Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catch up on 'Lost'

There are two arrivals that I'm looking forward to in January 2008. First and most important, is the arrival of my fourth child. But second is the arrival of the fourth season of one of my favorite television shows, Lost. Unfortunately, we'll have had to wait around nine months for both of these blessings to get here.

There are less than a handful of T.V. shows that I make it a point to watch every episode -- The Office, Survivor, American Idol and Lost. So after waiting nine + months for a new season, I'm pretty excited to see what is going to happen to the Losties, the Others and whoever else pops up on the Island (or not on the Island) this year.

If you're a fan of the show like me or one who is interested in making Lost part of your regular viewing, ABC has put together a nice little video recap of the show to catch you up before the next new episode airs on January 31st. You can visit ABC's site here to look at the video montage. If the clip (8 minutes, 15 seconds running time) doesn't play automatically, click on the "Catch up on Lost!" in the video window.

Thanks to TV Squad for the heads up on the Lost video.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Meme

Here is a Christmas meme that I got from Gina Dalfonzo off of the Break Point blog...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Definitely wrapping paper. As I told Lori recently, gift bags are just a cop out for people that don't want to take the time to wrap the gift. Unless, of course, it's an odd-shaped gift. Then a gift bag is acceptable. But a gift bag for a book? Come on...
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. I've never really had a real tree, but it seems like a lot of up-keep for the relative little time it is up.
3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually within a week after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Sometime in early January.
5. Do you like eggnog?
Sure do! But I just learned that it has like 8,000 calories in each cup so I have to not overdue it.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I would have to say the year I got an Atari video game system when I was around 8. For you youngsters out there, Atari was the ultimate system to have back in the Dark Ages before PS3's and XBox's.
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Several. I think my favorite is a simple pewter set of just Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Lori and I got it our first Christmas as husband and wife.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
My dad.
9. Easiest person to buy for?
My kids -- the remind me ad nauseum what they want each year.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I would say a white elephant gift that was a used bathroom floor mat. I don't think it had been washed...
11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. There are some things that just need to be done the old-fashioned way.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Typically in mid-December.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yes, but never a used gift.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Anything chocolate (but, of course, that applies for the other 11 months of the year as well.)
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Either is cool with me.
17. Favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night and Joy to the World.
18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Lately, it's been staying home although we like to visit our families when we can.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
I think so... Dopey, Sneezy, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Happy, Larry, Moe and Curly. Is that all of them?
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I think I've had both at one time or another. We have a star on our tree now.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Most of them Christmas morning, but one present is opened on Christmas Eve in honor of my dad's birthday that day.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
How our greed can be displayed so pointedly -- fighting for a parking spot at the mall, jockeying to get toys at the store, acting like we're celebrating the birth of Jesus when, deep down, it may really be about us getting stuff that we really don't need.
23. What I love most about Christmas?
In the midst of some of the selfishness and greed that is displayed, we also see a giving spirit that is exhibited like no other time of year.
Your turn!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Top Seven Favorite Christmas Movies

I recently posted on my favorite Christmas albums and now it's time to share my favorite Christmas movies. So without further adieu, here are my top seven favorite Christmas movies:

7. Elf (2003, starring Will Ferrell and James Caan) Though I've only seen this movie twice, it is arguably Will Ferrell at his finest while playing a human raised by elves. The child-like innocence of his character, Buddy, can't help but make you laugh.

Favorite Line: "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup."

6. Family Man (2000, starring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni) Family Man tells the story of a multi-millionaire who gets the chance to see how his life might have turned out had he married and started a family with his college girlfriend. A great story that demonstrates that success in life is not found in financial success but in the love of family.

Favorite Line: "You see, you're a better person than I am. And it made me a better person to be around you. I don't know, maybe it was just all a dream. Maybe I went to bed one lonely night in December and I imagined it all. But I swear, nothing has ever felt more real. And if you get on that plane right now, it'll disappear forever. I know we could both go on with our lives and we'd both be fine, but I've seen what we could be like together. And I choose us."

5. Home Alone (1990, starring Macauley Culkin and Joe Pesci) What could be funnier than an eight year old getting left all by himself while his family vacations in France? This movie made Culkin a star and his interactions with dimwitted burglars Pesci and Daniel Stern are hilarious.

Favorite Line: "Not for a guy in the second grade. You can get beat up for wearing something like that. Yeah, I had a friend who got nailed because there was a rumor he wore dinosaur pajamas."

4. The Santa Clause (1994, starring Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold) This was Tim Allen's first starring role in a movie and was filmed during the peak of his Home Improvement days. His acceptance of becoming Santa Clause is fun to watch and the adults in his life acceptance of him is even better.

Favorite Line: "We shared a bowl of sugar, did some shots of brown liqour, played with my shot guns, field-dressed a cat, looked for women..."

3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo) Another adventure in the lives of the wacky Griswold family, this movie was made back when Chevy Chase was still funny. There probably isn't a funnier character in a Christmas movie than Randy Quaid's Cousin Eddie and nearly twenty years later a home that overdoes their Christmas lights is still referred to as a "Griswold house."

Favorite Line: "He's cute ain't he? Only problem is, he's got a little bit a Mississippi Leg Hound in him. If the mood catches him right, he'll grab your leg and just go to town. You don't want him around if you're wearing short pants, if you know what I mean. Word of warning though, if he does lay into ya, it's best to just let him finish."

2. A Christmas Story (1983, starring Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin) My wife introduced me to this Christmas classic and I'm glad she did. All little Ralphie wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock. With adult narration in the background (ala The Wonder Years) , the viewer gets a humorous insight into the mind of a child looking forward to Christmas. In addition, an important lesson is conveyed to young and old alike -- do not touch your tongue to an icy flagpole in the winter!

Favorite Line: "Getting ready to go to school [in the winter] was like getting ready for extended deep-sea diving."

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed) Since its copyright license had run out at one point and was aired like non-stop for years around the holidays, It's a Wonderful Life is probably the most beloved and cherished of all American holiday films. Though blessed with a wonderful wife and children and a lifetime of helping others, a desperate and disillusioned George Bailey is given the gift of seeing what the world would be like had he never been born. The ending to this Frank Capra classic will tug at your heartstrings every time. And if you ever visit my parent's home around Christmas, you'll have to check out my dad's Bedford Falls village that he sets up. It's a classic as well!

Favorite Line: "Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Heaven at Starbucks

What do you think of the following quote?
"Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can't wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but heaven has to step it up a bit. They're basically getting by because they only have to be better than hell."
It comes from Joel Stein, columnist for the LA Times, and, along with dozens of other quotes from various people, can be found on cups at Starbucks. Stein expected a response when we found out his words would be printed on the cups, but he didn't expect that it would lead to a conversation with Randy Alcorn.

Alcorn is one of my favorite writers and is a well-known authority on the topic of heaven. To learn how Alcorn ended up talking with Stein, you can go to his blog here. And to read Stein's article on their conversation, you can follow this link.

One of the things that I appreciate about Randy Alcorn is that he demonstrates consistency and steadfastness in his convictions, yet communicates those convictions to others with a tremendous balance of truth and grace. This is a great example of how believers can take a perceived "slam" on the Christian faith and engage in intelligent dialogue with those that don't yet know Jesus.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top Ten Quotes of 2007

As mentioned in the Orlando Sentinel, this is Fred Shapiro's, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, listing of the top ten quotations of 2007. They are as follows:

10. "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."

-- Jimmy Carter, interview in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 19

9. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

-- Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., describing Sen. Barack Obama, quoted in New York Observer, Feb. 4

8. "[I have] a wide stance when going to the bathroom."

