Sunday, February 21, 2010

Prison in the Rearview Mirror

A man tried to explain what it felt like to be released from prison.  All that time spent serving time, hoping for early parole.  And, then when the day finally comes, the feeling is so exquisite that words fail to even begin to describe the emotions swirling within like a tornado.

'Is this really the day?'

'Surely they'll say there was a mistake and I have to stay longer.'

'I'm afraid I'll awake from this dream and I'll still have more time to serve.'

'As you walk down the hall towards that final locked door, you are sure they won't actually let you out.  But, they unlock the door and lead you out.'

'Your clothes and other personal belongings are returned to you.  Personal effects that you had not held in your hands for so long.'

One man had his car key returned to him.  As he walked outside, still believing that surely someone would stop him and force him to return to the prison, he searches briefly in a compound lot and finds his car.  He unlocks it, gets in, puts the key in the ignition, and she starts up!  The motions are awkward, but still somehow feel strangely familiar.  Muscle memory.

"As you drive away, you're sure you'll be stopped at the final huge gate.  But, they wave you on through.  As you drive away, you keep looking back in the rearview mirror.  It's so odd to see the prison in the mirror.  You keep checking every few moments, realizing no cars with lights are chasing you and that the prison gradually grows smaller as each mile goes fleeting by."

As we go through life, we face periods of "prison."  Bad situations caused by others, life, even some caused by ourselves.  Situations in which we are trapped for some time, waiting and praying for release ... for early parole.

When we are finally released from whatever our prison is -- health problem, divorce, loss of a loved one -- we gradually pull away from that prison.  And, like the prisoner, we keep waiting for someone or something to chase us and haul us back behind the barbed wire.  But, as we progress on beyond that prison, it grows smaller and smaller, fading away in the distance ... a fading memory.

What did we learn while in that prison?  What lesson will we take with us "on the outside" as we continue on our journey of life?

But, the bigger question: Do we spend too much time looking back, dwelling on that prison, forgetting to look ahead with anticipation toward our future?  Instead, do we keep looking back, disbelieving of our good fortune, mistrusting that we're actually out.   Where is out focus?  It is good to look back and see how far we've come, what we've learned, being proud in how we survived.  But, our future lies ahead of us.  Do we get on with living?
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." 

Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.    [John 5:1-9]
An interesting question Jesus asks the handicapped man: "Do you want to get well?"  You would think the answer were obvious.  Why would Jesus ask such a patently ridiculous question?  But, perhaps Jesus sees that this man has become comfortable with the way his life is, maybe enjoying the sympathy of others, the attention.  The man has his system worked out.  Begging his way through life might have seemed easier to the man.  Being healed and thus able to return to a regular life would pose major challenges of adjustment: returning to community, to work, to family ... and the trappings and obligations that pertain thereto.

There are people who suffer genuine, unimaginable tragedy.  Others seem to hit one bad streak of luck after another.  But, there are others we know that seem to enjoy misery, almost as if they make it their mission to sniff out trouble with the dogged determination of a blood hound.   Some wallow in self-pity, always a victim.  Others milk attention from any makeshift audience either via melodramatic exaggeration of a perceived wrong or some personal trauma.  

We all face prisons here and there throughout life.  But, it is what we choose to do with the experience that proves the mettle of a person.  Do I keep looking back, foregoing the future that lies ahead?  Do I always keep an eye on that prison in the rearview mirror, missing out on the full beauty of my future?

Do I want to be healed?  Do I want to get well?

British Court Upholds Discriminatory Labor Practice of British Airways

It continues to amaze me ... and alarm me ... that today's so called "tolerant" and "politically correct" society fails to see its blatant hypocrisy in its discrimination against Christians.  Take the case of British Airways employee Nadia Eweida, who was forbidden to wear her cross while working behind the check-in counter

Here's the story by Aaron J. Leichman of The Christian Post (emphasis added):

British Airways Worker Loses Religious Discrimination Case

A British Airways check-in worker who refused to hide her cross necklace at work has lost her case against the airline in London's Court of Appeals but will likely take it up to the Supreme Court.

