Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Michael Vick and Forgiveness

Even though football season is over, the Michael Vick controversies and discussions still remain. In the last two weeks I've heard:

1. One national sports reporter comment,"Only Michael Vick knows if he really is remorseful."

2. A Chicago baseball player, who is also an animal rights activist,said that he wished Vick would've gotten hurt during this past football season. And he readily admits that he has no regrets for saying this in public.

In case you need to be refreshed on the Michael Vick story:

Vick played 6 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before getting arrested for his involvement in an illegal dog fighting operation that occurred on his property for 5 years. Many dogs were torchered and some died during this inhumane activity. Vick served 18 months in a federal prison, missing 2 seasons of football.

After serving his full term in prison he was reinstated into football in 2009. The owner of the Falcons dd not want this controversial player back on his team and so Vick was cut from the Falcons. And with his involvement in something so cruel and the national exposure it received, the majority of the owners did not want this player on their team fearing a public outcry from their team's fans.

The Philadelphia Eagles took a chance and signed Vick to a two year contract. I remember watching an Eagles game on television and seeing Vick come out onto the field to play for the first time since serving in prison. The Philadelphia fans were not so generous in forgiveness as they booed loudly throughout his time on the field.
Vick did not get much playing time that season and pretty much stayed out of the limelight. That is until this past season when the Eagles traded their starting Quarterback, the new starter got injured, and Michael Vick was now the team's starting QB. It is amazing how all is forgiven when a player does well and the team wins alot of games. Michael Vick led the Eagles to a 10-6 record as they won their division,and Vick set all kinds of new records as a player.

But all of the accomplishments in the world can not replace the tarnished image Michael Vick has created for himself.

Just a couple of days after the news broke that Vick was linked to dog fighting,the NFL Commissioner asked Vick if he was involved, Vick lied as he answered an emphatic "No". Then of course all the details came out and Michael Vick was sentenced to prison.

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Vick comments on his time in prison:

"Night after night I'd be thinking how I was going to make things right with the commissioner. It cut deep. It bothered me, day after day, knowing I lied to his face. I dreamed of the moment I'd have to face him again."

When Vick got out of prison he met with the commissioner to apologize. The commissioner cut him off after that and said that they were there to talk about the future not the past. The commissioner then gave Vick a second chance and reinstated him into the league. His reasoning was:

"Michael Vick showed me through our conversations together that he was going to be accountable."

Michael Vick and the commissioner talk two or three times a week now and Vick does work with the humane society speaking to young kids at schools about his life.

One good thing that has come out of all of this is federal agencies have discovered and stopped several other dog fighting operations that they were not fully aware of until Vick's actions came up.

It is within our human nature to be angry at someone's actions such as Vick's. And we naturally reserve our forgiveness until we see what they do in the here and now to make something positive out of a negative.

But in Mark 11:25 we are reminded,

"When you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him.
Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins also."

Hopefully Michael Vick can turn his life completely around through his mistakes.
And may we find some kind of forgiveness in our hearts as well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meet John Doe

Imagine yourself living in a big city or state where the economy is bad, unemployment is high, many people in need of food, and all the politicians are crooked. You then decide to protest these ills of society by threatening to jump off the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve unless things improve. Do you think anything would change? Would anybody care?

This is the premise behind Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe,
starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. A story that deals with the heart of the American people and definitely resonates with today.

Stanwyck plays reporter Ann Mitchell of the New Bulletin newspaper,a struggling paper that has been bought by a wealthy industrialist. Ann gets laid off from her job but is asked to write one final column. She obviously wants to come up with something that draws fireworks in hopes of maybe keeping her job. Ann creates a fictional character named John Doe, an unemployed homeless man who writes a letter to the paper protesting against the collapse of decency in the world and threatens to jump off the roof of City Hall at midnight on Christmas Eve unless things change.

The Governor and some competing newspapers believe this is a hoax and just a publicity stunt. So when the town begins to show an interest in John Doe, even offering him a job and a place to live, the newspaper finds itself needing to cover up its tracks. So they hire a homeless man who is without any family to pose as John Doe.

The newspaper and Ann Mitchell decide to use John Doe to unite the American people with Doe's philosophy that it is the little people who are the backbone of America:

"The character of the country is the sum character of the little punks.
The meek will inherit the earth when we all work together."

And one of John Doe's other philosophies he asks of the people,

"Why can't that spirit, that Christmas Spirit, last all year long?"

John Doe is asked to do a radio speech and the next thing you know his story has taken the country by storm. News begins to spread throughout the land of his story and small town folks are creating John Doe Clubs to carry out his message. These clubs obviously have one stipulation: no politicians allowed.

Ann Mitchell and her publisher decide to circulate John Doe and his message throughout the towns of America and we see small towns everywhere uniting together with brotherly love toward one another. Neighbors are seen giving other neighbors a helping hand with food, small jobs with pay,and offering others a place to live.

And as any good story goes, there's always one villain in the crowd. And in this case it is the owner of the newspaper,a man named Norton, who wants to use the John Doe movement for his own welfare to gain a seat in the White House.

Of course John Doe has no desire to go along with this political maneuver and realizes Norton is just another politician who wants to kill the decency of mankind and the John Doe's of the world. Norton blackmails John Doe to follow or otherwise he would spread the news that John Doe is a fake and he would then be shunned by society wherever he went.