--Larry Craig, senator from Idaho, explaining why his foot touched that of an undercover policeman in a men's room (as noted by the interviewing policeman), June 11

7. "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody [Vice President Dick Cheney] who has a 9 percent approval rating."

-- Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, remarks to the media, April 24

6. "There's only three things he [Rudy Giuliani] mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9-11."

-- Joseph Biden, senator from Delaware, comment at Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 30

5. "I don't recall."

-- Alberto Gonzales, U.S. attorney general, repeated response to questioning about firing of U.S. attorneys, congressional testimony, April 19

4. "That's some nappy-headed hos there."

-- Don Imus about Rutgers University women's basketball team, Imus in the Morning radio broadcast, April 4

3. "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

-- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, at a Columbia University appearance, Oct. 10

2. "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as South Africa and the Iraq everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our [children]."

-- Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina Teen USA, responding to a pageant question about why one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the United States on a map, Aug. 24

1. "Don't tase me, bro!"

-- Andrew Meyer, University of Florida student who had been questioning Sen. John Kerry, being dragged away by campus police using a Taser stun gun, Sept. 17

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More College Students Seeking Spiritual Answers

From an USA Today article by Mary Beth Marklein...
"Students may be less likely to attend religious services while in college than they were as high school students, but that doesn't mean they're not wrestling with spiritual and ethical issues, a study suggests. An increasing number of undergraduates express a desire to explore the meaning and purpose of life as they progress through college, it says.

The findings surprised and delighted the study's authors, Alexander and Helen Astin, retired UCLA professors who are engaged in a multi-year study of how the college experience influences spiritual development. It is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The Astins argue that higher education has been neglecting the "inner" development of students, such as their emotional maturity, self-understanding and spirituality.

Now, their most recent study, based on a survey of more than 14,000 college students on 136 campuses at the start of their freshman year in fall 2004 and again at the end of their junior year in spring 2007, appears to challenge some common assumptions. "Colleges are considered sort of bastions of secularism," Alexander Astin says. The findings suggest that "we have every reason to believe that the colleges are actually fostering some of these changes."

The study reinforces other research showing a decline in attendance at religious services among college students. Among incoming freshmen, for example, 43.7% said they frequently attend services; by the end of their junior year, that was down to 25.4%. Also, 37.5% of juniors said they did not attend services, up from 20.2% who said so as new freshmen. But the Astins' study for the first time documents what they call "significant growth" among college students nationwide in the desire to engage in a spiritual quest, to be more caring, and to develop an ecumenical worldview.
Among findings:
•74.3% of juniors said "helping others in difficulty" was "very important" or "essential," compared with 62.1% of freshmen.
•66.6% of juniors said "reducing pain and suffering in the world" was "very important" or "essential," compared with 54.6% of freshmen.
•54.4% of juniors said they were committed to "improving my understanding of other countries and cultures," compared with 52.0% of freshmen.
•63.8% of juniors said they supported "improving the human condition," compared with 53.4% of freshmen.
It's not clear exactly how the college experience contributes to a student's spiritual development. The next stage of the Astins' research will explore how colleges can best encourage such growth.
One area of potential opportunity: in the classroom. Nearly 60% of students said their professors never encouraged discussions of religious or spiritual matters, and fewer than 20% said their professors "frequently" encouraged exploration of questions of meaning and purpose.
"These are qualities that colleges can and should care about," Alexander Astin says.
Rebecca Chopp, president of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., says colleges need to adapt. For decades, "higher education has been nervous about talking about religion," she says. Now, "we're probably in a time of transition. … What's different is globalization, the presence of world religions."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Michigan Hires Rich Rodriguez as its Next Coach

According to CBS Sports, the University of Michigan has hired Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia's head football coach, to replace the retiring Lloyd Carr. You can read the story here.

After the whole Les Miles fiasco, I am very pleased with this hire and am looking forward to the excitement that Rodriguez will bring to the Michigan program. GO BLUE and welcome Coach Rodriguez!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

What is Your Africa IQ?

**These questions were taken from the December 2007 issue of Ebony Magazine**

(Answers are at the bottom)

A. What 2006 Academy Award-winning movie became the first mainstream motion picture to be filmed entirely on location in Uganda?
  1. Blood Diamond
  2. Babel
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean
  4. The Last King of Scotland
B. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the first democratically elected female president of what African country?
  1. South Africa
  2. Botswana
  3. Mozambique
  4. Liberia
C. What Africa country is completely surrounded by South Africa?
  1. Zimbabwe
  2. Namibia
  3. Lesotho
  4. Angola
D. What African country was founded by African Americans?
  1. Congo
  2. Ethiopia
  3. Niger
  4. Liberia
E. How much money did South African singer Solomon Linda make from creating "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the hit song featured in Disney's hit The Lion King?
  1. 10 shillings
  2. $5,000
  3. Zero
  4. $2.3 million, plus rights for all future Broadway productions of The Lion King
F. Which of these cities is not in Africa?
  1. Cairo
  2. Dar Es Salaam
  3. Tripoli
  4. Pretoria
  5. Mumbai
G. Mount Kilamanjaro is in what African country?
  1. Tanzania
  2. Kenya
  3. Uganda
  4. Ghana
H. What is the largest country in Africa?
  1. Egypt
  2. South Africa
  3. Sudan
  4. Nigeria
I. Which of the following countries is an island?
  1. Ivory Coast
  2. Madagascar
  3. Cameroon
  4. Libya
J. Darfur is the site of a brutal civil war that has claimed more than a million lives. But where in Africa is Darfur?
  1. Rwanda
  2. Sudan
  3. Congo
  4. Uganda
K. Haile Selassie, the father of Rastafarians, was from what country?
  1. Jamaica
  2. Somalia
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Egypt
L. To which country did Roots author Alex Haley trace his African ancestry?
  1. Ghana
  2. South Africa
  3. Gambia
  4. Ivory Coast
A. The Last King of Scotland
B. Liberia. She was elected in 2005
C. Lesotho
D. Liberia
E. Linda wrote the 1939 song, originally titled "Mbube" (or lion in Zulu) and licensed it for 10 shillings to a South African label. He died in 1962, his family poor and destitute. But the Linda family launched a copyright lawsuit and in 2006 won $1.6 million in royalities.
F. Mumbai is in India
G. Tanzania
H. Sudan
I. Madagascar
J. Sudan
K. Ethiopia
L. Gambia

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Color Christmas Tree Should I Have?

You Should Have a Blue Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays represent a time of calm, understanding, and peace.

You avoid family fights, and you don't get too stressed out - even when things are crazy!

You like to make Christmas about making everyone's life a little bit better.

You don't get caught up in greed or commercialism. You're too sincere for that.

Your blue tree would look great with: Lots of silver tinsel

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: It's a Wonderful Life

What you should bake for Santa: Chocolate chip cookies

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Top Six Favorite Christmas Albums

It is once again the Christmas holiday season (or at least I'm told this is the case.) I must admit that although this is my fourth Christmas being an Orlando resident, I still am adjusting to having 80 degree heat in the middle of the Christmas shopping season. There is something that just doesn't seem right about that...yet the warmth feels so good.

In conjunction with the spirit of the season, our family has gotten out our box of Christmas CD's and have been listening to them since Thanksgiving. In case you're looking for some new holiday music, here are my top favorite six Christmas albums. They are listed here in descending order, as follows:

6. Nat King Cole - Christmas Favorites
Possessing one of the smoothest and richest voices of all-time, Cole put together a great collection of traditional Christmas carols. Highlights include his well-known version of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and my favorite version of my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night.

