Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Test for True 'Lost' Fans

For those of us that are big fans of ABC's hit show, Lost, know that there are all sorts of story lines and details to keep up with if we are to follow all the hints and clues that the writers give to us. While there are those that are more fanatical about the show than I am, I do watch each episode religiously and follow the discussions on message boards and blogs each week to pick up on things that I missed in watching that week's episode. I am definitely looking forward to tomorrow night's season finale.

Now the people at DarkUFO have created what they are claiming to be "The Hardest Lost Quiz Ever." And after taking the quiz, I can't disagree with them. There are 39 questions in all on the quiz, with each of the questions being weighted on their difficulty. I scored a 1093 points out of a possible 3900. That's not too bad for a baseball player, but not the kind of score you want to get on a test. This thing is hard, but if you're a Lost fan, I challenge you to try.

I am particularly calling out my wonderful wife, Lori, to take this thing and see if she can best my score. For you see, Lori and I are both competitive people and we enjoy taking little quizzes like this. It would not be uncommon at all for you to find us at the dinner table battling to see who can name the most books of the Bible, the U.S. Presidents, state capitols, or characters on Lost (which I came up with 49).

So, if you're up for the challenge, you can take the quiz here and be sure to let me know how you did. Thanks to Pop Candy and TV Squad for letting me know about it.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

It is on this day, Memorial Day, that we honor those that have given their lives in service to our country and for the freedom of others. Much more than a three day weekend, this day is set aside to remember that freedom is never free. There have been thousands of our countrymen and women that have paid the ultimate price.

While it is appropriate to honor all veterans and active military on this day, it is most fitting to honor those that gave all. To learn more about Memorial Day, click here.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends." ~ John 15:13

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Tribute to Steven Curtis Chapman

In asking everyone to pray for Steven Curtis Chapman and his family on the death of his daughter, I realize some of you may not be that familiar with his music and legacy within the contemporary Christian music industry. In addition to having sold over ten million albums, Steven has also won more Gospel Music Association Dove Awards than anyone in history (over 50 at last count), not to mention his five Grammys.

Generally considered one of the nicest guys in the Christian music scene, he's used his popularity to be an advocate for issues like adoption, Bible translation and concern for prisoners. He's also done some acting and appeared on a number of movie soundtracks. I remember when, a number of years ago, Steven was selected to be one of the presenters when they made the Grammy nominations. They had representatives from the different genres of music and there was Steven Curtis Chapman, the poster boy for nice guy Christians, standing next to Busta Rhymes, the popular rapper. He was bringing light to a mainstream stage and I know that he'll continue to do that with the platform he's receiving now the in midst of this tragedy.

Last year, in honor of winning his 50th Dove Award, a tribute was done in his honor. You can watch the video below to learn a little more about the man. If the video player doesn't show up, you can click here.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Tragedy in Steven Curtis Chapman's Family

I was heartbroken this morning to learn of the tragic death yesterday of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman's five-year-old daughter, Maria. It appears that while playing in the driveway at the family's home outside of Nashville, Maria was hit by a vehicle being driven by one of her older brothers. You can read more details about what happened here.

Any time a family loses a child it is devastating, but the circumstances surrounding this loss make things particularly hard. The pain that the whole family must be going through right now must be unbearable. Maria was one of three children that Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, had adopted from China in recent years and she was the youngest child of the six Chapman family.

Though I've never met the Chapmans, I do feel a certain kinship towards them. Steven Curtis is far and away my favorite singer and has had more of an influence on my life than any other musician. His music played a pivotal part in my early development as a Christian as his messages on "For the Sake of the Call," "The Great Adventure" and "More to This Life" helped me in understanding what it meant to follow Christ. In fact, it was his CD "Speechless" playing on the stereo when my first child, Brennan, entered the world.

In addition to his popularity for Steven's music, he and Mary Beth have been tireless advocates for adoption in their personal lives and with the establishment of the Shaohannah's Hope foundation. Please join me in praying for the Chapman family during this very rough and difficult time. After hearing of this news, I couldn't help but think of a song that Steven had written several years ago in the midst of grieving the loss of a child of dear friends...
This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...
We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again
And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...
We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...
We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

UPDATE: I received this message earlier today...