Sat, Feb. 13, 2010 Posted: 10:52 AM EDT

A British Airways check-in worker who refused to hide her cross necklace at work has lost her case against the airline in London's Court of Appeals but will likely take it up to the Supreme Court.

The Appeals Court on Friday upheld the November 2008 judgment of an employment tribunal, which found that banning Nadia Eweida from wearing a cross was not discriminatory because Christians “generally” do not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

Furthermore, the court's judge ruled, however much British Airways’ ban conflicted with individuals' religious beliefs, the airline was justified in imposing it.

The case reflects "problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a ... practice adopted by an employer conflicts with beliefs which they hold, but which may not only not be shared but may be opposed by others in the workforce,” the judge stated, according to Agence-France Presse.

"It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only fair solution," he added.

Although British Airways has since changed its uniform policy to allow for the open wearing of all religious symbols, including crosses, Eweida took the airline to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, claiming the airline had discriminated against Christians by not allowing them to openly wear symbols of their faith while Muslim and Hindu employees were permitted to wear headscarves and turbans.

Eweida wanted British Airways to acknowledge the old policy amounted to religious discrimination, and was seeking 120,000 pounds (nearly $200,000) in damages and lost wages for the roughly three months she was kept off the job.

Following Friday’s ruling, Dr. Vincent Cable, Eweida’s Member of Parliament and the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, vowed to “fight on” and take “this important issue of principle and freedom of expression” to the Supreme Court.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for the London-based human rights group Liberty, added: “This is a disappointing judgment that will do little to build public confidence in equality laws protecting everyone.

“But this is just the sort of case that a Supreme Court is for and we have every hope that the highest court in the land will put Britain's long tradition of religious tolerance into modern legal practice,” said Ferguson, who represented Eweida.

According to Liberty, Eweida currently has support from religious leaders, politicians of all parties and the Transport and General Workers Union.

Notably, it was only after a public backlash and widespread criticism from politicians and church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that British Airways changed its uniform policy to allow crosses on chains to be worn openly.
You will note that British Airways has changed its uniform policy to permit the wearing of religious symbols.  Perhaps it is a matter of principal that Eweida continues with her law suit.

Interesting that British Airways made the excuse that Christians are not dictated by their religion to wear crosses.  They fail to see that neither does Islam require the wearing of head coverings for women.  So, BA allows head coverings but not crosses.  Hmmmm ...

Again, we're slapped upside the head with this ridiculous, mindless political correctness nonsense.  Such PC-minded (or "blinded") individuals resort to all kinds of contortions to accommodate those of other races and religions, failing or refusing to see when they discriminate against another group. 

It reminds me of a colleague at work who complained on several occasions of Christian students observing the annual "See You at the Flag Pole", which is an event of prayer that takes place before the school day starts -- totally protected by the Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, because such an event does not take place during the school day and does not use taxpayer monies.   The colleague complained about this on several occasions, so one time I asked her how she felt about some schools being faced with the dilemma of whether to offer classrooms with prayer rugs to their Muslim students during Ramadan during the school day -- a clear violation of separation of church and state.  She had no problem with that.  In her PC-induced blindness, she could not see her own religious bias.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mary Stewart's Prayer

I attended a women's dinner at the local Knights of Columbus building.  The ladies started with the meal with this lovely prayer:

Mary Stewart's Prayer

Keep us, O God, from all pettiness.
Les us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off of self-seeking.
May we put away all pretence and meet each other fact to face,
without self pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment, and always be generous.
Let us always take time for all things, and make us grow calm,
serene and gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses, 
to be straight-forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize that it is the little things of life
that create differences, that in the big things of life, we are one.
And, O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lent: A Time of Reflection

"What are you giving up for Lent?"  That's the question commonly discussed among Christians and, with today being Mardi Gras with all its debaucherous trappings, tomorrow brings another Lenten season.  I wasn't raised in a denomination that observed Lent ... or, perhaps I should say that I wasn't raised in a household that did.  My father was a minister's son, and he pretty much avoided church like the plague, our shadows falling across the church threshold for the traditional C&E -- Christmas and Easter.