5. Celine Dion - These are Special Times
Arguably one of the greatest singers of our age, Dion certainly gives you your money's worth on this 16-track disc that runs close to an hour and ten minutes. Highlights include The Prayer (a duet with Andrea Bocelli) and the John Lennon tune, Happy Christmas (War is Over).

4. Kirk Franklin & The Family - Christmas
Kirk is probably my favorite gospel singer and whether he is singing with The Family, God's Property, Nu Nation (or any of his other collaborations), his original writing and direction stands out. Highlights on this 1995 disc include There's No Christmas Without You , the funky Jesus is the Reason for the Season and one of his greatest songs ever, the standout track Now Behold The Lamb.

3. Amy Grant - Home for Christmas
Amy must really like Christmas since she's made three different albums focused on this holiday and this one is my favorite. She demonstrates on this record why she is the greatest selling Contemporary Christian Music artist of all-time. Highlights include I'll Be Home For Christmas, The Night Before Christmas, and the powerful Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song.)

2. Steven Curtis Chapman - The Music of Christmas
Steven is far and away my favorite singer. We even thought about naming one of our boys "Steven Curtis Crocker," but we resisted that temptation. This album is chock full of great traditional and original songs. Standout songs include This Baby, Christmas is All in the Heart (with CeCe Winans), and the theologically rich Our God is With Us.

1. The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait
It is simply not Christmas for me without listening to this 1978 album. This is THE Christmas album that my family listened to while I was growing up. Whether while we were putting up the tree, decorating the house, or relaxing in front of our fake fireplace/record & 8-track player, mini-bar thingy (my parents and sister know what I'm talking about), Karen Carpenter's beautiful voice and the splendid musical stylings of Richard was playing in the background. Listening to this CD still brings back a flood of good memories each year. Favorite songs include Sleigh Ride, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and Karen's stunning rendition of Ave Maria.

So those are my favorite Christmas albums. What are yours?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jenna Bush on the Ellen Show

Jenna Bush, the President and Mrs. Bush's daughter, was recently a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Ellen asked her if it was easy to just pick up the phone and call her dad. Jenna indicated that it was, so Ellen suggested they give him a call right then. Here's what happened...

If the video player doesn't show up, you can view it here.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Beauty of the Imperfect

Check out these insightful words from one of my favorite columnists, Craig Wilson, of USA Today...

"We're heading out to get our Christmas tree this weekend. We go to the same place every year, an operation run by a woman who is so old, I'm always amazed she's still there every December. Maybe she won't be around this year, but I'd bet my crèche she will be standing right there in her urban "forest," ordering her men around when a tree needs to be taken down, carried off and tied to the roof of a car.
She runs her business from a money belt strapped around her waist. The price of her trees is completely arbitrary. It has nothing to do with height or width or bountiful bushiness. I have always suspected she sizes up the customer and charges accordingly. For years, we've dressed down to visit her.
And while her prices are often as high as the treetops, I have to admit her trees are perfect, something that used to impress me but which I now find rather depressing. They have all been pruned to perfection. Not a Charlie Brown tree on the lot. It's a trend in America today to have everything perfect. Teeth. Trophy wives. Even tiny tots dressed in designer duds. Rapper and hip-hop mogul Kanye West's mother just died after seeking perfection through plastic surgery. Novelist Olivia Goldsmith died a few years ago. A high price to pay.
And just the other day I heard about a camera that won't click the photo until the subject is smiling. Evidently all photos from now on will only show perfectly happy people. What fun is that? In that case, there would be no family photos from my childhood, since my brother went through what seemed like a decade of being sullen. He'd offer up a smirk every now and then but never a smile.
And now it seems every Christmas tree must be perfect. Smiling Scotch pines. Most of the Christmas trees we had while I was growing up were far from perfect. Some were downright ugly. But as they've always said about women with unconventional looks, every last one of them had a good personality. Some were like Ethel Merman. Bawdy. Bigger than life. We cut them down on our farm. There was no city lot with a moneychanger barking orders and sizing up customers.
Often it was just me and my dad wandering through a field near the farm pond. The pickings were slim — we grew trees made for apples, not tinsel — but Dad would always reassure me that an ornament would fill that gaping hole in the side, or that overextending bough would be the perfect display area. It always seemed to work, although looking at old photos from Christmases past, I'm always a bit shocked at what passed as our Christmas tree back then.
Good thing that only-if-you're-smiling-perfectly camera wasn't invented back then. Like my brother, those trees with their own distinct personalities also would have been wiped from history. And too bad, too. The imperfect are often the most beautiful things in our lives."

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Friday, November 30, 2007

America Has Lost a Generation of Black Boys

The following words from Phillip Jackson of The Black Star Project will make you weep (Thanks to The Field Negro for pointing this article out.) When I think about the current realities facing our young African American boys, I am even more convinced of the need for The Impact Movement. I love the solutions that are offered here and I think that God has raised up The Impact Movement for "such a time as this" to answer the cry and call of the African American community.

Here are Phillip's words...
"There is no longer a need for dire predictions, hand-wringing, or apprehension about losing a generation of Black boys. It is too late. In education, employment, economics, incarceration, health, housing, and parenting, we have lost a generation of young Black men. The question that remains is will we lose the next two or three generations, or possibly every generation of Black boys hereafter to the streets, negative media, gangs, drugs, poor education, unemployment, father absence, crime, violence and death.
Most young Black men in the United States don’t graduate from high school. Only 35% of Black male students graduated from high school in Chicago and only 26% in New York City, according to a 2006 report by The Schott Foundation for Public Education. Only a few black boys who finish high school actually attend college, and of those few Black boys who enter college, nationally, only 22% of them finish college. Young Black male students have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. When these young Black men don’t succeed in school, they are much more likely to succeed in the nation’s criminal justice and penitentiary system.
And it was discovered recently that even when a young Black man graduates from a U.S. college, there is a good chance that he is from Africa, the Caribbean or Europe, and not the United States. Black men in prison in America have become as American as apple pie. There are more Black men in prisons and jails in the United States (about 1.1 million) than there are Black men incarcerated in the rest of the world combined. This criminalization process now starts in elementary schools with Black male children as young as six and seven years old being arrested in staggering numbers according to a 2005 report, Education on Lockdown by the Advancement Project. The rest of the world is watching and following the lead of America. Other countries including England, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil and South Africa are adopting American social policies that encourage the incarceration and destruction of young Black men.
This is leading to a world-wide catastrophe. But still, there is no adequate response from the American or global Black community. Worst of all is the passivity, neglect and disengagement of the Black community concerning the future of our Black boys. We do little while the future lives of Black boys are being destroyed in record numbers. The schools that Black boys attend prepare them with skills that will make them obsolete before, and if, they graduate. In a strange and perverse way, the Black community, itself, has started to wage a kind of war against young Black men and has become part of this destructive process.
Who are young Black women going to marry? Who is going to build and maintain the economies of Black communities? Who is going to anchor strong families in the Black community? Who will young Black Boys emulate as they grow into men? Where is the outrage of the Black community at the destruction of its Black boys? Where are the plans and the supportive actions to change this? Is this the beginning of the end of the Black people in America?
The list of those who have failed young Black men includes our government, our foundations, our schools, our media, our Black churches, our Black leaders, and even our parents. Ironically, experts say that the solutions to the problems of young Black men are simple and relatively inexpensive, but they may not be easy, practical or popular. It is not that we lack solutions as much as it is that we lack the will to implement these solutions to save Black boys. It seems that government is willing to pay billions of dollars to lock up young Black men, rather than the millions it would take to prepare them to become viable contributors and valued members of our society.
Please consider these simple goals that can lead to solutions for fixing the problems of young Black men:
Short term1) Teach all Black boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education.
2) Provide positive role models for Black boys.
3) Create a stable home environment for Black boys that includes contact with their fathers.
4) Ensure that Black boys have a strong spiritual base.
5) Control the negative media influences on Black boys.
6) Teach Black boys to respect all girls and women.
Long term
1) Invest as much money in educating Black boys as in locking up Black men.
2) Help connect Black boys to a positive vision of themselves in the future.
3) Create high expectations and help Black boys live into those high expectations.
4) Build a positive peer culture for Black boys.
5) Teach Black boys self-discipline, culture and history.
6) Teach Black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning."