"Last night Maria Sue Chapman, adopted and youngest daughter of Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed in a tragic accident in the family driveway. She was LifeFlighted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital but for only reasons God can explain she went home to Him... not back to Franklin as we all so desperately wanted.

We are all humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support at this difficult time. I have watched you, the Chapman friends, overwhelm website servers and jam phone lines with your gracious words and heartfelt prayers. The Chapman family is so grateful. Obviously, we cherish your prayers for all in the Chapman family, and we welcome you passing this along to others to pray and encouraging them to sign up for Steven's e-mail list to receive continuing updates.

  • If you'd like to express your condolences and get a glimpse of this beautiful little girl through a short video clip, click here.
  • Mail to PO Box 150156 Nashville, TN 37215.
  • In lieu of flowers, the Chapmans request any gifts be directed to Shaohannah's Hope, click here.
In closing, as many of you know, the song "Cinderella" was written by Steven to help him (and us all) grab a hold of the special moments with those we love we might otherwise rush by. It was inspired by a bath time that Steven tried to "hurry," Maria and her sister Stevey Joy were not exactly cooperating. : ) Let us all be reminded again today what Steven compels us to with the lyric of this special song.

Maria, we already miss you so much, and we only take comfort in The Hope that assures us we'll see you again soon."
On behalf of the Chapman team and family, Jim Houser (Manager)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

A White Valedictorian at Morehouse

The well-known and historically rich Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia has produced some notable alumni such as filmmaker Spike Lee, Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses and actor Samuel L. Jackson. Of course, its most famous graduate is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But something just happened that hadn't previously taken place in the 141 year history of the school. A white man was at the top of the graduating class at the all-male school. Joshua Packwood, who grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, finished with the top grade point average in his class and has been acknowledged as class valedictorian. posted a great story that shares about Packwood's background and what led him to become a student at Morehouse. Having a background that allowed him to spend a lot of time with African Americans, he naturally gravitated to spending time with black folk and even turned down a scholarship to an Ivy League school, Columbia, in order to attend Morehouse. Though most of his classmates are supportive of Packwood, there are some dissenters among the Morehouse community. The questions of whether a white person should be given an honor at such a notable historically black college have surfaced, among other feelings on the matter.

I have to give the guy credit since I can relate to him. He made the choice to enter a world where he would be a minority and, in some cases, resented for his very presence. But as another white person who operates in a predominately black environment, I respect his decision to attend Morehouse and applaud him for excelling as a student. As Dr. King once famously proclaimed, Packwood is being acknowledged for "the content of his character and not the color of his skin."

Listen to what Sterling Hudson, Morehouse's dean of admissions, has to say, "We're not aggressively pursuing white students," says Hudson. "But like every other college, we're interested in diversity. So, if a white student becomes interested in Morehouse - of course we are going to treat him like any other student." As a historically black college, Morehouse seeks to provide an educational environment to African American men that may not exist at other institutions. I, for one, support these schools in educating the next generation of black leaders. But if those that are not African American willingly choose to become apart of that campus community, they should be treated fairly. I'm glad to see that Morehouse has done just that and rewarded a tremendous student that did what few other white people would do.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Candidates and Lapel Pins

As one that doesn't have cable television, I'm generally immune from the 24-hour commentaries of insignificant issues that are made out to be urgent by those seeking to fill air time. One of these matters that appears to be have been discussed during this campaign season is whether we should expect our candidates to wear American flag lapel pins while they are out campaigning.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has received much grief about his failure to wear the U.S. flag pin on his lapel and, as a result, has appeared periodically with it on his suit jacket in recent weeks. Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell wrote a thought provoking article in this morning's edition entitled, "Wearing a flag pin doesn't prove a darn thing." It is worth the read.

