question he’d choose the laser toy. Boston also gets a kick out of playing floor hockey with wadded up paper balls and attacking brooms.Boston gets along fine with other friendly kitties and is very intrigued by the resident dogs in his foster home. If interested in learning more about Boston, fill out an application for him today at www.azrescue.org.

  • Gilbert family opens bakery shop

    Some passions seem to never truly fade or go away.Jay and Danielle Lunt, who are from Gilbert, found this notion to be evident when they decided to open their bakery business, Rise Up Bakery, in Gilbert this past December.The idea of opening a bakery didn’t just come out of the blue.Jay originally began in the bakery business back in 1993 when he and Danielle lived in Las Vegas.While in Las Vegas, Jay became the owner of the Whole Grain Natural Bread Company bakery shop.He found success and happiness with the bakery in Sin City, but he and Danielle ultimately made the decision to close-up shop and move to Arizona to be closer to family.

  • Ground broken on Mesa Riverview office project

    On Wednesday, Lincoln Property Management broke ground on the Class A office space in Mesa Riverview, which it announced back in June.The development, now called Waypoint, is located at 1138 Bass Pro Drive and is scheduled to move in its first tenant, the headquarters of American Traffic Solutions, along with some 500-plus jobs, in November.“Three years ago, Harvard didn’t have any projects in the city of Mesa,” Craig Krumwiede, president and director at Harvard Investments, said. “We wouldn’t be in Mesa without the city’s commitment to responsible development.”Krumwiede went on to say that the city’s fast tracking of development permissions and other aid allowed the project to meet the deadline necessary to attract ATS to the site.“It’s a great collaborative effort to build something that purposeful, that fits with our culture,” James Tuton, president and CEO of ATS, said. “It’s a beautiful property. I’m excited about it.”Tuton went on to express his satisfaction in setting up his company’s headquarters in Mesa.

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  • Spiritual side: Planting the seeds now for a healthier world

    There are many new years — the calendar year, the fiscal year, the school year. Birthdays and anniversaries mark special turnings in our lives. The Jewish calendar designates Tu B’shvat (the 15th day of the month of Shvat) as the “Birthday of the Trees.” In ancient times, if a tree produced fruit before Tu B’shvat, it was reckoned for the previous year. This year, on the Gregorian calendar, the New Year of the Trees occurs on Feb. 4. Tu B’shvat has become a day for environmental awareness, a chance for us all to take stock of the global reality and our own environmental impact.I read about environmental degradation — about melting glaciers and mountains of trash in the oceans. I see images of abnormal frogs and sea bird corpses with bellies full of plastic bits. It is profoundly troubling. But what can I do?As individual people, members of simple, single households, it’s hard to believe that our choices make much difference or that we can have an impact. And while it is certainly true that we don’t have the influence of a multinational corporation or government, we do have some. It’s important to my humanity that I exert this, that I assert my power and agency rather than acceding it to those whose interests are clearly opposed to my own.If you’ve fallen into a rut with your relationship to a healthy environment, let the Birthday of the Trees allow you to reset. Now can be the time to adopt new practices you once thought were beyond your reach. Consider:1. Take a look at your household products. Are you using cleansers that are gentle on the on the environment? Chemicals that are harsh on the environment are harsh on our bodies, too. Many shampoos (and other products) use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent that’s a known risk to the body and the environment. Read your labels. It’s easy to buy products without SLS these days. If cost has been a barrier for you to use environmentally friendly solutions, it’s time to take another look at them in the store: Prices have fallen.2. If you have a yard or balcony, consider adding plants that attract and sustain humming birds, butterflies and bees. Urbanization has destroyed feeding grounds for these creatures; even one flowering pot could be the oasis they need. Also be sure your irrigation isn’t wasting water, whether through dripping, over-watering or delivering at the wrong time of day. The utility company websites have great resources for this.

  • Organizations to give out free spay and neuter vouchers

    The Arizona Humane Society and Fix.Adopt.Save will provide free spay and neuter vouchers in advance of World Spay Day in Tempe on Feb. 3.Hosted at Tempe Marketplace, the organizations will give out 500 vouchers for pet owners to have their pets spayed or neutered. The vouchers are part of the organizations’ recognition of World Spay Day, which is scheduled for Feb. 24.The event is from 7 a.m. to noon at the mall, located at 200 E. Rio Salado Parkway.

  • Keeping the Faith: The Kudzu Conspiracy

    "The kingdom of God is like kudzu planted in a field." Would Jesus have ever said such a thing? Yes, I think so. You see, he once compared God's work in this world to a growing ""mustard seed" and like ""yeast mixed in with the dough." Making the jump from mustard and yeast to kudzu is not as far a leap as you might think.The mustard of first century Palestine overgrew and consumed everything around it. A farmer who planted mustard in her garden could not turn her back on it for very long. If she did, it would overrun every other vegetable or herb in the field. Yeast worked the same way. Mysteriously, inexplicably to those living before the understandings of microscopic science, yeast took over the bland, tasteless flour and transformed it.Illustrated in the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus makes clear that God can overwhelm and transform the very nature of this world with a steady, unstoppable, persistent, invasive force. Honestly, I don't know much about mustard seeds or yeast fungi; but as a native of Georgia, I do know a little bit about kudzu.Kudzu was introduced to North America on the United States' 100th birthday. The Asian plant was quickly loved by gardeners, what with its large green leaves and purple blooms, and nurseries began selling seedlings through the mail.But it was the Dust Bowl years that really rooted kudzu in the American soil and psyche. The U.S. government was seeking an effective way to conserve soil, and kudzu fit the bill perfectly. The vine was touted as a "wonder plant," and the USDA used the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s to distribute and plant the seeds everywhere -- especially the South.They thought, once the soil was healthfully restored, that farmers could just plow over it and return to planting cotton, soybean, or corn. Little did anyone know that the Southeastern United States was the perfect environment for kudzu to grow, and grow and grow and grow. Kudzu has now climbed, coiled, and slithered its way all over the Southeast, changing the landscape while becoming a central characteristic of Southern culture.

