Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pat Tillman: Honoring a Hero

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals will duke it out tomorrow night for the biggest prize in the biggest sport on the biggest stage in America. When discussing with my wife, Lori, who we'd be rooting for in the game, I told her I'd be pulling for the Cardinals. I think it's kind of like people wanting to see Barack Obama win the presidency. If he could do it, it gives hope for everyone.

In a similar way, the Cardinals have been arguably the most inept franchise in U.S. professional sports. Outside of this year, they have never been successful in my lifetime. In fact, not in my father's lifetime. They've been just that bad. At times they've made the Detroit Lions look like the Cowboys or Steelers. And now they are one victory away from winning it all.

In the hoopla surrounding their Super Bowl appearance is a story that is probably not getting told enough. And that is the story of Pat Tillman, the former Cardinals player that left fame and riches in the NFL in order to join the U.S. Army following the 9/11 terrorists attacks in 2001. He was killed in combat in Afghanistan nearly five years ago. Had he not voluntarily joined the military he likely would have been suiting up at safety for Arizona tomorrow evening.

Mike Bianchi, a sports columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, offered a suggestion in today's paper for an appropriate tribute for Tillman -- induct him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My initial response was that Tillman is undeserving of such an honor. His play on the field, although solid and respectable, was not anywhere near the standards for Hall induction. But Bianchi offers a solid argument:

"...what better time than now for those 44 Hall of Fame voters to display the same qualities as Tillman himself once displayed — the desire to go above and beyond what is expected? Go against the grain. Ignore the critics and the criteria. Who cares if Tillman is not on the 17-name list that is to be voted upon today? Why not put him on the ballot as a write-in candidate? Just this once, don't vote on data and statistics, vote on heart and soul. Vote for the guy who made the ultimate contribution: He sacrificed his football career and gave his life. Vote for the man who gave up millions of dollars to defend millions of people. There are murderers, gamblers and drug addicts in the Hall of Fame, so why not a national hero? In a country obsessed with a TV depiction of American Idol, why not give the Pro Football Hall of Fame a real version?"
Why not? Why could Pat Tillman not be inducted into the Hall of Fame? There are other people like sportswriters and sportscasters that were inducted for their overall contribution to the game so why couldn't the same be done for Tillman? An interesting fact that Bianchi mentions is that even though the Cardinals have superstar players on their roster like Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Edgerrin James, Tillman's #40 jersey is still the team's top seller. Even nearly eight years after he played for the team, Tillman still inspires Arizona fans.

I think honoring him in this manner would send a message about the importance of sacrifice, courage and honor. He put a lucrative career to the side in order to fight for a cause much bigger than himself. With so many young people looking up to professional athletes that are all about themselves, wouldn't it be nice to honor someone that was all about others?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Impact Movement: A Ministry of Changed Lives

As you may know, I have the privilege of helping to give leadership to a ministry by the name of The Impact Movement. It is a dynamic ministry that reaching thousands of young people of African descent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of the current financial realities that our country is facing, our ministry has experienced a serious shortfall in our giving.

We are in the process of inviting our students, alumni and friends of our ministry to join with us through prayer and to consider supporting us financially so that we can continue to see lives changed. I especially invite you to consider your ongoing involvement with Impact if your life was changed through our ministry while you were a college student. Please view the video below to hear how God is working through our ministry and to learn how you can get involved. If the player doesn't show up, please click here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

When Winning Gets You Fired

A couple of little known high schools out of Dallas have been getting an awful lot of national attention after Dallas Covenant School beat Dallas Academy 100-0 in a girls basketball game on January 13th. After what happened in the game began to generate unwanted attention for Covenant, administrators from the school issued an apology.

But coach Micah Grimes felt he had done nothing wrong. Since he refused to apologize for his role in the lopsided outcome he is now looking for a job. Much of the hubbub around the blowout revolves around the fact that Dallas Academy prides itself as place to educate young people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Although I don't know all the facts of what happened, I have read up on the story and think some perspective is needed.

As one who played competitive athletics throughout my formative years, I'm well aware of competitive sports and the lessons learned from winning and losing. In addition I have several years of coaching under my belt. In fact, I'm currently coaching my third grade son's youth basketball team. So I understand the sports ethic that says that you don't run the score up on an obviously inferior opponent.

However, after considering the facts of this situation, I find it hard to believe that Coach Grimes deserved to lose his job over this. Although some of the details of the game appear sketchy at this point, Grimes had this to say about what happened:
"The game started like any other high school basketball game across the nation. The teams warm-up, coaches talk, the ball is tipped, and then the play begins. We started the game off with a full-court press. After 3 minutes into play, we had already reached a 25-0 lead. Like any rational thinking coach would do, I immediately stopped the full-court press, dropped into a 2-3 zone defense, and started subbing in my 3 bench players. This strategy continued for the rest of the game and allowed the Dallas Academy players to get the ball up the court for a chance to score. The second half started with a score of 59-0. Seeing that we would win by too wide of a margin, running down the clock was the only logical course of action left. Contrary to the articles, there were only a total of four 3-point baskets made; three in the first quarter, and only one in the third quarter. I continued to sub in bench players, play zone defense, and run the clock for the rest of the game. We played fair and honorably within the rules and in the presence of the parents, coaches, and athletic directors for both Covenant School and Dallas Academy.

In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Website, I respectfully disagree with the apology, especially the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel "embarrassed" or "ashamed". We played the game as it was meant to be played and would not intentionally run up the score on any opponent. Although a wide-margin victory is never evidence of compassion, my girls played with honor and integrity and showed respect to Dallas Academy. We honor God, ourselves, and our families when we step on the court to compete. I do not wish to forfeit the game. What kind of example does it set for our children? Do we really want to punish Covenant School girls? Does forfeiting really help Dallas Academy girls? We experienced a blowout almost 4 years ago and it was painful, but it made us who we are today. I believe in the lessons that sports teach us. Competition builds character, and teaches us to value selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. As a coach, I have instilled in my girls these values. So if I lose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity."
I wonder what else he was supposed to do when it became apparent that his opponent was over matched. Should he have only played with three players? Should he have called the game at halftime? I can't say that I really know the answer to those questions. But I do know that some of the media exposure that is now being given to Dallas Academy seems unjustified. I watched the team on a national news program yesterday getting interviewed as if they were some sort of heroes. Of course it is to be respected that the girls didn't quit and continued to play hard, but, then again, plenty of teams put forth a good effort only to get beaten by a large margin.