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

African American Women & Where They Stand

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is running an interesting series this week called "African American Women: Where They Stand." The series covers areas like the role that black women will play in the upcoming presidential elections, the progress of African American women in education, the black family structure, health concerns and more.

Some alarming statistics that the report mentions are as follows:
  • Nearly two-thirds of African-American college undergraduates are women. At historically black colleges and universities, the ratio of women to men is 7 to 1.
  • In the past fifty years, the percentage of African-American women between 25-54 who have never been married has doubled from 20% to 40%. (Compared to just 16% of white women who have never been married today).
  • Black women with breast cancer are nearly 30% more likely to die from it than white women. Premenopausal black women are more than twice as likely to get a more aggressive form of the disease.
  • African-American women are 85% more likely to get diabetes, a major complication for heart disease.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Detroit Lions and Thanksgiving

First off, I have to say congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes and all their fans. They outplayed my beloved Wolverines in just about every aspect of the game on Saturday and pulled out an impressive 14-3 victory. Also, while part of me feels like it was time for Lloyd Carr to step down as Michigan's football coach, I'm sad to see him go. I feel like it is appropriate for Carr to retire because, though he's experienced a lot of success (including five Big Ten titles and a national championship), he's been on the "hot seat" for well over two years now and it was unfair for such a class act to continue to be subjected to the ridicule he's received. You're a true Michigan man and did a great job, Coach Carr.

Now...onto the Detroit Lions. I was just talking with my family about the origins of the Lions playing on Thanksgiving day and none of us knew the reasons why the Lions play, whereas other teams don't. I did some research on the 'net and found out the history behind the game. Read on from the Lions official website...
"Four generations of Detroiters have been a proud part of the American celebration of Thanksgiving. The relationship between Detroit and Thanksgiving dates back to 1934 when owner G.A. Richards scheduled a holiday contest between his first-year Lions and the Chicago Bears. Some 71 years later, fans throughout the State of Michigan have transformed an annual holiday event into the single greatest tradition in the history of American professional team sports. Indeed, if football is America’s Passion, Thanksgiving football is Detroit’s Passion.
No other team in professional sports can claim to be as much a part of an American holiday as can the Detroit Lions with Thanksgiving. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of football and the Lions.
The Thanksgiving tradition is older than 24 current NFL franchises, and Detroit’s passionate affair with the annual Thanksgiving Day game is evidenced by its growing popularity. Year-after-year, Detroiters look forward to not only spending Thanksgiving with their families, but they also enjoy sharing that time with the Lions.
The most recent illustration of this love affair was introduced on September 9, 1998 when the Lions announced that all individual reserved tickets for the Lions-Steelers contest were sold out, assuring the earliest sellout in the 65-year history of the holiday series. The only remaining tickets were the 3,500 bleacher seats that went on sale 11 days before the game -- fans who had stood in line hours waiting for those seats gobbled up the remaining tickets in approximately eight minutes.
November 22, 2007 will mark the 67th addition of Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day tradition, and the passion continues to burn brighter than ever before.
The Origin of the Lions' Thanksgiving Day GameThe game was the brainchild of G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Detroit Lions. Richards had purchased the team in 1934 and moved the club from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City. The Lions were the new kids in town and had taken a backseat to the baseball Tigers. Despite the fact the Lions had lost only one game prior to Thanksgiving in 1934, the season’s largest crowd had been just 15,000.
The opponent that day in 1934 was the undefeated, defending World Champion Chicago Bears of George Halas. The game would determine the champion of the Western Division. Richards had convinced the NBC Radio Network to carry the game coast-to-coast (94 stations) and, additionally, an estimated 26,000 fans jammed into the University of Detroit Stadium while thousands more disappointed fans were turned away.
Despite two Ace Gutowsky touchdowns, the Bears won the inaugural game, 19-16, but a classic was born. Since 1934, 67 games have been played with the Lions holding a series record of 33-32-2 (.507). And each game, in its own way, continues to bring back memories of Thanksgiving, not only to Lions' fans, but to football fans across the nation."
Here's to hoping that now that the Lions are respectable again, Jon Kitna can lead them to a victory over the formidable Packers in front of a national television audience.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Game

A guy named Bob received a free ticket to the Ohio State vs. Michigan game from his company. Unfortunately, when he arrived at the stadium, he discovered the seat was in the last row in the corner of the stadium way back in the south stands.

About halfway through the first quarter, he noticed an empty seat 10 rows off the field at the 50-yard line. He decided to take a chance and made his way down to the empty seat. As he sat down, he asked the gentleman sitting next to him, “Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” The man said, “No.”

Very excited to have such a great seat for the game, Bob said, “That's incredible! Who in their right mind would have a seat like this at the Ohio State-Michigan game and not use it?”

The man replied, “Actually, that seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Ohio State-Michigan game we haven't been to together since we got married in 1967.”

Bob said, “Well, that's really sad. Couldn't you find a friend or a relative to come with you?”

“No,” the man replied. “They're all at the funeral.”

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Joke

A University of Michigan grad is driving through Columbus and decides to visit a local bar. He orders a drink and leans over to the guy next to him and says, “Wanna hear a good Ohio State joke?”

The guy replies, “Well, before you tell that joke, you should know something. I am 6′ 3’’, 240 pounds. The guy sitting next to me is 6′4″, 250 pounds. And the guy right next to him is 6′2″, 225 pounds. In addition to that, we all went to Ohio State and we all played football for the Buckeyes. So, tell me, do you still wanna tell me that joke?”

The Michigan guy replies, “Well, no, not if I’m going to have to explain it three different times.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Road

One foggy night, a Wolverine fan was heading south from Michigan and a Buckeye fan was driving north from Ohio. While crossing a narrow bridge, they hit each other head-on, mangling both cars.

The Ohio State fan manages to climb out of his car and survey the damage. He looks at his twisted car and says, "Man, I'm lucky to be alive!"

Likewise, the Wolverine fan gets out of his car uninjured, he too feeling fortunate to have survived. The Buckeye fan walks over to the Wolverine fan and says, "Hey, man, I think this is a sign that we should put away our petty differences and live as friends instead of being rivals."

The Wolverine fan thinks for a moment and says, "You know, you're absolutely right! We should be friends. In fact, I'm going to see if something else survived the wreck."

The Michigan fan then pops open his trunk and removes a full, undamaged bottle of Jack Daniel's. He says to the Buckeye, "I think this is another sign- we should toast to our newfound friendship." The OSU fan agrees and grabs the bottle. After sucking down half of the bottle, the Buckeye fan hands it back to the U of M fan and says, "Your turn!"