  • Take me home: Handsome Boston is playful and fun

    Boston is an incredibly handsome 2-year-old American Bobtail capable of charming the socks off of you with his engaging purrsonality. This sweet guy will happily run over and offer a greeting when you enter the room in the hopes of soliciting attention from you. This super snuggly fellow loves to be petted and will happily curl up in your lap so you can pet him until your arm falls off. Boston also enjoys being brushed, although playing with the brush is a prerequisite to being brushed. At the conclusion of snuggle time, Boston is content to follow you around until he finds a spot where he can hang out near you to either gaze at you adoringly or to continue the conversation that he might’ve started while on your lap. Boston is playful — he especially seems to enjoy chasing anything related to strings. However, if he had to choose one toy to take to a desert island, there is no question he’d choose the laser toy. Boston also gets a kick out of playing floor hockey with wadded up paper balls and attacking brooms.Boston gets along fine with other friendly kitties and is very intrigued by the resident dogs in his foster home. If interested in learning more about Boston, fill out an application for him today at www.azrescue.org.

  • Wilmot: Keeping our spiritual lives flexible

    Spandex and spiritual workouts — this may be the stretch you’re looking for.There was a time when I would have avoided pants with the word spandex on the label in the same way that I try hard to avoid catching the flu! My short-lived experience of spandex was to try some nifty spandex leggings to get in the right frame of mind for a workout. That lasted about as long as most people’s New Year’s resolutions. It took some time, but I finally got to a place in my life where I was willing to give spandex another chance. Fortunately, spandex was not the only fiber listed on the label, just one of them. Plus, it became increasingly difficult to find any pants that didn’t have spandex in them. Anyway, the new stretchy and forgiving pants turned out to comfortable and pretty flattering (yep, that’s my opinion). Sometimes change really is good.No good shopping experience, including actually finding pants that are comfortable, fit well, and look good should never go unexamined for a spiritual connection. In fact, if we embraced more of the qualities of the expansive give and forgive of spandex, our lives would be easier, simpler, and a lot more peaceful. Looking back at our Judeo-Christian history for a moment, it seems that there’s not much give in the attitudes of some religious leaders we come across. With few exceptions the message from the Scribes and Pharisees was pretty much my way or the highway. Jesus recognized their problem in the parable of the new wine and old wineskins from Luke 5:37-38: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” Those old wineskins just couldn’t handle the new wine that Jesus embodies, teaches and is ultimately willing to die for in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. God’s hands are always stretching out to touch us. God’s gifts are always available to bless us expansively and abundantly. Through our faith in Christ Jesus, our earthly lives expand beyond time and space and into everlasting life in Him.Old ways and old habits can become so comfortable that we’re not willing to risk faith, or stretch ourselves. Our mindset can become precisely that: set, fixed, immovable and unchanging. If our thinking is atrophied and our hearts hardened, then we’ve stopped allowing the Holy Spirit to keep our hearts supple and our minds exercised in God’s word, and stretching to discern God’s will. If that’s happened or happening, is it an issue of who’s in control? How stubborn are we being in holding tightly onto some aspect of our lives, shutting out God’s healing and cleansing light? Is ego getting in the way of the Way? Or perhaps it’s about fear. Are we frightened to look at the new gifts God is offering, or worried about the new opportunities God is preparing us for?Trusting in the Lord is one important element to keeping ourselves open to God’s will for our lives, and prayer is the key to building that trust. If prayer isn’t a regular habit yet, this may be a stretch, yet prayer is a kind of spiritual spandex. It helps us to stretch ourselves toward the Lord, and gives us the kind of flexibility and strength we need to reach out to serve others. Prayer is an awesome way to keep us in shape. Dwelling in God’s word, otherwise known as stretching the horizons of our understanding of God’s living word, is another great way to get a spiritual workout. It helps to be part of a community of faith to explore the real shape of some of the strange dips and bumps in our spiritual journeys that we all experience from time to time. Finding a community of faith is equally important when (notice I didn’t say “if”) we’re feeling stretched to the max by life’s demands — work, career, family, financial pressures, time constraints, or spiritual discontent — and can’t seem to find answers to our most pressing questions or issues. Keeping our spiritual lives flexible, helps us to grow in all the right ways!• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at rector@stjamestempe.orgor or at (480) 345-2686.

  • Take me home: Sweet Bubba is a typical hound dog

    Bubba is a 2-year-old Basset blend. He landed at Friends for Life Animal Rescue in Gilbert by way of the Yuma Humane Society, where he was considered a stray.Bubba is a “typical hound,” He’ll follow his nose anywhere (which might explain how he got lost in the first place).His ideal home would be one with some knowledge of hound behaviors. Bubba likes to cuddle with his people. He’d probably do fine with older children. He has met a few dogs and is vocal (like hounds are) when he meets them, but he does play with other dogs.Bubba is neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and licensed. He has tested negative for heartworm. Bubba’s adoption fee is $225 and he’s patiently waiting for his new family at Friends for Life’s adoption center.For more information, call (480) 497-8296 or visit www.azfriends.org.

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