If it comes to light that there was unnecessary taunting in this game, then I would agree it should be addressed. There is no value in humiliating an inferior opponent. But should a team that practices hard and strives to win be punished for doing just that? All-too-often we seek to spare our children from disappointments or hardships in life and, unwittingly, deprive them the opportunity to be shaped through adversity.

As I mentioned, I'm coaching my son's basketball team this winter. We had our first game the other day and lost 38-8. If I had my way, I'd rather we had a closer game but I also know that it gives us something to work for. I will continue to teach our kids about sportsmanship, teamwork, faith and how to have fun through athletics. I teach them to not worry about the score as much about the effort they put forth and the improvement that they're seeing in themselves and as a team. Anytime you keep score you are going to have winners and losers. But a scoreboard doesn't necessarily indicate who the real winners and losers may be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The America that President Obama is Inheriting

Our new president, Barack Obama, has inherited an America that he seems uniquely qualified to lead. His upbringing is now well-documented and his varied life experiences reflect the changing demographics of the United States. The face of America is literally changing and will continue to do so in the coming decades.

A recent Newsweek cover story focuses on the shifts within the United States and the trends that are now apparent.

On the significance of the Immigration and Nationality Act:
"The message seemed mixed. It was 3 o'clock on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 3, 1965, and President Lyndon B. Johnson had come to the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to sign the unsexily named Immigration and Nationality Act. It was a grand and sentimental stage for Johnson, who loved the grand and the sentimental. There he was, less than a year into a term he'd won in the greatest of landslides over Barry Goldwater, at the mythic gateway to America, Robert and Ted Kennedy in the audience, the eyes of the press fixed on him in the shadows of the nation's most fabled icon of freedom. "Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers," Johnson said, reaching for political poetry. "From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide."
But the president was openly ambivalent, too. "The bill that we sign today is not a revolutionary bill," he said, defensively, almost as though to reassure white Americans that they had nothing to fear. "It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power." On reflection, the bill LBJ signed on that October day was one of the most significant of his momentous presidency, and the virtually forgotten legislation played a key role in creating the America that made this week's inauguration of Barack Obama possible."
On the division of Americans along ethnic lines:
"Yet the Obama victory is about more than Obama, and about more than black and white. In a democratic republic like ours (a product, in large part, of Madison's insight, Jackson's energy and Lincoln's genius), the president is both a maker and a mirror of the manners and morals of the electorate that has invested him with ultimate authority. We have not reached the promised land in which race and ethnicity no longer matter; history tells us that racism, tribalism and nativism will be always with us. The America of 2009, though, is not the America that Johnson felt coming into being the year before he spoke at the Statue of Liberty. After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he told an aide he had just handed the South to the Republicans for a generation. (If you count a generation as roughly 21 years, he was off the mark, since the racially inspired backlash shaped politics for more than 40 years.)
For the moment—and it could be a very brief moment—the division of voters into us and them along racial and ethnic lines is at once more difficult and less effective. As the electorate changes, voters themselves are more likely to come from diverse backgrounds or live in a world in which diversity is the rule, not the exception. Not every part of the country is like the Bronx, where there is a 90 percent chance that any two people chosen at random will be of a different race or ethnicity. But there are now Hispanics, for instance—the country's fastest-growing population—living in practically every county in the country.
The roots of this new America—for it is quite new—can be traced to our long-running debate over immigration, a debate Johnson was trying to shape. Immigration boomed in the first decade of the 20th century, too. Waves came from Italy (1.9 million), Russia (1.5 million) and Austria-Hungary, which included Poland (2 million). All told, by 1910 there were about 13.5 million foreign-born people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census, and 87.4 percent of them were European."
On Americans' views of the changing demographics:
"The new reality is reflected in the NEWSWEEK Poll. Sixteen years ago, in the wake of the recession of 1991–92, anti-immigrant sentiment ran high, with 60 percent of Americans saying that they thought current immigration to the United States was a bad thing on the whole, and only 29 percent saying it was a good thing. Now the public is evenly divided, 44 percent to 44 percent. The percentage saying there are too many people coming to America from Africa has dropped from 47 percent in 1992 to 21 percent. Closer to home, public approval of interracial marriages (like the one between Obama's parents) has risen significantly in the past decade, from 54 percent in 1995 to 80 percent today.
The percentage of Americans who say they know a mixed-race couple has risen from 58 to 79 percent since 1995, and more than a third (34 percent) say they or a close family member have married or live with someone of another race or who has a very different racial, ethnic or religious background, including a quarter (24 percent) who say it is specifically an interracial marriage or live-in relationship."
Another article that may interest you from The Atlantic is entitled, "The End of White America" by Hua Hsu which has this provoking heading:
"The Election of Barack Obama is just the most startling manifestation of a larger trend: the gradual erosion of “whiteness” as the touchstone of what it means to be American. If the end of white America is a cultural and demographic inevitability, what will the new mainstream look like—and how will white Americans fit into it? What will it mean to be white when whiteness is no longer the norm? And will a post-white America be less racially divided—or more so?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama & the Inauguration Speech

Thanks to television and the Internet, hundreds of millions around the world today witnessed the first African American in history to step into the office as President of the United States. I was able to watch the inauguration along with a few dozen of my fellow staff of The Impact Movement at our headquarters in Orlando, Florida.

