Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

It can be quite easy for us to think we can tell a lot about a person based on how they look. But Paul Potts, a man who appeared on the Britain's Got Talent television show, proves that theory wrong.

Watch this video clip to see how he surprises American Idol judge Simon Cowell as well as the close to 22 million people that have watched this video clip on YouTube.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Charles Barkley and "Fake Christians"

NBA Hall of Famer and current TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley has never been one that is at a loss for words and Sir Charles expressed some strong opinions recently about conservatives while being interviewed on CNN by Wolf Blitzer.

While addressing the question of who he planned on voting for in the upcoming presidential election, Barkley went on a diatribe against conservatives. He shared that hearing the term conservative "makes [him] sick to his stomach" and went on to label them as "fake Christians."

Now, if you are a friend of mine or read this blog with any kind of consistency, you probably are aware that I do not consider myself to be a conservative and I am more liberal in my political viewpoints than most white, evangelical Christians. But what bothered me most about Barkley's comments (see video below) was that he seemed to paint conservatives, Republicans and Christians all with the same brush. He confuses political affiliation with personal faith. It is true that all three of these labels may apply to some, but it doesn't to all of us.

Please click here if the video player does not show up.

He goes on to make the assertion that right wingers are the most judgmental and hypocritical of all people. And, at times, this can be the case. But Barkley fails to realize that those on the far left can also be among the most judgmental (just as those of us in the middle have unfairly judged others as well.) In fact, Barkley seems to be dispensing a bit of judgment on others that don't agree with him on two specific issues -- abortion and gay marriage.

I'm not going to address the gay marriage issue here, but I do find it peculiar that identifying myself as pro-life makes me judgmental in Barkley's eyes. I firmly believe that life begins at conception and that the intentional termination of that life life constitutes murder. So if saying that murder is wrong makes me judgmental, then so be it.

Those that advocate tolerance, like Barkley, need to realize that they must include themselves when they proclaim that we need to be accepting of others' viewpoints. Barkley does not like Christians telling others how to live, but he seems to be fine with him doing the same. I wonder if he feels that the abolitionists of the 19th century were "too judgmental" towards slave owners? Shouldn't they have minded their own business and stayed out of the lives of others? Of course not! Because there are some issues (like slavery or abortion) that may get politicized, but are inherently moral issues.

With all that said, however, his comments shed some light on a disturbing reality. Why is it that we Christians are often described as judgmental and hypocritical? Could it be because what the watching world often receives from us is judgment and hypocrisy? Although I think Barkley's criticism is misguided and unfair, I do think that non-Christians like him are absolutely longing to see true followers of Jesus be consistent with what we say we believe. And I think that we can do that and still think abortion is wrong and that marriage is reserved for a man and a woman for a lifetime. We can do that by being people of love and compassion, as well as being people of truth and justice.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Help Send our President to Africa

President and Mrs. Bush will be spending the next week on the continent of Africa as he seeks to continue to keep a focus on relief for the HIV/AIDS crisis on the continent. Richard Wolf is quoted in USA Today as saying,
"The United States has spent $18.8 billion from 2004 to 2008 to help reverse the scourge of HIV infection and AIDS in more than 100 countries. Most of the money has gone to 15 hard-hit nations, including 12 in Africa. With little fanfare, nearly 1.5 million people have received lifesaving treatment. Today, the president and first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to leave on a six-day trip to Africa intended to highlight the program as it comes up for renewal in Congress. The trip will focus attention on what some experts say is Bush's greatest achievement as president."
In order to keep Africa a priority, the ONE Campaign has started a petition that will sent to the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates urging them to commit to visiting Africa during their first term. I just signed the petition and encourage you to sign it as well here. Thanks!

Technorati Tags:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Australia's Prime Minister Apologizes to Aborigines

In a momentous statement, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a public apology to the indigenous people of Australia for how they have been treated throughout history. In my opinion, this is the type of thing that the United States would be wise to do as well. Though a public apology for the near genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans would not erase these atrocities, it would be a step in the right direction.

You can read a USA Today report on this historic apology here.