The Wolverine fan calmly twists the cap back on the bottle, throws the rest of the bottle over the bridge into the river and says, "Nah, I think I'll just wait for the cops to show up."

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - Heaven

Shortly after former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler passes away and enters through the Pearly Gates, former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes happens to get released from football coach purgatory. Upon his entrance to heaven, God takes Woody on a tour of the place. He shows Woody a little two bedroom house with a faded Ohio State banner hanging from the front porch.

"This is your home now, Coach Hayes. You know, you should be grateful. Most people don't get their own house up here," God exclaims.

Woody looks at the house, then turns around and looks at the one sitting on top of the hill. It's a huge two-story mansion with white marble columns and little patios under all the windows. University of Michigan flags line both sides of the sidewalk with a huge maize and blue banner with the distinctive block "M" hanging between the marble columns.

Woody says to God, "Thanks for the home God, but let me ask you a question."

"I get this little two bedroom house with a faded OSU banner, and Bo Schembechler gets a huge mansion with new Michigan banners and flags flying all over the place. Why is that God?"

God looks at him seriously for a moment then replies, "Woody, my child. You've got it all wrong. For you see...that's not Bo's house. That's mine!"

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Phone

A highly recruited high school football player was visiting schools to try and find the best college for him. His first stop was at Notre Dame. When he got there, Brian Kelly immediately picked up a golden telephone.

After talking several minutes, he said, "Thank you, God," and hung up. This shocked the young man. He asked the coach what was so special about the golden phone."Well, this phone is a direct line to God. And God tells us whether or not new recruits would be stars at our university. The athlete asked if he could use the phone to ask God what college he should pick. "Sure, you can! But it's going to cost you $1,000. Calling Heaven ain't cheap."

The fellow didn't have that kind of money, so he moved along. His next stop was Ohio State. Upon entering Urban Meyer's office, Coach Meyer immediately picked up a golden telephone. After talking several minutes, he said, "Thank you, God" and hung up. The boy said, "Hey, I've seen those phones before. Can I use yours to call God and ask what college I should pick?" Urban said, "Sure, but it's going to cost you $750. Calling Heaven isn't cheap."

Again, not having that kind of money, the young man left. His last stop was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Upon arrival at the office, Brady Hoke picked up a golden telephone, talked to God, and said, "Thanks," and hung up. The boy just had to use that phone, so he said, "Coach, I really need to use that golden telephone so I can call God and ask him which college I should choose. From South Bend it was going to cost me $1000. From Ohio they wanted $750. So how much will it cost me to call heaven from here in Michigan?"

Coach Hoke smiled and said, "Nothing, Son. It's a local call."

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Mountain

Four college alumni were climbing a mountain one day: an Ohio State grad, a Michigan grad, a Michigan State grad, and a Notre Dame grad. Each proclaimed to be the most loyal of all fans at their alma mater.

As they climbed higher, they argued as to which one of them was the most loyal of all. They continued to argue all the way up the mountain, and finally as they reached the top, the Notre Dame grad hurled himself off the mountain, shouting "This is for the Fighting Irish!" as he fell to his doom.

Not wanting to be outdone, the MSU grad threw himself off the mountain proclaiming, "This is for the Spartans!" and plummeted to his death.

Seeing this, the U of M grad walked over and shouted "This is for Everybody!" and shoved the Buckeye off the side of the mountain.

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Prayer

Ohio State is threatening to score the winning touchdown with four seconds to go on the Michigan two-yard line. Urban Meyer looks to the sky and says, “Oh Lord, I've been a good person. I've tried to live a good life. Please, give me your guidance. What play should we run?”

Suddenly, the clouds part and a booming voice says, “RUN 34 POWER TRAP RIGHT.” Urban stands in stunned disbelief. His prayer has been answered! Quickly, Coach Meyer tells Braxton Miller to run 34 power trap right. The quarterback calls the play and hands off to the running back, who is immediately swarmed by Wolverine linebackers in the backfield.

The game ends and Michigan fans storm the field to celebrate. From the sideline, Urban looks toward heaven and says, “Why Lord? Why did you tell me to run 34 power trap right?”

The same booming voice answers, “I DON'T KNOW. WHY DID WE RUN 34 POWER TRAP, BO?”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Shark

On a tour of Florida, the Pope took a couple of days off to visit the coast for some sightseeing. He was cruising along the beach in the Popemobile when there was a frantic commotion just off shore. A helpless man, wearing an Ohio State jersey, was struggling frantically to free himself from the jaws of a 25-foot shark.

As the Pope looked on in horror, a speedboat came racing up with three men aboard who were wearing Michigan jerseys. One quickly fired a harpoon into the shark's side. The other two reached out and pulled the bleeding, semi-conscious Buckeye fan from the water. Then using an Bo Schembechler autographed baseball bats, the three heroes in Maize and Blue beat the shark to death and hauled it into the boat.

Immediately the Pope shouted and summoned them to the beach. "I give you my blessing for your brave actions," he told them. "I heard that there was some bitter hatred between Buckeye and Michigan fans, but now I have seen with my own eyes that this is not the truth."

As the Pope drove off, the harpooner asked his buddies, "Who was that?"

"It was the Pope," one replied. "He is in direct contact with God and has access to all of God's wisdom." 

"Well," the harpooner said, "He may have access to God's wisdom, but he doesn't know jack squat about shark fishing.... how's the bait holding up?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Puzzle

There was a bartender at an off-campus Columbus bar who was busy serving drinks one afternoon when he heard some loud shouting and laughter from the corner of the bar. He walked over and found two guys who he recognized as Ohio State football players high-fiving each other and celebrating like they had just won a BCS championship over Florida.

The bartender proceeded to ask them why they were so excited. The smarter of the two Buckeyes said proudly that they had just finished a jigsaw puzzle and it only took them two months.

“Two months?!” exclaimed the bartender.

The Buckeye proudly replied, “Yeah, the box said 4 - 6 years!”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Michigan/Ohio State Humor - The Priest

There was once a Michigan fan that liked to amuse himself by scaring every Ohio State fan he saw walking down the street. He would serve his car as if to hit them and then swerve back just missing them.
One day, while driving along, he saw a priest walking alongside of the road. He thought he would do a good deed so he pulled over and asked the clergyman, "Where are you going, Father?"

"I'm going to give mass at St. Francis Church, about 2 miles down the road," replied the priest.

"Climb in, Father! I'll give you a lift!"

The priest climbed into the rear passenger seat, and they continued down the road. Suddenly, the man saw a Buckeye fan walking down the road wearing one of those atrocious scarlet and gray sweatshirts with the big “O” on them. Instinctively, the Michigan man swerved as if to hit him. But, as usual, he swerved back into the road just in time.

Even though he was certain that he had missed the guy, he still heard a loud "THUD." Not understanding where the noise came from, he glanced in his mirrors, but still didn't see anything. He then remembered the priest and sheepishly turned to him and said, "Sorry, Father, I almost hit that Buckeye fan."

"That's OK," replied the priest, "I got him with the door."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween Photos

The kids and their old man

Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and an East High School Cheerleader (from High School Musical)

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Most Unbelievable Football Play Ever!