It has truly been a historic and momentous day for our nation and was a tangible demonstration of progress when it comes to equality for all its citizens. Now, the hard work begins for President Obama and his administration. As we look toward his presidency, here are some highlights from his inaugural speech (the full text can be read here):
"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the fire fighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."
My prayer for President Obama is that he would do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with his God. (Micah 6:8)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Giving "The Dream" New Life

Tomorrow millions of Americans will recognize the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King by celebrating the national holiday established in his honor. The holiday remembers the vision of Dr. King and the millions of people he represented in working for equality within America. As much as a visionary as he was, I doubt even Dr. King would have thought that just forty-some years after giving his "I Have a Dream" speech would the United States see its first president of African descent.

In honor of this historic week, I'm reprinting an article that my good friend, Dr. Charles Gilmer, wrote a number of years ago. For those that have previously read "Let's Give the Dream New Life," it has been recently updated to reflect current events . Enjoy.
"The lingering vestiges of America's racist past present a serious challenge to the hope that many hold for a nation that lives out its most cherished values - liberty and justice for all. Persistent recurrences of racial incidents such as Jena, La., remind us that hatred and animosity still fester. Suspicion lurks under the surface of many interactions. Even the government's response to Hurricane Katrina is often criticized as manifesting discernable racial discrepancies. Movies like Crash, and the news coverage of the Duke University lacrosse team sex-party debacle, and even the prospect of a Black presidential nominee in the 2008 elections remind us of the tenuous and fragile nature of racial harmony in the United States of America. 
We seem to live under an uneasy truce. It has been four and a half decades since the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered. Yet none of us can say we have fully lived up to Dr. King's vision of a land where each person would be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. Tensions continue, and weekly we hear of yet another incident somewhere in our country where race is presented as a precipitating factor. Things are different today than they were 45 years ago. Yet the questions remains, why has it been so difficult for us to embrace and consistently live out Dr. King's dream? 
In the wake of the civil rights movement in which Dr. King was so dramatically used, there came a flood of social programs that sought to address the causes and consequences of racism. Cultural education, cross cultural dialogue, and the current multi-culturalism all hearken back to the civil rights movement for their mandates. “Tolerance brings with it an implicit moral relativism. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong?” In the pursuit of the rights of various groups, under the civil rights umbrella, one thing has become clear. That which was called right by one group is often called wrong by another. Rather than resolving the differences, tolerance is championed as the appropriate response to the varying perspectives that have emerged. 
Yet tolerance has no cohesive nor healing power in society. It means little more than leaving one another alone. It leads to indifference, not understanding. Tolerance allows the gulfs between us to remain in place. In fact, there is little in the concept of tolerance to pull us away from racial isolation. Tolerance brings with it an implicit moral relativism. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong? Moral relativism suggests that there are no absolutes to which we can all be held accountable. Such a thing was far from the thinking of Martin Luther King. In one of his works Dr. King makes the following statements:
"At the center of the Christian faith is the affirmation that there is a God in the universe who is the ground and essence of all reality. A Being of infinite love and boundless power, God is the creator, sustainer, and conserver of values....In contrast to the ethical relativism of[totalitarianism], Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable."
Dr. King did not speak in terms of tolerance. His ideal was love.
"Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (Strength to Love, p. 51)
Yet, in current discussions of race relations the word love is seldom mentioned. Dr. King insisted love was the dominant or critical value by which we could overcome racial strife. The love he spoke of was a biblical love, one that is unconditional, unselfish and seeks the absolute good of another party. That kind of love is a tough love, one that confronts wrong and injustice with the truth -- absolute truth as decreed by an all powerful God and enables the individual to love their enemy. 
As we consider giving new life to "The Dream," we have to acknowledge that, in Dr. King's speaking and writing, "The Dream" does begin with God. For without God, there is no absolute transcendent truth on which to base a call to justice. Nor is there any source from which to draw the strength to love about which he spoke. A certain degree of skepticism about this perspective is understandable. Too often, those who claim to be Christians have failed to live in keeping with the clear teachings of the Christian Scriptures. These failures have frequently been in matters of race. It is clear from the Bible (and Dr. King affirmed) that the church ought to provide spiritual and moral leadership in society. 