When John Doe addresses a crowd of thousands at a John Doe Rally, Norton pulls out all the stops. He has delivery boys spread throughout the crowd newspapers with the headline John Doe is a Fake. Amidst all the ruckus John Doe leaves out a back entrance and disappears for a few days. And while he has disappeared from the American people without a word, John Doe Clubs begin to disband throughout the land.

On Christmas Eve night, church bells ringing at the strike of midnight, John Doe shows up atop the roof of City Hall. But also up there waiting for him are a few loyal John Doe club members who still believe in his philosophy and had seen it work in their neighborhoods. John Doe has seen the hatred throughout the country, the dirty politics, and the undecency of mankind, and chooses to go ahead with the once created plan of jumping. And then Ann Mitchell comes running into his arms with the speech of all speeches:

"Please don't give up, John! The John Doe movement isn't dead. Oh,John, if it's worth dying for, it's worth living for. Oh,please John...you wanna be honest don't ya'? Well you don't have to keep the John Doe idea alive. Someone already died for that once. The first John Doe. And He's kept that idea alive for nearly 2,000 years. It is He who kept it alive for them. And He'll go on keeping it alive for ever and ever and always."

Perhaps this story was the inspiration for the so called "Greatest Generation". A generation where America endured the Great Depression and chose to work together to rebuild the country during W.W.II.,and showing brotherly love to one another.

Imagine if us Christians as the Church were to put aside our theological differences and work together,choosing to be the salt and light of the earth as we were meant to be. Teaching the love of God by just living out the example that Christ Himself set before us.

I wonder what John Doe would do today?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


An acquaintance of mine a few years back requested my help from some contacts I knew in regards to her getting some t-shirts printed. Her design for the front of the shirt was a dog and the letters D.O.G. And on the back of the shirt was an acronym of those letters spelling out: Depend On God

My thoughts traced back to that slogan during this past week's blizzard here in Chicago. On Tuesday evening we faced the howling of 60 mph winds, snow falling at the rate of 3 inches per hour,temperatures dropping into the single digits, and the threat of losing power which obviously includes losing your heat. Oh, and did I forget to mention the thunder and lightening as well?

Now I am guessing that most of us who believe in God or even those that may have just a small inkling that there is a God were doing some kind of: praying, talking, shouting, pleading with God, or possibly even making a barter with the Man Upstairs for safety.

Why is it that when something huge hits that our dependency on God is so much greater than during any normal day when everything is fine? I believe it may have something to do with fear.

But through this storm I had one of those Ah Ha Moments . One where I realized how much I depend on God,am grateful to have Him in my life, and thankful He is a big part of my life. And I also found out how much confidence I do have in Him within the storms of life.

Smith Wigglesworth once suggested that believers give themselves a choice:

"Some of me,some of God." Or, "None of me, ALL of God."

When we make God not just the center of our life but the entire wholeness of our life, our dependency on Him during the storms won't even enter our thoughts because we have confidence in knowing He is there with us and for us. Only a life in Christ is worth living. A life of confidence, joy, and no fear.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When Silence is not Golden

The Silence is Golden proverb has been around for years and has been used in many different facets. So when is silence not golden?

I have recently been revisiting the life of one of my favorite authors and ancestor Mark Twain. In his autobiography Twain recalls an incident during his boyhood days, one that meant such a great deal to him that it stayed in his memory for years. Before Twain brings along the message however, he makes the point of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri where slavery existed,but they were not mistreated. And as a child he had no aversion of slavery and was not aware that there was anything wrong with it because no one ever brought up the fact that it was wrong at that time.
(so sad and makes slavery even more painful to think about)

On Twain's family farm they had a little slave boy named Sandy whom they hired from someone in Hannibal. Sandy was from the East Coast near Maryland and had been taken away from his family and friends there. Sandy was a cheery spirit,who always carried a smile on his face. All day long you would hear him singing, whistling, laughing.
After awhile Mark Twain found it annoying and explains it as being maddening to him,devastating and unendurable.And then one day Twain lost it and urged his mother to do something to shut him up, for Sandy had been singing for one whole hour without a single break. Mark Twain's mother teared up as she would then explain:

"Poor thing, when he sings it shows that he is not remembering and that comforts me; but when he is still (silent) I am afraid he is thinking and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older you would understand me; then that friendless child's noise would make you glad."

Mark Twain explains this as being a simple speech from his mother that would live forever within him. And Sandy's noise was no longer bothersome to Mark Twain.

I think this message speaks to us in so many different ways. And for me it brings home the importance of praise within our trials. We do not know what Sandy may have been singing,and whether or not it was because of what Twain's mother had suggested. But we do know that Sandy's singing and cheerfulness had a profound effect on those around him.

John Wesley once wrote:

Rejoice always in uninterrupted happiness to God. Pray without ceasing, which is the fruit of 'always rejoicing'in the Lord. In everything give thanks, which is the fruit of both the former. This is Christian perfection. Further than this we cannot go, and we need not stop short of it.

Some important scripture-based words to live by.

And as for the cheerful singing boy Sandy? I now find myself more interested in learning what became of Sandy and his life rather than the life of Mark Twain's.