Being a columnist isn’t always an easy gig. It often requires walking a fine line between expressing what I really think and what simply entertains.

As every columnist can testify, opinions can sell papers or lose subscriptions. If I play it too safe, I bore you. If I venture too far into religious or political topics, or share personal vulnerabilities and temptations, I run the risk of offending you.

That said, I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m looking to announce my New Year’s resolution. I resolve that this will be my year of writing authentically, my year of focusing not on the popular or how I might improve the NASDAQ-like ups and downs of my readership, but on writing authentically.

Therefore, below you will find some preview paragraphs that I hope to share in the upcoming year as I struggle to see where God fits into politics, religion, family and personal struggles.

In politics, I vote for candidates based on competency, not party. I don’t subscribe to the argumentative style of liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow or conservative ones like Ann Coulter. Instead of focusing on the noise level, I look for the truth and tone.

In social welfare, I believe that churches have a responsibility to help the poor and that the welfare system should be drastically altered. Nevertheless, I see a deeper teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

When it comes to gun control, I have no use for handguns. If I had to “protect” my home, I’d use the shotgun my pastor dad used. He always said that a shotgun blast would either scare the intruder or stop him dead — all without killing a “friendly.”

Of course, I obviously have opinions about religion. For instance, if there’s a hell, Hitler is surely in it and Gandhi is certainly not. Heaven isn’t an exclusive country club. I won’t use my faith as a way to eternally divide people.

I love the Christian Bible, and I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to reveal the entire truth about God. However, the Bible is not a final authority for history or science, and it’s certainly not an addendum to the Trinity.
With family issues, I’m tired of being asked to officiate weddings for people who have no intention of living their pledge. Why should my religion or I be more committed to your relationship than you are? I think we need to finalize the separation of church and state by using civil unions that allow a religious benediction.

I see abortion as a tragic response to tragic problems. While there are reasons for abortion, it ain’t birth control. I support adoption, and those who know my story, know I live that belief.

Finally, in my personal life, I can be selfish sometimes. I’ve lost my temper with my children, and I’ve known temptation and depression. I’ve told some off-color jokes and have even known inebriation. I’m not proud of everything I do, but my shortcomings help me write this column — a column about meeting God in everyday life.

But, at the end of the day when I put the final touches on this column, I leave the last word to my friend Popeye when he says: “I am what I yam what I yam … And I’ll never hurt nobodys and I’ll never tell a lie / Top to me bottom and me bottom to me top / That’s the way it is ’til the day that I drop. What am I? / I yam what I yam.”

Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, email him at, visit website or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.