However, as we observe the history of the American church, many parts of it have been passive, or even regressive, in matters of race. Even in the current era, the church speaks to the issues of the day with a fragmented voice. A case in point is the tendency for African-American clergy to align with Democratic candidates, while many white pastors align with Republicans. Yet, Dr. King implored people not to dismiss Christianity on the basis of these observations. 
Dr. King lived in an era when the leadership of the church in addressing racism was even less credible than it is today. Dr. King clearly understood that to often there was a difference between what Christianity taught in the Bible and the varieties of Christianity observed around him. His life was devoted to challenging this nation to live out a more consistent obedience to the moral absolutes of the Bible. His repeated plea was for men and women to enter into the kind of personal relationship with God that transcended that which could be seen and that which was being experienced. 
Hear Dr. King as he speaks to the man or woman who contends that God is unnecessary or irrelevant to our modern lives:
"At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith, our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds. There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God. We have genuflected before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate. We have worshiped the god of pleasure only to discover that thrills play out and sensations are short-lived. 
We have bowed before the god of money only to learn that there are such things as love and friendship that money cannot buy and that in a world of possible depressions, stock market crashes, and bad business investments, money is a rather uncertain deity. These transitory gods are not able to save us or bring happiness to the human heart. Only God is able. It is faith in him that we must rediscover. With this faith we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism." (Strength to Love, p. 51)
Are you discouraged about the prospect of us never overcoming the racial divisiveness that permeates this nation? Or are you frustrated by your inability to genuinely love others who are different from you? Martin Luther King recommended faith in Jesus of Nazareth as antidotes for both maladies.
"Evil can be cast out, not by man alone nor by a dictatorial God who invades our lives, but when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' God is too courteous to break open the door, but when we open it in faith believing, a divine and human confrontation will transform our sin-ruined lives into radiant personalities." (Strength to Love, p. 126)
A relationship with God gives us the power to overcome whatever sin we may be struggling with, including the sin of racism. Racism stands not only as a barrier between people, but as an offense between us and God. The reason Dr. King could recommend Christ as a solution to the problem of racism is Jesus' death on the cross paid the price for all of our sins. He then rose from the dead and now offers us the forgiveness of God and the power to live new lives. Dr. King put it this way:
"Man is a sinner in need of God's forgiving grace. This is not deadening pessimism; it is Christian realism." (Strength to Love, p. 51)
Our need for Jesus is truly the great equalizer of the races. We all are sinners in need of a Savior. We all stand before God, not on the basis of one race's superiority over another, morally, culturally, financially, politically, or in any other way.
“Evil can be cast out, not by man alone nor by a dictatorial God who invades our lives, but when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter.” —MLK
All the races of the world, all the cultures of the world, need the same Savior. His name is Jesus. What Martin Luther King described as our need for a "divine and human confrontation" is offered at God's initiative. It requires that we place our faith in what Jesus did as our own personal payment for sin, and inviting Him to enter our lives "when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter." Dr. King's words still ring true today. We can give new life to "The Dream," following the path of Dr. King. Our path may not lead to martyrdom by an assassin's bullet as it did for Martin Luther King, but it does lead to dying to our selfish ways and self-sufficiency. Such a faith is not a weak-kneed, escapist religious exercise, but a courageous pursuit of that which is ultimately good, right and true.
"In his magnanimous love, God freely offers to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Our humble and openhearted acceptance is faith. So by faith we are saved. Man filled with God and God operating through man bring unbelievable changes in our individual and social lives." (Strength to Love, p. 51)
"The Dream" starts with God as revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through a relationship with Him, we can be agents of healing in a world that is sick with racial and ethnic conflict. Won't you seriously consider placing your faith in Christ, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did? God offers us this relationship with Him, and we simply respond: Jesus Christ, I invite you to come into my life, to forgive me of my sin, to give me a new relationship with you. Bring into my heart your love and your power to love others. Thank you for transforming my life right now. If you have surrendered to Jesus Christ, pray for a life-changing faith and a growing dependence on Him. Only He can bring into our hearts His supernatural love and the power to love others. As God transforms our lives, we have the potential to embody that which Martin Luther King dreamed."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Being Tolerant in an Intolerant World

One of the highest virtues that our society upholds these days is that of "tolerance." How many define this word is that everyone's viewpoint is equally valid and there really is no right or wrong. What works for you works for you and what works for me works for me, right? We are told that all of our convictions are on equal moral footing, even if they are in direct contradiction of one another.

But...there is a caveat for those that hold this perspective. If they deem your opinion to be "intolerant" then they can dismiss your convictions as irrelevant. Because of the exclusive claims that the Christian faith makes, there are many people that pride themselves on their tolerance that see no problem with not being respectful of the views of Christians.

Writer Doug TenNapel shares about an experience when a Hollywood exec told him to drop Christian references from a script he had written:
"The exec informed me that religious imagery didn’t sell to American audiences, that it was intolerant and it definitely didn’t export. This was before ‘The Passion of the Christ’ so I can forgive his ignorance of the world’s most popular religion, but it was the word intolerant that struck me. How was the inclusion of religion not tolerant while the removal of it was? This is my baptism into the myopic view of religion by most of my friends in Hollywood. For being multicultural, the lack of humility regarding a religion they didn’t know or understand is…is…well, these days it’s typical. Since that time when terms like tolerance or intolerance came up, I got all cringey. They don’t know what these words mean and have a funny way of showing it if they do. 
Given I’ve had to sit through the standard mandatory Sensitivity Training at every major studio, I’d like to return the favor by offering Tolerance Training. Only my seminar isn’t hosted by a condescending feminist lawyer from the Big Apple, so the threat level in the room has already gone down to yellow, maybe even blue. It’s not hateful or intolerant to vote that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Tolerant isn’t a position, it’s how you treat people who hold positions you hate. It also isn’t tolerant to believe that all ideas have equal merit. This is an irrational position I’m embarrassed to even bring up. 
But there are those who have claimed that if I judge a position as bad that I’m being intolerant. Can we agree that eating cute kittens alive for the fun of it doesn’t have as much merit as cuddling them? But to say that all ideas have equal merit is self-refuting because I could propose this idea “all ideas have unequal merit” and you couldn’t judge the statement as false if the first idea were true. I hope some of you disagree with this post. Because this will be a perfect opportunity to practice true tolerance. The act of treating a political opponent with dignity and value used to be considered a high art form in debate. 
You can tell a lot about a person who treats someone with dignity and value whom they deeply disagree with. We can’t practice tolerance with people we agree with so you get no credit exercising your mustard-seed amount of tolerance on your own camp. In fact, the more we disagree with each other the more tolerance must be exercised."
I like his perspective that tolerance has much more to do with how we treat people than our stance on a particular issue. If we'd stop and think for a second, we would realize the absurdity of the notion that all beliefs hold the same merit! I've spoken with a lot of college students over the years about this subject and many say that they do not believe in absolute truth. In other words, they claim it is impossible to say whether some things are always right or always wrong.

But I don't think we have to agree on everything to treat each other civily and decently. In fact, it impossible for me as a Christian to agree with non-Christians on matters of eternity because of the truth claims of my faith. As well, others that are not Christians cannot agree with me for the very same reason. There can't be multiple ways to God AND be only one way to God at the same time. From another angle, if I'm expected to be tolerant of those that feel like abortion is morally acceptable are those same individuals tolerant of my belief that it is not?

One of the holes that resides in the tolerance movement deals with truth claims. Here's an example... In the stellar movie Star Wars, Epidsode III: Revenge of the Sith there's an interesting scene when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are fighting on the planet of Mustafar shortly before Anakin makes his transformation into Darth Vader. After Anakin shares how he envisions the power that the dark side will bring him, he says, "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy." To which Obi-Wan responds, "Only a Sith [the bad guys] deals in absolutes." Of course, to make a claim that only Sith deal in absolutes is a truth claim in and of itself. Obi-Wan, a Jedi, just made an absolute declaration. I guess that makes him a Sith...