It wasn't until I was an adult and started attending church on a regular basis that I was a member of a denomination that observes Lent.  I found the tradition of Wednesday services and special reflections on Christ's Passion very inspirational.  However, I've never been one to "give up" something for Lent -- to make a sacrifice.  I am the first to admit that I am too weak willed for such devotion.  And, in pharisaical fashion, I judge others' sacrifices as paling in comparison to Christ's -- chocolate, for example.

I did a quick check at Wikipedia about Lent -- nice summary of the season's history.  Here's a bit:
There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.[8]
I like that: "Justice towards God, justice towards self and justice towards neighbor." 

"What are YOU giving up for Lent?"  I do consider giving the practice a try, but I'm too chicken ... the old "fear of failure" thing ... being a bit of a perfectionist.  "If I can't make it all 40 days, then AAAARRRGH!!!"

Last year, I blogged on Hummers & Cigarettes about a suggested "technology fast" proposed by some Italian archbishops.  The reasoning was that it was a way to place concrete relationships above virtual ones, as well as being mindful of how our lfiestyles have consequences in other countries (i.e. coltan, a mineral used in cellphones, is at the center of much of Congo's ongoing struggles).  Click here to read that post.

What would be some worthwhile sacrifices for Lent?  I would love to hear ideas.  Here are a few I've heard of that I think are quite admirable and beneficial:

- give up unnecessary shopping (just essentials) and give the money saved to charity
- a friend skips lunch during Lent, donating the money saved to a local food pantry
- starting a good habit of daily devotion and prayer
- volunteer, make a difference in the community
- give up playing the radio in your car and use the quiet time to meditate

Your ideas?

I like the idea that Lent is not about giving "up" stuff but rather giving "in" to Jesus.

However you decide to observe Lent, maybe it bring you many blessings!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NCAA Bans "Eye Black" Messages on Athletes

But, I guess the NCAA doesn't mind scantily clad girls shaking their ta-tas ...

This from The Christian Post (emphasis added):
NCAA Football Committee OKs Ban on 'Eye Black' Notes

The NCAA Football Rules Committee agreed Wednesday to bar players from displaying words, numbers, logos and other symbols in the anti-glare “eye black” they underline their eyes with.

Though not mentioned in the decision, former college football star and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow has been credited by numerous media and bloggers as having had an influence on the move – dubbed by some already as “The Tebow Rule.”

Though hundreds of college players use their eye black to express themselves, Tebow’s use of the glare reducer had drawn notably attention over the past two years as it touted verses in the Bibles. It became especially prominent the college football season before last as he marched his team toward their second BCS championship in three years.

In the 2009 BCS championship game, Tebow donned the most popular Bible verse in America – John 3:16 – which went on to be googled by some 94 million people over two days. Other verses, the Florida Gators QB has sported include Mark 8:36, John 16:33, Ephesians 2:8-10, and James 1:24.
The recent decision by the NCAA Football Rules Committee came as it held its annual meeting this past week in Indianapolis. Other actions the committee took included the endorsement of a proposal to penalize unsportsmanlike conduct as a live-ball foul beginning in the 2011 season.

The issue regarding “eye black” was among several “equipment issues” that the committee decided to clarify.
Yeah, sure --  "equipment issue."  

Wow.  Eye black with messages pale in comparison to the days of grandstanding or pelvic thrusting in the endzone.  Besides it being unacceptable to be a person of faith these days, one can't help but wonder if this "Tebow rule" has now drawn fire due to Tebow's "controversial" commercial that aired during The Super Bowl last week?

Coincidence?  Hmmmmm ....

Seven Wonders of the World

A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following got the most votes:
 1. Egypt's Great Pyramids
 2. Taj Mahal
 3. Grand Canyon
 4. Panama Canal
 5. Empire State Building
 6. St. Peter's Basilica
 7. China's Great Wall
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one quiet student hadn't turned in her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.
 The girl replied, "Yes, a little. I couldn't quite make up my mind because there were so many."
 The teacher said, "Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help."
 The girl hesitated, then read, "I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:"
 "1. to touch"
 "2. to taste"
 "3. to see"
 "4. to hear"
 She hesitated a little, and then added
 "5. to feel"
 "6. to laugh"
 "7. and to love"
The room was so full of silence you could have heard a pin drop.
It is far too easy for us to look at the exploits of man and refer to them as wonders while we overlook what God has done for us.

