Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Race, Then and Now

''Doug, obviously you've been a black quarterback your whole life. When did race begin to matter to people?''

One of the most notable media press conference sports questions in history, as a reporter asked this of Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl. I love Doug's response even though he misinterpreted the question,

''How long have I been a black quarterback?''  Well, I've been a quarterback since high school, and black my whole life."
In 1988, the Washington Redskins quarterback was the first to start and win a Super Bowl. In fact, he would end up being named the MVP for his stellar performance, throwing 4 touchdowns.  Since then, there have been a few black quarterbacks in the big game, but today it is no big deal. In football the racial barriers have been broken. 
In the 1960's Martin Luther King said this about our nation and race,
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Although we have broken down some of those racial barriers, mainly in sports, the unforgiven act of racism still exists today. Most recently in Ferguson, Missouri where racial tensions have risen for a few months now after a white police officer gunned down an unarmed black man.

Though we have come along way in fixing racism in our country, there's still more work to be done. Just recently I attended a one-day conference for work (Intervarsity Press) on multi-ethnic issues. The table I sat at included: Norwegians,Hispanic, German and Austrian. We each had our own individual story as we shared about our heritage. The one thing we all had in common? We were all servants of the Lord, united in Christ, seeing each other with rose-colored glasses.
Mark Twain once reminded folks,
"Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
If you are looking for some great books on race reconciliation click on the link to ivpress on my home page. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carry Me and I Will Carry You

As they reached closer and closer to the finish line, the young lass stumbled over screaming in pain as her knee gave way. Runners in close view of the finish line ran past her, each with only one goal in mind: to finish the race before any of the other runners. But Melanie Bailey had a different idea and it didn't matter to her that this was Eastern Dakota Conference’s Cross Country Championship. Melanie Bailey had the injured girl hop on her back and Melanie carried her to the finish line.

This story and the photo of their amazing finish immediately went viral; my guess is the plight of their finish surpassed any story of who actually won the championship race. I love stories like this because they counteract what society  teaches us today, as we live in a me first society.

 As an extremely competitive person, involved in all kinds of sports throughout my life, even now, I surprised myself with my reaction in a unique situation just as Melanie's, but not quite so dramatic. In recent years, I had been running 5k races with my father, this particular race was a 5k Turkey Trot Race on a Thanksgiving morning. After the first mile and a half a crying  12 year-old lad had stopped because he was having chest pains and difficulty in breathing. As a number of runners swooshed by, myself and two other runners stopped to assist him in any way we could. Once he calmed down, we encouraged him to just walk slowly for awhile, no harm in that, is there? After he acknowledged he was okay, we set upon our course. At about the two and a half mile mark, I saw the young boy wisk by me, so apparently he was fine, which is an understatement, because he would finish the race a couple runners ahead of me. I didn't let my competitive edge get the best of me, I was just glad to see the kid finish the race.

The following year when the Turkey Trot Race came a calling again, I made a point of finishing the race the best I could. Having run races my whole life, this one I finished in a personal best record of just under 25 minutes.

So, I didn't let my competitive edge counteract what I or any of us should do in putting others before ourselves. And in my case, I was rewarded with a personal accomplishment, it may have taken a year, but it was worth it.

May we all show a little heart like Melanie Bailey.

Strong people don't put others down, they lift them up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dying With Dignity or Choosing to Live in Hope?

In exactly 18 days Brittany Maynard will die on her terms (her choice words). Brittany is a young vibrant 29-year old who was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and has been given only 6 months to live. Before the pain becomes unbearable, which doctors say will happen, she has chosen to move to Oregon where a Die with Dignity law is in place for terminally ill patients; where there are optional drugs available to end life. Brittany has chosen November 1st, two days after celebrating her husband's birthday, to die with dignity.

So much has been written over the internet and conversations all over social media in general about her choice to die with dignity. And I've read a countless number of comments from folks calling her brave and courageous. Brave and courageous? Really? This is how Websters Dictionary defines brave and courageous:

courageous: not deterred by danger or pain

brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage  

Brittany is showing courage in accepting her unfortunate fate, but I don't agree with her decision. It is times like these where I wish a strong, vibrant Billy Graham were available to intercede and personally visit her to deliver to her a greater hope and a better choice than her so-called die with dignity venture. I've been greatly saddened by her story these past few days and I'm praying some spiritually strong minister will take the time to visit with her before November 1st.