It is possible to agree with one another and not be disagreeable. In fact, as TenNapel said, it is healthy for us to engage in respectful dialogue with those we disagree with. The point is not whether we agree with one another on everything but how we treat each other that demonstrates our level of tolerance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Life is Precious

It has been said that life is what happens while you're busy making plans. Unfortunately, our plans are often interrupted by sickness, disease and even death. Lori and I currently have at least five different friends that are battling or recovering from treatments for cancer. It is never fun to see those you love go through life-threatening illnesses.

To address the myth that somehow if you're right in your relationship with God that you'll be immune from any kind of sickness, these friends fighting for their lives are among the most godly and generous individuals we know.

One of those people is Vivian Mabuni. Viv just found out that she has breast cancer. She and her husband, Darrin, are friends of ours that we've had the privilege of working with in our ministry. She's created a site on CaringBridge where she posts regular updates on how their family is coping with this reality and how God is bringing them through this time. She's also a regular reader of this blog so I've gotta give her some love :)

She recently wrote a post entitled "The Preciousness of Life." With her permission, here it is:

"I have been mulling over these last few weeks the preciousness of life. It has been a humbling and powerful lesson for me to think about what great lengths that are, and can be taken, in order to preserve the temporary life we live this side of heaven. I have no idea how much all the doctors appointments, testing, surgery, chemo treatments, etc. will end up costing. Around the ball park of Jumbo-Big-Barrels-o-cash. Yet, the issue of not pursuing the very best medical care possible hasn't even crossed our minds. Darrin shared with me, "We could always sell the house and live in a box. Whatever it takes." I know that if the tables were turned and one of the kids or Darrin was battling cancer I wouldn't hesitate to do whatever I needed to preserve their lives. Whatever it takes.

Still, the idea that all of this time and money focused on preserving my little life--one little life--is humbling and overwhelming. Life is precious. And I'm learning that my life is precious. Worth saving. Naturally my thoughts move to how great God's love is. He gave His life to preserve mine. The lyrics in a song from Michael Card goes: "could it be that He would really rather die than live without us." He did that for me. Went to great lengths...died in my place to secure my life. Whatever it took. The truest part of me is not the body I walk around in everyday. The truest part of me is alive through His Spirit and will never die. Secure and safe. I'm learning in a new way about how valuable we are to God. Life is precious. You and I are precious."

What a great perspective! Please keep Vivian and our other friends Chris, Scott, Patty and Al and their families in your prayers as they trust God for healing. Thanks.

A Stressful Presidency

Who says being President of the United States doesn't take a lot out of you? Here are photos of President George W. Bush upon entering office in 2001 and at present.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Adoption Across Racial Lines

While sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic along I-4 in downtown Orlando yesterday, I was listening to the Michael Baisden radio program. The topic of discussion was about the foster care system in America and whether white families should be allowed to adopt black children.

While most callers felt that any loving home willing to open itself up to orphans would be worthwhile, some felt that it would be better for African American children to remain in an orphanage or the foster care system rather than become adopted by white parents.

While I understand the thinking that raises concerns about the realities of black children raised by white parents, I also think the overall needs of the child may be overlooked. A statistic quoted on the program caught my attention. It was stated (and backed up here) that "80% of prison inmates have been through the foster care system!" Did you catch that?! Eight out of every ten prisoners were at one time in the foster care system. In addition, 1 out of every 9 African American males between the ages of 20 to 34 are currently in prison. This is a tragedy that needs to be addressed.

Although some feel the solution to these problems is to hire more cops and build bigger jails, I wonder if a better response can be offered. If it is true that 80% of prisoners come from foster care backgrounds, I would think that if those individuals had been adopted as young children by loving parents then the chances of them escaping a criminal lifestyle would be dramatically reduced.

I have some white friends that have adopted black children and it certainly is not without its challenges. Although my friends, along with others in similar situations, may love their adopted children unconditionally, society is going to look at these children differently. They may get stereotyped or treated differently because their parents look different than them. To ignore the inevitable challenges could create even more difficulties. To naively enter into a trans racial adoption without appropriate training and counseling would be unwise. But in the whole scheme of things, isn't it most important that kids longing for a loving and nurturing home get that opportunity when willing adults step forward and make themselves available?

I have nothing but respect for those individuals that have taken the courageous step of adopting kids that need a home. Who knows, perhaps my wife and I may do the same one day? For those that fault white families for adopting black children, my question would be if they have attempted to adopt those children themselves? If they feel so strongly that black children need to be adopted by black parents then they should follow-through on their convictions. If not, then they should support and encourage those that wish to care for these children. Our personal preferences need to be put aside in favor of the interest of children that need a home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good News Meets Good Deeds

There is a growing desire among young evangelical Christians to not only share their faith through their words, but also by their actions. A recent article in Christianity Today spotlights the efforts of Campus Crusade for Christ in this regard.

Realizing that non-Christian students are looking for a faith that is backed up by a lifestyle of service to others, many Campus Crusade staff members and students are seeking to live out the gospel in both word and deed. Here's a portion of the article:
"Josh Spavin knows the stereotypes about evangelical Christians: judgmental, sanctimonious, narrow-minded. He may not buy into the image, but at the same time, he knows how real — and damaging — it can be. So that's why Spavin, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida and an intern with the UCF chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ International, wants to launch an HIV/AIDS outreach with a campus gay-lesbian group. 
"Because of the way they perceive us," said Spavin, 25. "What we wanted to do is find common ground where we can serve along side with them. … We don't necessarily agree with their choices, because that's not part of our faith, but we still love them." Campus Crusade — an organization that once denounced rock music only to later embrace it — is once again changing with the times, engaging potential new Christians through social issues that perhaps seemed taboo in the past. 