Those things we overlook as simple and "ordinary" are truly wondrous.

If It Had Been Three Wise Women

Three Wise Women

What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men?

They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

But what would they have said when they left? ...

"Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?"

"That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"

"A virgin?  Oh, PLEASE!!  I knew her in school..."

"How could they let all those disgusting animals in the house?"

"I heard that Joseph isn't even working right now...."

"And that donkey that they're riding has seen better days, too!"

"Want to bet how long it'll be before you get your casserole dish back?"

Celebrating A Life Well Lived

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a dear friend who recently passed away.  She was in her 80s ... a woman with whom I started my teaching career.  P made it clear to those close to her that she did not want a "funeral."  She wanted it to be a celebration where friends would come together in joy.  The service turned about to be exactly that, with many of us friends coming together for the first time in many years.

I was fortunate to have visited her in the hospital as she battled double pneumonia, spending close to two weeks in ICU.  This was not the first time she had pneumonia, but this time at her age, it was just too much for her body to kick.  She was too weak to talk, the disease causing her to cough if she did.  But, her eyes glowed at me with such love, telling me she was grateful for my visit, as well as the presence of others there as well. 

P and her husband had married late in life with him having died close to ten years ago.  They never had children, but along the way, she and her dearly missed husband had "adopted" several, with many "adopting" them as family.  P was originally born in Spain, so her family was overseas.  Due to illness, P's brother and family were unable to make it to the hospital before her passing and likewise unable to attend yesterday's service. 

I was even more fortunate, however, to have spent the first five years of my teaching career working with her.  She was an inspiration, both professionally and relationally.  P was the most Christ-like person I ever knew.  She was hospitable, generous, and charitable.  Foremost, she was always serving others.  Even in her retirement years, she kept active and energetic by serving.  She cooked fabulous meals for a family whose wife and mother has MS.  She did weekly shopping at Sam's for a group of cloistered nuns.  She supported a ministry of a colleague who left teaching to go into mission work full-time.  I'm sure these are just skimming the surface of what all P did. 

P serves as an inspiration of a life well lived.  She is one of those rare, special individuals a person meets in life who always "points the way" to others as they walk along this Road of Life.   She was the hands and feet of Christ to others, the faithful servant bringing a cool cup of water to others.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Christian Student Groups Fight to Maintain Right to Define Membership

It's amazing -- and alarming! -- how people nowadays seem to forget about our constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.  Here's a follow-up story I found at The Christian Post regarding universities that attempt to force religious clubs/student groups to accept members who do not fit the group's membership criteria (emphasis added):

High Court Urged to Protect Faith Groups' Right to Define Membership

At least 18 different organizations and 13 state attorney generals are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the constitutional rights of religious groups to set membership and leadership criteria according to the dictates of their religious beliefs.

More specifically, the groups and attorney generals are asking the high court to overturn an appeals court ruling that backed a California law school’s decision to not recognize a Christian student group because of the group’s refusal to allow non-Christians to become voting members or leaders.

In its amicus brief filed at the high court, one of the groups, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), contended that religious groups are constitutionally protected in following their religious beliefs.

“Religious groups by their nature embrace religious principles and, as a matter of organizational identity and coherence, will normally require adherence to such principles as a criterion for membership and certainly for leadership,” the legal group stated in the brief – one of at least 19 that were filed by Thursday’s deadline.

“This is not ‘discrimination’ but rather part and parcel of what defines them as religious groups,” it added, adding to arguments made by groups including the Boy Scouts of America, Christian Medical and Dental Associations, the American Islamic Congress, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Wooden application of religious ‘non-discrimination’ policies therefore forces religious groups to choose between their religious identity and access to the forum.”

Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to intervene in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which was first filed in 2004 after Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco denied official recognition to the local chapter of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) after the student group said it could not abide by the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Since the federal civil rights suit was filed against school officials, attorneys with CLS and the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom have argued on behalf of the CLS chapter, insisting that the group should be able to decide its own membership and not be required by the college to admit homosexuals and non-Christians as members and officers in order to receive school recognition.

“It is fundamental to religious freedom that religious groups are free to define their own mission, select their own leaders and determine their own membership criteria,” commented ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow in a statement Thursday.

“The First Amendment protections afforded to religious organizations are clear,” he added.

In April 2006, however, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the defendants, including school officials and Hastings Outlaw, a recognized student organization.  A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that heard oral argument in this case on in March 2009, later affirmed the district court's opinion, ruling against CLS in an unpublished disposition on March 17, 2009.

“The appeals court decision discriminates against religion, undermines Supreme Court precedent, and injects the government into an area that the Constitution forbids,” Sekulow commented. “We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will reverse the decision of the Ninth Circuit.”

Arguments for the Hastings case is expected to take place in the spring.

CLS had filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court on May 5, 2009, seeking a reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision against CLS.

The Christian Legal Society, which has chapters at universities nationwide, has sued other universities on the same grounds.
Lawrence D. Jones
Christian Post Reporter 
The Christian Post had a list of related constitutional cases:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Michael Vick: Turns Life Around and to God

What a remarkable story from The Baptist Press!
Michael Vick shares first-ever testimony about his restored fellowship with God

[Picture: Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy listens while a fan congratulates Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on turning his life around after spending 23 months in Leavenworth Prison for dog-fighting. Dungy told the Super Bowl Prayer Breakfast earlier that he and Vick spoke at least once a week during Vick's incarceration.  Bob Carey.]

MIAMI (BP)--God’s redemptive power in his once-troubled life was Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s theme at the annual Super Bowl Breakfast Saturday morning.

Speaking publicly for the first time as an adult about his faith in Jesus Christ, Vick said God was again the first priority in his life. He also shared for the first time about the role former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy played in his restoration with God.

“I feel I’m in the back seat now and God is in the front,” Vick told Baptist Press in a post-breakfast interview. “Five months ago I was worried with what was going to happen (with the NFL), but now I’m more at peace. God has taken it over. I don’t have to worry about being dynamic. God is in control of that.”

Vick spoke standing beside Dungy before 1,100 fans, in his first-ever retelling of the role faith played in his life at the maximum security prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

"I wanted to redeem myself," Vick said. “Pre-incarceration, it was all about me. When I got to prison, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. The one thing I could rely on was my faith in God."

While he has a peace from God in his life and doesn’t fear his future on the field or off, Vick said he is still haunted by his deeds of his previous life.

“The toughest thing was being away from my kids (ages 7-5-2). I missed 18 months of their life that I will never get back.

“They still have questions [about] why I went away for so long and those are questions they shouldn’t have to ask.”

Dungy, a longtime supporter of the annual breakfast sponsored by Athletes in Action and Campus Crusade for Christ, said organizers of this year’s banquet asked him if Vick would be willing to share his faith publically one day before Super Bowl XLIV.

“I thought it was a good venue for Michael and he agreed. People know about my faith, but they needed to hear about Michael’s. I thought he did a very good job.”

Vick said he became a Christian in high school in Virginia and began reading his Bible, but the more success he achieved on the football field, the less he needed God.

“I was so self-centered, I forgot about the Lord,” he admitted.

After going to jail for bankrolling a dog fighting ring, and losing almost every material thing in his life, Vick said he realized how far he had fallen.

“I got back to my roots. The only thing I could do in prison was fall back on God. I wanted to do things right, that I didn’t do the first time.”

Dungy came into Vick’s life in his final months in the federal prison -- Vick’s lawyer was from the same hometown as Dungy’s wife. Dungy visited Vick in Leavenworth and began to help him put his life back together and restore his walk with God.

They still keep in weekly contact and Dungy helped Vick get a backup job with the Eagles this season.

Vick admitted his first year out of prison and back in the NFL was a struggle.