When this topic comes up, I can't help but think back to the Seinfeld episode where Kramer gets a beat down while participating in an AIDS walk for his failure to wear a red AIDS awareness ribbon. Here's how the scene goes down...
WALKER #1: Hey, where's your ribbon?
KRAMER: Oh, I don't wear the ribbon.
WALKER #2: Oh, you don't wear the ribbon? Aren't you against AIDS?
KRAMER: Yeah, I'm against AIDS. I mean, I'm walking, aren't I? I just don't wear the ribbon.
WALKER #3: Who do you think you are?
WALKER #1: Put the ribbon on!
WALKER #2: Hey, Cedric! Bob! This guy won't wear a ribbon!
BOB: Who? Who does not want to wear the ribbon?
New scene - Kramer surrounded by Cedric, Bob, and the other walkers.
BOB: So! What's it going to be? Are you going to wear the ribbon?
KRAMER (nervously): No! Never.
BOB: But I am wearing the ribbon. He is wearing the ribbon. We are all wearing the ribbon! So why aren't you going to wear the ribbon!?
KRAMER: This is America! I don't have to wear anything I don't want to wear!
CEDRIC: What are we gonna do with him?
BOB: I guess we are just going to have to teach him to wear the ribbon!

Wearing a U.S. flag pin doesn't prove that I love America, nor does wearing a WWJD bracelet prove that I love Jesus nor wearing a yellow "Live Strong" bracelet that I'm against cancer. Now if someone wants to wear a pin or a bracelet or a t-shirt promoting a cause, that's great. But those that don't should not be judged for it. I would hope that in something as important as electing a new president we would place more emphasis on a candidate's stances on issues important to us and our country than on their fashion choices.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Impact Summit & Racial Reconciliation

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a truly historic gathering (at least in the history of Campus Crusade). For a few days in Orlando, a couple dozen leaders from The Impact Movement and the U.S. Campus Ministry of CCC got together to build relationships with one another and dream about the future together.

A handful of years ago The Impact Movement went through some major structural and organizational changes. For a myriad of reasons, it became apparent that in order to be a significant leader in bringing change within the African American community and in the world that Impact would need to forge a new identity apart from Campus Crusade. In church terms, this was much more akin to a "church plant" rather than a "church split." In a new church plant, an existing church gives birth to a new church in order to reach people that aren't currently being reached. A church split, on the other hand, is caused by divisiveness and disagreements.

Within the legacy of Campus Crusade, there has always been a spirit of relinquishing control to new leaders and new ministries. Dr. Bill Bright modeled this often as his primary concern was not the promotion of Campus Crusade for Christ, but of the glory of God and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If more people could be reached for Christ through another vehicle apart from CCC, Dr. Bright supported it. And so it has been with that spirit that the leadership of CCC agreed with the leadership of Impact that changes needed to happen.

The Impact Summit was a demonstration of our commitment to partner together to reach the lost for Christ. Since we made the changes with Impact, it has affected the amount of time that we have been able to relationally connect and trust is built as relationships are formed. In bringing together various leaders from both ministries, we were able to share our stories with one another and hear each other's perspective.

A couple of highlights from the Summit:
  • We had a panel of Impact "veterans" share about their early experiences with Campus Crusade and the story behind how the Impact conference (and later The Impact Movement) was launched. There was a lot of laughter, but also painful stories were shared as some of our African American staff members shared their experiences of being involved in a predominately white organization.
  • We spent some time looking at a passage in Daniel 9 as Dr. Charles Gilmer, the president of The Impact Movement, led us in a powerful time of public confession of our past corporate and present personal sins against one another. In over a decade of being involved in addressing these issues within this organization, I had never been apart of something like this.
  • On our last evening together we enjoyed a tremendous meal at Johnson's Diner, a popular soul food restaurant in downtown Orlando. It was a great time of fellowship and a unique experience. While our group was there, we ran into a couple of Orlando's African American city commissioners and had the opportunity to pray for them -- right there in the middle of the restaurant!

Anytime you have gatherings such as this (i.e. blacks and whites coming together) there are bound to be issues that surface. In order for true racial reconciliation to take place, we need to be willing to hear one another's stories and seek to understand one another. Our experiences may not all be the same, but we can learn from each other in moving forward together. One of the issues that does need to be addressed for many of us when it comes to working with those of other ethnicities is the area of control.