Unofficially nicknamed "Good News, Good Deeds," the initiative at UCF, and others like it, is a ground-up effort by one of the nation's largest evangelical groups. It also provides a peek at what issues young evangelicals see as important, and how they are changing a faith they inherited from their parents, but sometimes chafe against."
The post by Amy Green goes on to share about outreach initiatives at Stanford and Michigan State. Click here for the rest of the article.

Michigan Temperature Conversion Chart

I received this from my mother-in-law. Those of us that live in (or are from) Michigan can relate.

Michigan Temperature Conversion Chart

Floridians turn on the heat and unpack the thermal underwear.
People in Michigan go swimming in the Great Lakes.

Texans light their pilot flames.
People in Michigan plant gardens.

Arizonians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Michigan sunbathe.

Italian & English cars won't start.
People in Michigan drive with the windows down.

Distilled water freezes.
Lake Superior's water gets thicker.

North Carolinians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, and woolly hats.
People in Michigan throw on a flannel shirt.

Philadelphia landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Michigan have the last cookout before it gets cold.

People in Miami all die.
Michiganders lick the flagpole.

Californians fly away to Mexico.
People in Michigan get out their winter coats.

Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in Michigan are selling cookies door-to-door.

Polar Bears begin to evacuate the arctic.
Michigan Boy Scouts postpone "Winter Survival" classes until it gets cold enough.

Mount St. Helens freezes up.
People in Michigan rent some videos.

100* BELOW
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Michiganders get frustrated because they can't thaw the keg.

297* BELOW
Microbial life no longer survives on dairy products.
Cows in Michigan complain about farmers with cold hands.

460* BELOW
All molecular motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale).
People in Michigan start saying, "Cold 'nuff for ya?"

500* BELOW
Hell freezes over.
The Lions win the Superbowl!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Power of Forgiveness

A number of years ago God taught me an important lesson about the power of forgiveness. There was a person in my life who had truly wronged me, even to the point of sinning against me in a public way. I was hurt and let a root of bitterness grow in my heart.

What contributed to this bitterness was that shortly after meeting Sally*, we had a negative encounter that left me with a bad impression of her. Over time, I continued to have interactions with Sally that contributed to my negative attitude towards her. A careless comment. An innocent statment misunderstood. A perceived slight.

All these things left me with ill-feelings towards her. And because I never brought these feelings before God and never talked with this individual about how I perceived them, my heart grew cold towards them and I entered into what Christian psychologist Henry Cloud calls "the Good/Bad split." I could no longer see any good in Sally. Only bad. And it all came to a head when she sinned against me publicly. What she did is not as important as knowing that it was something that you'd probably agree crossed a line and was not acceptable behavior.

I was so infuriated with Sally that I wanted nothing to do with her and, if I'm honest, actually wanted harm to come her way. I eventually shared how I was feeling with another friend. With a sympathetic ear, he listened to the history of our relationship and what had recently happened. Although he agreed that I had been wronged, I had worsened the situation by my response. I didn't have control over what had happened to me, but I had chosen to respond poorly.

This friend challenged me to begin praying about this situation and to confront Sally about the history of our relationship and, specifically, what she had recently done to me. I then began praying daily that God would work in my heart and work in her heart to bring healing to our relationship. Remarkably, my heart began to grow warmer towards Sally. For the first time, I started to look more at her as a child of God and less as an enemy. I also began to understand the depth of my own sin in how I had chosen to assume the worst of her, talked about her behind her back and had not sought to quickly resolve our conflicts.

After a couple of weeks, the time had come to talk with Sally. I sat on the couch in my living room and prayed for the phone call I was about to make. I prayed that God would move to bring healing and somehow be glorified through all that had happened. No sooner had I said "Amen" that the phone rang. Amazingly, it was Sally on the line. She had no way of knowing how I was feeling nor did she know that I was about to call her in about three seconds.

God had been answering my prayers and had been working in her heart. She shared that the Holy Spirit had convicted her of her behavior towards me in the recent incident and she was calling to apologize and ask for my forgiveness. I was stunned. I accepted her apology and told her that I would like to get together with her since there were other things we needed to talked about. She agreed and we set up a time that week to meet.

During our meeting, I recounted the history of our relationship and the many things that had been done that had hurt, embarrassed and humiliated me. But I also confessed to Sally my sin in how I chose to deal with these things. I had been immature by not going to her right away and had allowed sin to build in my heart as a result. We had a wonderful time of confession, healing, forgiveness and restoration.

I will never forget the lesson that I learned from this situation. When I sought to deal with these things how I wanted to, they only got progressively worse and more difficult. When I finally yielded to God and asked Him to works things out according to His will, I saw Him do some remarkable things. Unforgiveness harms us more than it hurts those that have wronged us. We may feel justified in our resistance to forgive, but it will ultimately eat away at us and will even affect our relationship with God. I'm so thankful that God taught me this important lesson fairly early on in my Christian walk. I still don't always apply this like I should but He often brings this example to my mind when I need it most.

*The person's name has been changed here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tim Tebow: Living up to the Hype

A new college football champion will be decided tonight and one of the game's most visible stars ever, Florida QB Tim Tebow, will be on display for a national television audience. Already possessing a national championship (won as a freshmen backup) and a Heisman last year as a sophomore, there is little left for Tebow to accomplish in the way of honors and awards. But it seems that football glory is not the most important thing in his life.

I wrote a post a number of weeks ago in which I discussed the use of Bible verses for motivational purposes in athletic contests. The post contained a picture and mention of Tebow, who likes to write a Bible verse on his eye black strips each game. Though this could have been perceived as a slight towards Tebow, that was not my intent. I actually was using him as an example of one who seems to realize that winning football games is not what life is all about.