You have to see this play to believe it! I found this on The M Zone and the guys intro the clip well:

"The clip below is from yesterday's Division III game between Trinity University and Millsaps College. And you might not see a more incredible play - in any division - ever. To set the stage, Millsaps had stopped Trinity on a two-point conversion try with 2:11 left to keep a 24-22 lead. Millsaps, coached by former 'Bama head coach Mike DuBose, then recovered an onside kick and ran the clock down to :02 seconds before turning the ball over to Trinity at the Trinity 39.That's where the clip below picks up: two seconds left, 61 yards away. Time for one final

If the video player is not showing up, you can click here to see the clip.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Saving our Youth

I've had the opportunity twice in the past couple of weeks to spend some time with Chaplain Bernard Fleeks at the Orange County Jail here in Orlando. My friend, Scott Alexander, has helped lead the way for members of our church in reaching out those in need and he helped me to first meet Chaplain Fleeks last November when my son, Brennan, and I went to the jail as representatives of our church to help with delivering a Thanksgiving meal for the inmates. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow us in because of Brennan's young age, but we were still able to help provide some funding for the meal on the church's behalf.

Last week I was able to visit the jail along with some of the men that I work with The Impact Movement. The mission statement of The Impact Movement is:

African American emerging leaders -- spiritually focused, financially free and morally fit -- taking the truth of Jesus Christ to the campus, the community and the world.

So while a big part of what we do is our outreach to students on college campuses, we're also committed to being involved in the community as well. We set aside part of our days on Thursdays for our staff here in Orlando to serve in the community in some way -- whether that be tutoring young children, ministering to the homeless, volunteering at the jail or some other capacity. Within The Impact Movement, we are fiercely committed to living out the gospel in both word and deed.

During our visit we were able to tour the facility while Chaplain Fleeks shared about the different areas we were entering into and the realities that the inmates face. We also had the chance to sit down with a few of the juveniles and hear their stories about what brought them to the jail and what God had been doing in their lives since they'd been there. While holding hands in a prayer circle with these young men before ending our visit, it was hard to believe that these were the same people that had committed some of the horrible crimes that had brought them there.

This afternoon I visited the jail along with a handful of men from our church. We conducted a church service for the juvenile inmates and, once again, had some time to talk with them and hear their stories. I think it's easy to look at these guys as bad people beyond redemption. And, agreeably, a lot of them have done some bad things. But I certainly don't think they are beyond redemption. I am reminded that apart of God's grace, I could be sitting there with them. I grew up in a neighborhood where drug dealing was going on and a number of friends from my youth have done time - some for some pretty horrible crimes.

As I spent some time with these guys, I thought of an article that my friend, Troy, just sent me from Mark Earley, the president of Prison Fellowship. Earley comments on the Jena, Louisiana trial and the disparities in our American judicial system:
"The case of the Jena 6 has forced us to ask once again if our justice system is color blind in America. Thousands gathered in that small town on September 20 because they are convinced that African-Americans are unfairly treated in the criminal justice system. To be honest, it's hard to discern right now exactly what happened in Jena. But don't miss the point here: It is not hard to discern the incredibly disproportionate rate of African-Americans behind bars in America.
The thousands who converged on Jena were most outraged at the prosecutor's decision to charge six African-American kids with attempted murder in connection with a beating of a white student. In their opinion, the fact that the victim left the hospital after two hours proved that the charges were excessive. Those suspicions were reinforced by reports that the prosecutor had previously told other African-American students that he "could end [their] lives with the stroke of a pen."
For many African-Americans, this is not an idle threat—it is reality. Although only 13 percent of the population, African-Americans make up nearly half of our prison population. The incarceration rate for Blacks is nearly six times that of Whites. As social scientist Glenn Loury points out, "a black male resident of the state of California is more likely to go to a state prison than a state college." And this disparity is not limited to, or even greatest in, the South: The disparities in Iowa and New Jersey, for example, are nearly three times greater than in Louisiana.
What drives much of this disparity is the War on Drugs: In 1975, Blacks were twice as likely as Whites to be arrested for drug offenses—by 1989, four times as likely. Yet there is no evidence that Blacks are more likely than Whites to use illegal drugs—in fact, the opposite is true. These differences and other factors are having a devastating effect in the African-American community in ways that many outside that community do not begin to comprehend. It is devastating an entire generation of families. If the present trends continue, for every Black male born today, one out of three will be behind bars in their lifetime.
As criminologist Jeffrey Fagan and his colleagues put it, "the declining economic fortunes of former inmates [creates] . . . strains on families of prisoners that weaken the family's ability to supervise children . . . " As Loury put it, these children are then "likely to join a new generation of untouchables" and perpetuate the tragic cycle. This impact and the disparities that cause it are issues that should concern every Christian. Not simply because it is unjust that one group of people should be punished in such a disproportionate manner—that's bad enough—but it should also concern us because it undermines confidence in the rule of law. It makes it easier for people to suspect the worst in places like Jena.
The Christian author Philip Yancey recently said it is easy to quote Amos—let justice roll down like a mighty river. It is much harder to build an irrigation system. Nevertheless, the hard work of justice in America is something that every Christian, Black and White, should tackle together."
Copyright (c) 2007 Prison Fellowship

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Asian American Pastors

This is a great article that the LA Times published that touches on the challenges that face Asian American pastors. My friends Tommy Dyo and Steve Hong are among those interviewed. Among the thought-provoking comments:

"Consider the situation of a second-generation Chinese or Korean American who works as an associate pastor for a largely immigrant congregation. Such a U.S.-born pastor would be accustomed to expressing personal views, so it can be trying to show marked deference to senior first-generation pastors who, steeped in hierarchal Confucian tradition, are used to assistants who don't express contrary opinions."

American culture is much more open about sharing differences," said the Rev. Louis Lee, a second-generation Chinese American pastor who founded Ministries to English-Speaking Asians. U.S.-born pastors "don't care about titles or doctorates," he said, but not using an appropriate title to address a superior can convey disrespect to a first-generation person. And expressing disagreement could be construed as a personal attack, said Lee, who is known as a "pastor" to Asian American pastors."

For Christian leaders in America coming from an Asian background, the clash of cultures is a daily reality. You can read the full article here.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Does College Cause Young People to Lose Their Faith?

There is a commonly held assumption in Christian circles that a Christian youth that goes away to college is going to lose their faith and stop going to church. A recent report seems to contradict this. Some researchers at The University of Texas found (you can read more about it here) that college is not the danger that many believe it to be when it comes to matters of faith. Among the findings were that:
"...those who never attended college had the highest rates of decline in church attendance (76.2 percent), diminished importance placed on religion (23.7 percent), and disaffiliation from religion (20.3 percent). Students who earned at least a bachelor's degree, on the other hand, had the lowest rates on those three factors with 59.2 percent indicating decreased church attendance and 15 percent placing less importance on religion and disaffiliating from religion."

"Overall, the overwhelming majority (82 percent) of college students maintain at least a static level of personal religiosity in early adulthood and 86 percent retain their religious affiliation."
I think their findings hold up what many of us that work with college students have found to be true. Most college students that have been exposed to Christianity at a young age but aren't currently interested are more disillusioned with the institutional church than they are with Jesus. Many of them have been introduced to a brand of Christianity that is a rules-based religion rather than a love-based relationship. I think my job (as well as others that minister to students) is to introduce them to the Jesus of the Bible, whether they have been familiar with Him previously or not.