We all seem to like to be in control and call the shots. But in order for biblical reconciliation to take place, there must be a willingness to relinquish control (especially for those of us in the majority) if there is to be any hope of the unity that Jesus prayed about in John 17. Christianity Today published a great article several months ago entitled, "More Free at Last." David Gushee, the author of the article, addresses the need for those of us that are white to be willing to submit to others ouside of our own cultural background. You can read the whole article here, but here is a highlight...

"We will witness true racial reconciliation when white evangelicals release power and become more regularly willing to share leadership with Christians of other ethnicities. It happens in several other sectors of our society, such as the military and education, far more often than it happens in our churches. Warm feelings of fellowship are one thing; sharing power is something altogether different—and much harder. When we share power, we lose control, and in our human insecurity, a craving for control is one of our most basic instincts. And yet Christ calls us to imitate him in laying down our control, our self-interest, and our power, for the good of others (Phil. 2:5-11)."

I have had the privilege of having a number of friendships with those of other ethnicities, co-workers whose cultural background is different than mine and mentors that have different color skin than mine. I've also sat under the teaching of pastors who don't look like me and bosses that are of another race. This has helped me in seeing things from their perspective and helped me in giving up the control that I so desperately wanted to hold onto. I hope that we all seek to follow the model of Jesus in Philippians 2 as we serve with one another.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Campus Crusade in the Orlando Sentinel

Today's edition of the Orlando Sentinel has a nice little article about Campus Crusade for Christ and our increased emphasis on addressing issues of social justice and poverty, along with our historical priority given to evangelism. The shift in thinking goes along with a cultural shift among young evangelicals that verbal proclamation of the Gospel continues to be vitally important, but does meeting the physical and tangible needs of the disadvantaged, poor and hurting. There have been many within our organization, namely with Here's Life Inner City and The Impact Movement, that have called for this type of shift for some time and it is encouraging to see this happening on a broader scale.

A snippet from the article...
John Turner, author of a new book, Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America, said this, "Crusade has always adapted quickly to changes in student culture. When campus culture changed dramatically in the late 1960s, staff members talked about Jesus as a 'revolutionary' and tapped into the activist ethos of the era. When the activism subsided, they invited students to seminars on time management and effective study techniques. In short, Crusade has always used evolving hooks to get students to listen to its message about Jesus," he said. "Christian students and young staff members may still be theologically conservative and committed to evangelism, but they're much more progressive on issues like the environment and poverty."
The piece was written by Mark Pinsky, a religion writer for the Sentinel, and you can read the full text here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Classic Movie Meme

Here is a classic movie meme that I received from Gina Dalfonzo over on the BreakPoint blog. You'll need to go to the American Film Institute's (AFI) Top 100 Movies List here and then answer the questions below. If you're like me, there are a number of movies on this list that you have not seen nor possibly ever heard of. Though I am an avid movie watcher, I haven't seen as many of the classics as I'd like (I counted 48 of the movies on this list that I've actually seen). Plus, if it's in black and white, my wife ain't feelin' it.
Here are my answers...

  • Your favorite 5 movies that are on the list:
  • 1. The Godfather: Part I & Part II (in reality, it's one long, outstanding movie)
    2. It's a Wonderful Life
    3. Star Wars
    4. Rocky
    5. The Wizard of Oz

  • 5 movies on the list that you didn't like at all:
  • 1. Gone With the Wind
    2. Apocalypse Now
    3. M*A*S*H
    4. Duck Soup
    5. The Jazz Singer

  • 5 movies on the list you haven't seen but want to:
  • 1. Casablanca
    2. Chinatown
    3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
    4. Midnight Cowboy
    5. The French Connection

  • 5 movies on the list that you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing:
  • 1. Bringing Up Baby
    2. Modern Times
    3. The Gold Rush
    4. The Philadelphia Story
    5. The Birth of a Nation

  • Your favorite 5 movies that aren't on the list:
  • 1. Hoosiers
    2. A Few Good Men
    3. Memento
    4. Jerry Maguire
    5. What About Bob