I don't know Tim personally, but he does appear to be the real deal. His charity and missionary work is well-documented and his relationship with Christ is obviously important to him.'s Pat Forde wrote about the tendency that some reporters have to want to show that Tebow isn't as a great a guy as many believe. After being asked a particularly lame question at a press conference, Tebow had this response regarding how he is perceived
"You know, everybody, they can look and say how easy it is. But it's definitely not that easy. The difference is 'cause not many people want to wake up at 5, go through workouts, go speak to young kids, go back, eat lunch, go to class, go to tutoring, go speak at a prison at night, come back. I mean, more people would do those things; they just don't want to sacrifice.
You know, there's a lot of leaders out there. But, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good ones. So that's always been my dream and my goal, is to be someone like Danny Wuerffel was to me, to be someone that a parent can say, 'Hey, this kid did it the right way.' That's always been my dream and my goal more so than winning a trophy or winning a championship.
So if it's cynical or whatnot, that's fine. If people don't believe it, that's fine. There's always going to be naysayers, people that are going to say it's fake. But that's fine because you can't control everybody. But I can control what I do, my attitude, how I approach the situation. So how I approach the situation is I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good because that's gonna mean so much more when it's all said and done than just playing football and winning championships."
Tim Tebow is an extremely talented, competitive and driven athlete. He's also a young man that seems to have his head on straight and is committed to live a life that honors God. Due to his success on the field and activities off of it, he is getting an amount of exposure and attention that few college athletes have received. But not all reporters are skeptical. David Whitley, a columnist with my local newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, commented on how his peers interact with Tebow:

"Religion makes some people uncomfortable, and athletes spouting it makes them downright irritable.We roll our eyes when they thank God after a game. Sam Bradford is also a card-carrying Christian. What if he shows up Thursday with "John 3:16" on his face? Would God have to go to a sudden-death verse-off to pick a winner?About the 152nd question, Tebow tried to explain. He doesn't believe God gives a hoot who wins. Philippians 4:13 just inspires Tebow to perform better. That means being humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Tebow said the verse has inspired him countless times in and out of games. We may not believe that, we may think it's all just a psychological crutch. That doesn't matter.Tebow believes it helps him, therefore it does."
I am not aware of where Whitley stands when it comes to matters of faith, but I think his assesment was right on. Our society tends to enjoy seeing people rise to fortune and fame and then come crashing down to earth due to failure or scandal. We are especially suspicious of those that claim their relationship with God helped them to achieve the prominence they've found themselves in. Usually the people that seem too good to be true are. I hope in this case, that which appears to be too good is actually true.

If you'd like to learn some more about how their Christian faith affects the life of Tim Tebow, Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford and several other football players, check out Beyond the Ultimate.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Travolta Tragedy and an Intrusive Public

A truly sad story came out of the Bahamas a few days ago when word emerged that Jett Travolta, the 16 year old son of actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston, had passed away. Because Jett's parents are celebrities his death has garnered attention that wouldn't have come if he had come from an average American family.

And it is because his parents are famous that the rest of us feel the freedom to comment on a very personal matter for the Travolta family. In reading some of the news reports online about Jett's death I have been troubled by the recklessness exhibited by some of the commenters. Whether it is judgment about Travolta's and Preston's parenting skills or their religious faith (Church of Scientology), people that don't know them feel the freedom to share their two cents as they cope with the death of their son.

I guess it is because of my own family's history of having had to deal with the death of a child that I am so sensitive to this, but why do people feel compelled to publicly post negative comments while others are in a time of grief? As a Christian, I don't agree with the tenets of Scientology. But is this the time to address it while parents cope with the devastation of death? As a Christian I am called to "weep with those who weep" and "mourn with those who mourn."

With the spread of the Internet within our society, we have new avenues of sharing our thoughts and feelings with a worldwide audience. But we need to remember that anyone can read those comments and words. I can't believe the number of knee-jerk, foul and mean comments that get posted millions of times each day online. The anonymity of our computers enables us to hide behind screen names and profiles while leaving comments that would never be made face-to-face to another. Just a word of caution (and a reminder to myself) to think twice before we post something online. We never know who may be reading...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Rick Warren & the Obama Inauguration

When President-elect Barack Obama selected California pastor Rick Warren to say a prayer at his inauguration, I doubt he realized how much of a response he would get from his liberal base. Even though Warren is generally considered fairly moderate within evangelical circles, those that disagree with his stance on gay marriage have painted him into the same corner as those that are much more in the far right than he is.

Due to the passage of Proposition 8 in California this past November, marriage is to be legally defined as a union between a man and a woman. As one of the most recognizable and vocal supporters of this legislation, Warren has drawn considerable venom from the gay and lesbian community and its supporters. All Obama asked him to do was say a prayer, but his presence at the inauguration seems to represent so much more.

I read a recent interview that did with Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopalian bishop from New Hampshire. Robinson is not at all happy that Warren will be on the stage on January 20th and he wants the world to know. Here are some of the thoughts he expressed in the interview:

"I actually have a lot of respect for Rick Warren; amongst evangelicals, he's taken a hit for his compassionate response to AIDS, his commitment to alleviating poverty. He's done some good things. The difficult thing is that he's said, and continues to affirm, some horrendous things about homosexuality -- comparing it to incest, bestiality, that kind of thing. This is not a choice that really represents everyone. This choice was just really, really unfortunate.

I would sit down with Rick Warren this morning if I had the opportunity. I would love to engage him. In some ways he's a very brave person, but he's woefully wrong about the issue of homosexuality. He needs to be confronted about the lies he told about gay people to the people of California.

It's about this particular venue and the role that he has in praying for all of America, and I'm just not sure he'd pray to God the same way I would. I think he is praying to a God, at least around this issue, that calls upon God's homosexual children to deny who they are, to deprive themselves of love and intimacy that is permitted every other one of God's children. He's praying to a God who calls on me, as a gay man, to change, to submit myself to the power of Jesus so I can be healed of this `infirmity' of mine.

The God I know says to me, just like we hear God saying at Jesus' baptism, that you are my beloved, and in you I am well pleased. That's a very, very different God. Imagine the difference between a parent who loves you for you who are, and one that says I'll only love you if you change."
So, there you have it. Robinson does not feel that the selection of Warren to say a prayer at the inauguration does not "represent everyone." Well, who would represent everyone?! Someone that thinks homosexual behavior is ordained by God? The fact is that there is no individual that would represent all of the American population on all issues. And whether Robinson wants to admit it or not, Warren's view that marriage should be reserved as a commitment between and a man and a woman represents the citizens of the U.S. much more than Robinson's perspective. Furthermore, Warren's view (as disagreeable as it may seem to some) actual has a Scriptural basis; Robinson's is based in his feelings.