Thanks to the World Magazine blog for cluing me into this story. By the way, if you know a student going away to college this fall for the first time, you might want to direct them to, a website which can help them in connecting with Christian groups on their campus like The Impact Movement and Cru.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What is True For This Year's College Freshmen

Each year Beloit College distributes their Mindset List and this year's was just released. The Mindset List gives a glimpse into the worldview of the nation's 18 year olds and the world they grew up in. The complete list for the class of 2011 can be found here, but here are some things that stood out to me:

  • What Berlin Wall?
  • They never "rolled down" a car window.
  • They have grown up with bottled water.
  • Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  • Pete Rose has never played baseball.
  • Rap music has always been mainstream.
  • "Off the hook" has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  • Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  • Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  • They grew up in Wayne's World.
  • U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  • They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as "The Joker."
  • Fox has always been a major network.
  • Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  • They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  • Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  • MTV has never featured music videos.
  • They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  • They're always texting 1 n other.
  • They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  • The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  • Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

On This Day

The fall season seems to be synonymous for me with new beginnings and fresh starts. I guess this is natural since I was in school from the ages of 5 - 22 and am now entering my twelfth year of working with college students. As I was driving home today from the office, I was thinking about another new year and all that lies ahead. And then ever so slowly my thoughts began to drift back into my past and I began to reflect on what I had most likely been doing on this date in years past. As I started to think about this, I came to the realization that what I was experiencing on August 20th when I go back in five year increments dramatically affected my life and the person I have become. Think back with me for a moment...

Five Years Ago (2002)

After six years spent working with students in northeast Ohio, we moved from Kent earlier in the summer. Our family spent that summer in Johannesburg, South Africa as a part of Operation Sunrise and moved to Orlando for the first time several weeks after the project was over. On this date, we were settling into our apartment and I was preparing for my new job as executive assistant to Charles Gilmer and work in the national Impact office. That year was a very refreshing season and I can see now that some seeds were planted of what I'd be doing now.

Ten Years Ago (1997)

I had just completed my first year on campus at Kent State and was assigned to staff the Virginia Beach summer project. On the project I met some friends that I still have to this day, including one very cute girl named Lori Gresko. On this date Lori and I were growing in our certainty that the Lord might be leading us together. Though we had met only three months before I was pretty confident that she was to be my wife. We were engaged less than two months after this and got married on May 2, 1998. Second best decision I ever made. Which leads me to the best decision I ever made...

Fifteen Years Ago (1992)

I was entering my sophomore year at Central Michigan University and had spent the summer earning money for college by working at a Detroit Edison power plant shoveling coal. That's right -- I was a coal handler. Though I appreciated what the manual labor did for my muscles, I knew then that I definitely wanted to get my college degree. On this date I was completely unaware that in three short months my life would absolutely and utterly change when I was to read a book, Under Siege, that would cause me to think about eternity in a way that I hadn't before. In my dorm room of 320 Emmons Hall on the campus of CMU in November of '92, I truly and sincerely placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and committed my life to Him. I shortly thereafter got involved with Campus Crusade and the rest, they say, is history.

Twenty Years Ago (1987)

After spending my first fourteen plus years residing in Port Huron, Michigan, my family made the decision to move to a town to the south of us in order to be closer to my mom's accounting business. It was just weeks before I was to enter high school and I didn't know a soul at my new school. It took a little while to adjust to a different environment and find new friends, but I eventually made some friends and found my place there. The Marysville Vikings were a state powerhouse in football and our varsity team was just coming off a state championship from the year before. On this date I probably went to freshmen football practice and spent the rest of the day working on mowing our lawn at our new house.

Twenty Five Years Ago (1982)

I was nine years old and was getting ready to enter the fourth grade. I was feeling pretty good about myself since I had won the Spelling Bee as a third grader. I didn't fare as well during fourth grade - I don't think I made it past the second or third round. I don't remember a whole lot about this year other than Mrs. Fleming was my teacher and Michael Jackson's Thriller album came out late that year. I became a very big MJ fan (as my parents and sister can attest) and could moonwalk like nobody's business! On this date I was probably playing baseball outside in the neighborhood with my friends and dreading the soon-to-be start of another school year.

Thirty Years Ago (1977)

I can't remember much about this year at all (I was only four) other than I did see Star Wars in the theatre and can distinctly remember Darth Vader. Another reason that I can't remember much of anything for that time was that my older brother, Chip, tragically and unexpectedly passed away a year and a half before on Valentine's Day 1976. I usually have a near photographic memory and do have memories of my brother, but I have about a two year block for right after he died. I was just shy of my third birthday (he was almost five) when it happened and I guess my little mind couldn't fully comprehend what was going on. Chip's death certainly shaped my family in many ways and I am continually reminded that my children are simply a gift from God that He entrusts to us for a time known only to Him. So on this date in 1977, I really can't remember what I would have been doing, but if I had to guess, I was probably bugging my younger sister, Kelly, watching Batman on T.V. and playing with my Stretch Armstrong action figure.

Thirty Five Years Ago (1972)

On this date thirty-five years ago, I was merely a glimmer in my parents' eye. Come to think of it, this was most likely weeks after I was conceived. Okay, I think that's enough memories for now, don't you?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Real Tragedy of the Michael Vick Saga

You have most likely heard about the recent indictment of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who is accused of being a prime player in the world of dogfighting. If you're an avid fantasy football player like me or merely an Atlanta Falcons fan, you've definitely followed this news. Whatever the case may be, I've been stunned by the public response to this. I knew there were a lot of dog lovers out there (I count myself one) and I don't know anyone personally that condones the abuse of animals, but I think we need to put this situation in perspective.

Since the year of my birth in 1973, our government has said that it is absolutely legal for a mother to take the life of a child, as long as it's her baby and it's still inside her womb. If it's not her kid or the baby has been born, then the powers that be have said that's illegal. In relation to the accusations of dogfighting that Vick faces, I wonder how many of the self-righteous judges out there among the American public believe in a woman's perogative to, um, not choose life for her baby, yet condemn Vick for the alleged use of dogs for his own amusement.

Former congressman J.C. Watts has some great thoughts on this here. I particularly like his words for West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, a former leader in the Ku Klux Klan, who has shown some particular disgust for Vick. And though things don't look good for Vick, he has yet to be convicted. Even if he is found guilty of these acts, it is important to remember that his crimes are against dogs. Dogs are animals and they are not people. I do not like the abuse or killing of animals for sport (one reason why I am not a hunter), but the life of an animal is not on an equal plane with that of a human being who is created in the image of God.

Watts' insights are telling. Our culture has become so desensitized to the taking of human life that we barely bat an eye when millions of innocent babies are killed, yet a lynch mob forms when some innocent dogs are brutally harmed. The murder of dogs is wrong, but it is not in the same ballpark of the murder of babies. Let's remember that.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Detroit Named Top Sports Town

It seems that the boys over at The Sporting News (TSN) feel that Detroit is the best sports city in the United States. The city of Detroit -- which was largely viewed as just "Hockeytown" over the past 15 or so years -- was voted the Best Sports City of 2007 in a recent poll conducted by the Sporting News. TSN based its judgment on 11 different criteria, including attendance figures and won-loss records. This is the second time that Detroit has won the honor (previously taking the crown in 1998) and, even for non-Detroit fans, it would be difficult to dispute the Motor City as its choice. With the Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers all advancing deep into their respective league's playoffs, Motown sports has never been better. Assuming that the Lions actually meet some of their high expectations for this year and make the playoffs, it would be hard to find another city's major sports franchises matching the success of these squads.

Of course many may scoff at hopes that the Lions do, in fact, have the capability of actually achieving a winning record, but we need to look no farther than the Detroit Tigers of last season. Previously the laughingstock of baseball, the Tigers exceeded all expectations last year and advanced to the World Series. It is most likely the Tigers success (along with the continued winning ways of the the Wings and Pistons) that locked up the top spot on TSN's vote. Now I'm not predicting a Lions Super Bowl run this year, but I don't think a 10 win season and a playoff berth is out of the question. I don't think the Lions' record of 2006 (3-13) truly reflected their talent last year and a 6-7 win jump in '07 is a real possibility.