When I think of brave and courageous I think of my friend Tony who battled with ALS. He was given a short time to live, but he ended up living longer.... 9 years after first being diagnosed. And each day when the physical abilities of using his hands and legs diminished, he still chose to live and to watch his two children grow. But, Tony had something inside of him, he knew that The Greater One lived within him. He carried with him hope. I believe even on Tony's worst days, he felt the comfort of the Lord.

Just recently a woman shared with me a story of her young twenty-something nephew who passed away from a terminal illness. Her son went down to visit with the nephew just before he passed away. He found the nephew lying upon his bed, arms raised, worshiping the Lord. After she shared this, it reminded me of the last time I saw my 95-year-old grandfather before he passed away:

I watched my grandfather minister to thousands of people and had read numerous magazine articles written about his faith in the Lord and his unique style of ministering to people, so I now what kind of man he was. My grandfather was very close to meeting this man we call Jesus when I went to visit him in a nursing home. As I walked in the door, there he was sitting in a wheelchair, unable to verbally speak, but his arms were raised toward heaven as he worshiped the Lord.

I want to go out like these brave and courageous men: unafraid, arms raised toward heaven worshiping the Father, knowing He is my comforter in times of trial and affliction. A Father who not only offers hope for the future, but who is there for the present.

Hope is our future.

  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.com for more of God's encouraging Word.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Doesn't Hurt....Not One Bit

"We are who we choose to be." - Green Goblin

It's not often you find a smart quote from a villain, let alone from one that had the audacity to kill Spider-Man's girlfriend Gwen Stacy. I have no love what-so-ever for this archenemy of my favorite Superhero, but I do love his choice of words here.

Yes, we all carry that freedom here in America of choosing who we want to be as a person, who we want to be when we grow up, and who and what we want to believe in. I've been teaching a lot about faith at church in recent weeks and the importance of carrying that faith into our everyday life and the situations that may befall us.
Faith and hope are a choice; a choice each of us have. It's unfortunate though that some of us don't act upon that hope and faith.

Helen Keller once said,
 "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."  

When we choose to live by faith in all things we are simply saying with confidence, "Lord, I trust you."

 After my most recent post on the rapture, I had a conversation with my Pastor on this subject and, as always, his words of wisdom rang true,

"There is no downside to believing in the rapture."

And the more I thought about it, I agree with him. If someone believes in the Second Coming of Christ, whether it includes the rapture or not, instead of chiding or ridiculing that person, we should be rejoicing with them that they know and follow the One True Saviour.

There is nothing wrong with having hope, faith, and optimism when it comes to Christ and His return.

  Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. (1Peter 1:21)

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.com for more of God's encouraging Word.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rapture, No Rapture? Who Cares?

I always find it humorous when social media flies off the handle with the argument of rapture or no rapture.
I also find it very disheartening, because every Christian that argues one way or the other, the one thing they all agree upon is the Second Coming of Christ. Well, then...duhh, isn't there something more important we should be doing as Christians like, say, follow Jesus' command to spread the Good News in love to those who are lost?

With Christians all over the world being persecuted and executed lately, and America divided and in disarray, now is not the time to be debating theology. When we fall into the trap of the enemy who wants us divided, we lose our flavor as the salt of the earth that God intended for us to be.

  “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. (Mathew 5:13)

Jesus explains to His disciples a greater purpose, not just for Himself, but for all of us who believe:

 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mathew 5:17-19)

In order for us to fulfill all that Jesus asks of us, we need to say no to the enemy and his tactics, put away our theological differences, and follow Jesus' lead. When Jesus fed the 5,000 not once did he ask of any of them: What race are you? What do you believe? Are you saved? He simply fed them.

I believe actress Jane Wyman said it best,

"The opportunity for brotherhood presents itself every time you meet a human being."

For all my faithful readers in other countries I apologize for those of us in America who choose to debate and argue when we should be helping, loving, and praying for others. I hope someday soon we can get this right. But, there is only one way that is ever going to happen:

  If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (1 Chronicles 7:14)

If you live in an area with no access to a Bible, click on www.biblegateway.com for more of God's encouraging Word.