President-elect Obama is a politically-adept man. His selection of Warren is an expression of his desire to reach out to evangelicals that are at odds with his viewpoint on abortion and gay marriage. He is willing to lose some points with the gay community because he realizes that Christians are a much, much larger voting bloc. Above all else, Obama is a politician. He got elected because he cast himself as one representing a truly diverse country. He ran on the platform of change and that is what he appears to be bringing.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Reflections on Impact 2008 Mission: Possible

The Impact Movement, the ministry which I help to give leadership to, recently held our ninth national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. As always, God chose to show up in remarkable ways as 1,400 students, marketplace professionals, pastors and missionaries were called to a deeper commitment to Jesus and to become more heavily involved in the mission of Impact. Here are some highlights:

The Speakers
We have been fortunate over the years to see how God has used our conferences and campus chapters to produce a number of leaders from within the black community that have now become fruitful leaders in churches, missions and music. Impact 2008 was blessed to see some great main session speakers. Here were a few:

  • Pastor Keith Battle offered a compelling challenge to discuss eternity with those we know.
  • Pastor Jumaine Jones reminded us that God even uses closed doors to accomplish His purposes.
  • Pastor William Branch (aka Duce, aka The Ambassador) broke down the supremacy of Christ from Colossians 1.
  • Pastor Eric Mason urged us to share the timeless gospel message with relevancy to this generation.
  • Pastor Matthew Watts, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Charleston, West Virginia, delivered one of the most rousing messages ever seen at an Impact conference as he argued for the importance of The Impact Movement as we seek to reach the emerging generation of African American leaders.

Musical Artists
We were blessed this year to have two of the most well-known artists within the gospel and Christian hip-hop communities -- Kirk Franklin and Lecrae.

- Kirk Franklin. I've had the opportunity to see a lot of my favorite singers in concert but have never been able to see Kirk Franklin before Impact 2008. He did not disappoint. His set was great and I particularly enjoyed the fact that he did a number of his older tunes. It was also neat to see how impressed he was with our conferees. He stated that he could only recall seeing young people of color respond with the type of enthusiasm and genuine worship that he saw at our conference once or twice before. We look forward to partnering together with him in the future.

-Lecrae. There is a growing movement within the Christian hip-hop community of rappers that possess tremendous skill on the microphone and do so with biblical and theological fluency. Lecrae is one of this movement's most prominent representatives. Not only did he perform in concert, but he did a sit-down question and answer session with my good friend, Rasool Berry, during one of our main meetings. Most people may not know this, but Lecrae actually became a Christian at the Impact 1998 conference. I was thoroughly impressed with his biblical knowledge, missiology, and belief that hip-hop music can be used to influence youth for Jesus.

Day of Outreach
One of the highlights of our conference is our Day of Outreach. We take an afternoon of the conference to go into the Atlanta community and share the love of Jesus in word and deed. Along with some students from the University of Missouri and Carnegie Mellon University, I walked to a nearby park to interact with some homeless people that stay in that area. And thanks to the generosity of Chick-Fil-A and Here's Life Inner City, we were able to provide food and care kits to the individuals we spoke with. The men we spent time with were generally very grateful for our visits with them and we were able to have some deep discussions about eternity.

I was particularly impressed with Craig, a man not that much younger than myself, that is in between jobs and supports himself by doing spoken word and written poetry. Not knowing who we were when we met him, he shared a moving poem that indicated he was a Christian. Even in a life marked by abuse, injustice and poverty, he is not angry or bitter. He is seeking to use the gifts that God has given Him and turn his negative experiences into positives.

The Volunteers
To the outsider, The Impact Movement may appear to be bigger than we actually are. We have less than 60 full-time staff and are dependant upon volunteers and partners in ministry to pull our national conference off. At each conference I am in awe how individuals will take vacation time off of work, will pay to be there and work 12+ hour days for a week straight so that our conference can happen. God has used Impact in the lives of thousands of people to change them for the better and one way that people thank Him is by serving at the conference. Thanks to all of our volunteers -- you are a joy to work with!

The Students
For almost 13 years, I have given my life to the mission of reaching college students with the gospel of Christ. I enjoy working with college students because they possess the zeal of youth and the maturity of impending adulthood. I especially enjoy working with students of African descent because so many of them are true survivors. They battle a society that stereotypes them and, in many ways, looks down upon and judges them. But they move forward in faith and strength and make a difference in the world. In fact, if you look back on the past century, any movement of significant change was initiated by college students. You need not look any further than a couple months ago when college students helped elect a black man the first president of the United States.

I was so proud of our students and how they responded to the challenges placed before them at this conference. More so than ever before, we called them to become specifically engaged in the work of The Impact Movement. When we let them know about the current financial crisis that our ministry is facing, many of them responded in a tangible way by committing to give to our work on a monthly basis. The reality is that God doesn't need our money. He will accomplish His purposes whether we give or not. But He does invite us to join Him in His work.

And when we invited our conferees to do just that, I couldn't help but be moved to tears. So many of our students had to trust God in big ways just to raise the money to get to the conference and to see so many of them come forward with their financial commitment demonstrated a sincere attitude of surrender to their Lord.

In addition, we invited the conferees to make further commitments, like praying regularly for our ministry, sharing their faith, going a missions trip, starting a chapter or begin tutoring a child. On the last night of the conference, we had the students send a text message, which was then rolled on the screen in the ballroom, to indicate how they would get involved in the mission of Impact. As scores of messages came through with how they would make a difference in their world, I couldn't help but think that I have never been prouder of the students I serve.

I don't think God is through with us yet. If you'd like to learn how you can get more involved with The Impact Movement or give a financial gift to help us in our work, click here.