“I thought the transition would be easy, but it was a hard for me. I did things I never thought I would do, like studying and working by myself. I stayed close to my faith, constant in prayer and close to Tony’s calls and texts.”

While the Eagles hold his NFL rights for another year, his football future, once unlimited, is far from certain. Vick said he’s determined to leave his life in God’s hands and leave the results up to Him.

“The main thing is I don’t want to disappoint God,” he said.

“I don’t want to disappoint my family, Tony or Roger (NFL commissioner Goddell),” he added. “God has blessed with a second chance that is something I will value forever. I don’t want to let Him down.” ...
What an amazing story!   Let us pray for Michael Vick -- that he might continue to find his strength in the LORD.  May we all be blessed with someone like Tony Dungy in our lives -- someone who loves us inspite of us ... someone who walks alongside of us through the difficult times, calling us to a better way ... The Way.

I Am Thankful

For the teenager who is not doing dishes but is watching TV,
because that means he is at home and not on the streets.

For the taxes that I pay,
because it means that I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party,
because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.

For the clothes that fit a little too snug,
because it means that I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work,
because it means that I am out in the sunshine.

For a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing,
because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government,
because it means that we have freedome of speech.

For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot,
because it means that I am capable of walking and that I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill,
because it means that I am warm.

For the lady behind me in church that sings off key,
because it means that I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing,
because it means that I have clothes to wear.

For the weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day,
because it means that I have been capable of working hard.

For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours,
because it means that I am alive.

And finally ... for too much e-mail,
because it means that I have friends who are thinking of me. :-)

[I would modify the last one to: "And finally ... to those who take time to read my thoughts, for it means that there are others like me that struggle along this Path of Life."]

Tebow Super Bowl Ad Pretty Tame: Much Ado About Nothing

So, those much anticipated, anxiety-inducing Super Bowl ads about Tim Tebow and his mother's choice to not abort him turned out to be pretty harmless.

Here's ad #1:

And, here's ad #2:

I'm sure NOW will still be upset, even though "choice" and "abortion" were never mentioned.  The viewer is simply invited to go to Focus on the Family's website to view the story.  (I just checked NOW's website ... no comment at this time.)

Pretty classy, I thought.  Definitely safe for the family, unlike other Super Bowl ads.

Two Christian Street Preachers Shot To Death in Florida

This from FoxNews:

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. —  Two men ministering on the streets of Boynton Beach were allegedly gunned down by an 18-year-old man.

Police say 24-year-old Tite Sufra and 23-year-old Stephen Ocean were preaching to Jeriah Woody for about 15 minutes, until he got a phone call.

Woody left, but then allegedly started walking toward the two. When Sufra approached, Woody allegedly shot him in the head. Ocean ran, and police say Woody shot him in the back, then walked up and shot him again — this time in the head at point-blank range.

Police said a witness identified Woody, who is known by the street name "Plug." He surrendered Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder charges.

It could not be determined if Woody had an attorney.
Christian NewsWire asks if why there is a national media blackout::
VISTA, Calif., Feb. 5 /Christian Newswire/ -- "Anti-Christian hostility is getting increasingly deadly as this week's tragic events demonstrate," said Dr. Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. "The increasing demonization of Christians in our culture makes some feel its open season on Christians."

According to the Boynton Beach police, simply sharing the word of God on the street is what brought two ministers to the man who killed them. Tite Sufra, 24, and Stephen Ocean, 23, were shot and killed Saturday night after meeting Jeriah Woody, 18. They witnessed to Woody for fifteen minutes when he got a phone call and told the preachers he 'had to go.' As they walked away, Woody suddenly started walking back toward them. Sufra walked up to greet him and was killed with a shot gun blast at point blank range. When Ocean ran, he was shot in the back. After he fell, Woody shot him in the head execution style. Woody was arrested Wednesday and is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. 
"As of today, there are no national news organizations reporting this vicious murder of two innocent Christian men. Why?" Cass said, "I'll ask this: If two Muslims, or two feminists or two homosexuals were murdered, wouldn't the media be all over it? These were two fine young black Christian men shot by another black man for their Christian faith, yet the media does not seem to care.
Cass continued: "It is an ominous sign of our times that Christians are being shot on the streets and in our churches. Last year Jim Pullion was killed while holding pro-life signs in front of his granddaughter's Owasso Michigan high school. Rev. Fred Winters was murdered while preaching in his pulpit in Maryville, Illinois. Increasingly we see Christian ministers threatened and churches terrorized and vandalized for their stand on marriage. Now when Christians gather for worship they must have armed security. Anti-Christian defamation and bigotry has helped to create this violent climate and it must stop."