I think another fun discussion involves nominating the city with the single greatest players to ever don uniforms for its respective major sports teams. For the Detroit squads here are my picks:

- Detroit Tigers - Ty Cobb
- Detroit Red Wings - Gordie Howe
- Detroit Lions - Barry Sanders
- Detroit Pistons - Isiah Thomas

While there are some cities that are certainly involved in the discussion (Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, for example), I don't think anyone can match the representatives of the Detroit Teams. Three of them (Cobb, Howe, and Sanders) are arguably the greatest to ever play their sport (at least the discussion involves them) and Isiah was certainly on of the top players during a great era for the NBA. So what do you think? I know there are fans of other cities out there. Nominate your city's best from each of their major sports franchises and let's see where the discussion leads...

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More Black Women Dating (and Marrying) White Men

Before a 1960 Supreme Court decision abolishing rules banning mixed-race marriages, there were only 26,000 married couples in the U.S. comprised of a black female and white male. Today there are over 117,000 couples that fit this description. As a recent USA Today article states, "Black women around the country also are reconsidering deep-seated reservations toward interracial relationships, reservations rooted in America's history of slavery and segregation." Read more about the dynamics behind this growing trend in the article found here.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Campus Crusade & Simple Movements

I have spent the past month in Colorado helping to train dozens of new Campus Crusade local leaders from across the country. These are godly, gifted and, in most cases, young new leaders that are trusting God to use them in reaching students here in the U.S. and abroad. One of the areas that I've been giving specific leadership to is the concept of launching and building spiritual movements on campuses.

In some respects I think that a number of us within Campus Crusade have lost a sense of why we exist and the unique role that we play within the body of Christ. We are but one organization and there are many other mission agencies, para-church ministries and denominations that also play a unique role in the expansion of God's kingdom. Dr. Bill Bright used to say that we (CCC) are but "a leaf, on a twig, on a branch, on a tree which is the body of Christ." As Campus Crusade I see our calling as reaching out to those places in society that the traditional church may not get to. We are about reaching those that don't know Christ -- pure and simple.

We define ourselves as a parachurch ministry and that is important to remember. We don't consider ourselves to be a local church, nor should we. For example, a given campus movement could have hundreds of students involved, but those students likely are in the same age bracket (18-23), come from similar economic backgrounds (they are in college), are probably of the same ethnicity and, though we are an interdominational organization, we do tend to attract students from a fairly mainline, Protestant background.

Considering this, a local CCC movement does not reflect the whole of the body of Christ, only a small part. As mentioned, I see our job as going into every nook and cranny of a campus and meeting people right where they're at so that they can hear about Jesus without having to jump over a bunch of religious and cultural barriers to do so. Within our ministry we talk about Winning people to Christ, Building them in their faith, and Sending them forth to do likewise. In the course of discipleship, we are not equipped to provide everything that a young person needs in their Christian development. A local church (with a bunch greater diversity of life experiences and availability) can help in a more complete way to meet people's needs. We help students to establish a relationship with God and grow in that relationship so that they can introduce others to Christ. We help to excelerate the mission of the local church by reaching those that the church isn't reaching, plugging them into those churches and infusing a heart for evangelism into its leadership.

Our movements need to be simple, transferable and easily replicated. When we attempt to be everything to everybody we fall into a subtle trap. Our staff are not pastors. We are pioneering missionaries. In order to take the gospel into these places where committed followers of Christ don't currently exist, we must be committed to taking the message of Christ in its simplest form so that it is easily understood and can be easily passed onto others. We have a history of being committed to the basics of the faith so that God can work in our lives and we can show others how to also grow in Him.

My friend, Jay Lorenzen, recently wrote a post on his blog entitled "Simple Movements." It addresses this need to not overcomplicate things so that the gospel can move quickly and effectively within people groups. You can read the post here. We are about "movements everywhere so that everyone knows someone that truly follows Jesus."

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Red Letter Christians

As we enter into another U.S. presidential election season, there is one thing that is becoming apparently clear. The Republican party is losing its stranglehold on one of its core constituencies -- evangelical Christians. A growing number of Christ-followers who are defined as evangelicals are turning their focus beyond the issues typically defined by the far-right wing of conservative Christians (e.g. gay marriage, abortion, etc). While acknowledging the importance of addressing these issues, there are a number of us that believe that the Christian faith affects more areas of life than just those that deal with sexuality.
As Democratic presidential candidates are becoming more vocal about their own faith, I hope that we can enter into a time of healthy dialogue whereas the issues that are most on God's heart, according to Scripture, can be discussed in a mature and helpful manner. Among this growing group of Christians that are dissatisfied with how the extreme Christian right represents our faith to the world are some leaders that noted author and speaker Tony Campolo has labeled "Red Letter Christians." Who are they?
"These people, named after the red ink some Bible publishers use to denote the words of Jesus, hold to traditional Christian beliefs and believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, which they view as authoritative and relevant for faith and practice. But unlike many evangelicals, the red-letter Christians have broadened their agenda to include issues that, in the past, had seemed like the province of liberals: environmental protection, gun control and opposition to war and capital punishment. They also affirm a Christianity that sees Jesus as transcending partisan politics.
"We are people who want to assure that Jesus is neither defined as a Republican nor a Democrat," Campolo said. "When asked about party affiliation, the red-letter Christian is prone to answer, ‘Please name the issue.’"
If you want to learn more about Red Letter Christians and the rise of Christians not satisfied with the current discussions that revolve around American religion and politics, check out this article

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Are Dads That Important?

This past Sunday was Father's Day and, as a dad, it was a fun day for me. The kids greeted me with a barrage of balloons and their own homemade cards. And this year Father's Day was extra special since Lori and I just found out that we're expecting our fourth child in January. I'm also thankful that unlike many I know, I have a good dad that I love and think fondly of. It's so disheartening that for so many men and women Father's Day is a difficult day rather than one of celebration.

Unfortunately, many in our society have not been raised with what I see as a necessity -- a loving, caring and protective dad. Because so many were raised without a dad in the house, it has become all too common to think of dads as a luxury or an add-on. Many single moms have done a courageous and selfless job of raising their children without a husband in the home. But moms are not dads and vice versa. Young boys need a father to teach them to be a man and young girls need a father to teach them how to be properly loved by a man. There is no substitute.

As a father, I know that my wife cannot play the role that I play anymore than I can be the same kind of mommy that she can. Though many men have failed in their responsibilities to the children they have fathered, I was still concerned by what Albert Mohler recently reported on his blog. It seems that Hallmark, in its card line targeted to African Americans, has made a card entitled "For Mother on Father's Day."

As Dr. Mohler says,

"There is nothing wrong with honoring mothers on any day, but our society is not strengthened by confusing mothers and fathers. To the contrary, in doing so we not only sow the seeds of our own cultural dissolution, we bring undeniable harm into the lives of millions of children. This is all done in the name of sensitivity, of course."

You can read Dr. Mohler's full comments on this here. And in many respects, this is an indictment again of those of us that are men and how women have been forced to fill our shoes when we haven't stepped up to the plate in order to fulfill our God-given roles. This reminds me of the awesome responsibility that it is to be a dad and that this privilege should not be taken lightly. I have so much respect and admiration for the men that I know that didn't have a positive father figure in their life, but are still committed to being godly husbands and fathers themselves. May your tribe increase!

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