Doing The Right Thing?

I recently came to a close on three separate lessons from the Bible; but, I've discovered they all have a central theme: people who thought they were doing the right thing.  These people were trying to help or trying to further God's kingdom; but, they wound up doing just the opposite.

First, I read about Stephen in the book of Acts -- chapters 6 and 7.  He was the first martyr for the Christian cause, being stoned to death for preaching about the Risen Christ. 
Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."  (Acts 6: 8-11)
Stephen was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.  False witnesses were produced, and at the trial Stephen laid out a beautifully crafted and rational argument for Christ, along the way reminding the Jewish leaders of Israel's nasty record of murdering prophet after prophet (Acts 7: 2-53).  The Jewish leaders were furious and "gnashed their teeth at Stephen", even covering their ears and yelling to block out Stephen's words.  The crowd rushed at Stephen, laid hold of him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Acts 7:59-60)
The religious leaders thought they were doing the right thing.  They believed they were preventing heresy from infiltrating God's people.

In the second study, my small group read the Book of Job.  Job suffered the loss of everything: his family, his home, his "business" (i.e. wealth).  His friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar sat in mourning with Job and tried to comfort him, although they wound up accusing Job of some sins or misdeeds that brought on Job's calamity.  The narrative proceeds through a lengthy debate between Job and his 'friends", as Job maintains his innocence.  In the end, despite the vicious words of his friends, we read that Job prayed for his friends.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.  (Job 42:10)
(Oh, that I were such a more mature Child of God that I actually prayed for those who've ticked me off!)  Job's friends thought they were doing the right thing, believing that if they should get Job to confess his sins.  Instead, they only added to Job's suffering.

Another person who thought he was helping was good old Peter.  I am presently reading the Gospel of Matthew, and found an interesting correlation to the previous two studies.  In roller coaster fashion, Peter goes from acknowledging that Jesus is the Christ (Mt. 16:16) to trying to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem to be arrested.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"  Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."  (Matt. 16:21-23)
Peter thought he was helping -- trying to keep his beloved Master from being murdered.  He thought he was doing the right thing.  However, he did not realize that his desire to protect Jesus was actually conflicting with God's greater plan of salvation. 

I wonder how often I think I'm doing the right thing when instead, like Job's friends, I'm causing another person more grief.  Am I sometimes, like the religious leaders, unwittingly imposing my views on others of how God's kingdom should be?  Do I sometimes run into conflict with God's plan, blindly and stubbornly trying to force things to be as I see fit? 

LORD, let me see with Your eyes, feel with Your heart, discern with Your mind. 

What Is Our Worth?

A well known speaker began his seminar by holding up a $20 bill.  In the room of 200 people, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?"  Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this..." He proceeded to crumple up the bill.

Then he asked, "Who still wants it?" There were still hands up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumples and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.  "My  friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value.  It was still worth $20.

 "Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless."

Psalm 17:8 says that God will keep us as "the apple of His eye." I pray that we would all remember that our worth comes not from what we do, or who we are, but from WHOSE we are.

A Carrot, An Egg, or a Coffee Bean?

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She didn't know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. 

Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor and smelled its aroma. She  then asked. "What's the point, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity-boiling water-but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. "Which are you?" she asked her daughter.
"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?" Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?  How do you handle Adversity? ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

A Talk With God

I asked God to take away my pain.  God said, no, it is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.  God said, no, her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.  God said, no, patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness.  God said, no, I give you blessings.  Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.  God said, no, suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.  God said, no, you must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.  God said, no, I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.  God said...Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.