Lori and I watched a movie recently that dealt with "The Stolen Generations." Check out Rabbit Proof Fence if you're interested.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Changing Corporate Culture

If you have ever been a part of a company, organization, team, group, church, etc., you know that there are certain cultural values that permeate these places. Though often unstated, it is clear what is important to those in the organization by the way they talk, how they dress and what they spend their time doing.

I work in a very large organization. Campus Crusade for Christ is the largest missions agency in the world with over 27,000 full-time missionaries in close to 200 countries. We are not small by any means. And just like any organization, we have a "Crusade culture." There is insider language that we use, jokes that we tell, people we admire and things that we do.

"Corporate culture" is a natural part of any people group or organization. It is not bad in and of itself. Campus Crusade has a huge emphasis on a commitment to helping to fulfill the Great Commission. This is good. But we also have a certain approach to go about this that can be detrimental when we resist change or when we exclude outsiders unnecessarily.

Thanks to my friend, Keith, I read this article, The Cultural Web: Aligning your organization's culture with strategy. In order to continue to move forward, we must recognize our own culture and evaluate what is positive and what must change. The Elements of the "Cultural Web" stated in the article are as follows:

Stories – The past events and people talked about inside and outside the company. Who and what the company chooses to immortalize says a great deal about what it values, and perceives as great behavior.
- What stories do people currently tell about your organization?
- What reputation is communicated amongst your customers and other stakeholders?
- What do these stories say about what your organization believes in?
- What do employees talk about when they think of the history of the company?
- What stories do they tell new people who join the company?
- What heroes, villains and mavericks appear in these stories?

Rituals and Routines – The daily behavior and actions of people that signal acceptable behavior. This determines what is expected to happen in given situations, and what is valued by management.
- What do customers expect when they walk in?
- What do employees expect?
- What would be immediately obvious if changed?
- What behavior do these routines encourage?
- When a new problem is encountered, what rules do people apply when they solve it?
- What core beliefs do these rituals reflect?

Symbols – The visual representations of the company including logos, how plush the offices are, and the formal or informal dress codes.
- Is company-specific jargon or language used? How well known and usable by all is this?
- Are there any status symbols used?
- What image is associated with your organization, looking at this from the separate
viewpoints of clients and staff?

Organizational Structure –
This includes both the structure defined by the organization chart, and the unwritten lines of power and influence that indicate whose contributions are most valued.
- Is the structure flat or hierarchical? Formal or informal? Organic or mechanistic?
- Where are the formal lines of authority?
- Are there informal lines?

Control Systems –
The ways that the organization is controlled. These include financial systems, quality systems, and rewards (including the way they are measured and distributed within the organization.)
- What process or procedure has the strongest controls? Weakest controls?
- Is the company generally loosely or tightly controlled?
- Do employees get rewarded for good work or penalized for poor work?
- What reports are issued to keep control of operations, finance, etc...?

Power Structures –
The pockets of real power in the company. This may involve one or two key senior executives, a whole group of executives, or even a department. The key is that these people have the greatest amount of influence on decisions, operations, and strategic direction.
- Who has the real power in the organization?
- What do these people believe and champion within the organization?
- Who makes or influences decisions?
- How is this power used or abused?

No matter what group we may apply these questions to, I think it is helpful to continue to examine what is true of us in order to continue to improve our effectiveness.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

African American Lives 2

From PBS.org...

Building on the widespread acclaim of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES (2006) and OPRAH'S ROOTS (2007), AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 will again journey deep into the African-American experience to reveal the triumphs and tragedies within the family histories of an all-new group of remarkable participants. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns as series host, guiding genealogical investigations down through the 20th century, Reconstruction, slavery and early U.S. history, and presenting cutting-edge genetic analysis that locates participants' ancestors in Africa, Europe and America. AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 airs Wednesdays, February 6-13, 2008, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS.

"These discoveries about our ancestors are fascinating stories that everyone, regardless of race, can identify with and draw inspiration from," said Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. "They're stories that together offer a new understanding of not only the African-American experience, but also of race in America."

Joining Professor Gates in the new broadcast are poet Maya Angelou, author Bliss Broyard, actor Don Cheadle, actor Morgan Freeman, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, radio personality Tom Joyner, comedian Chris Rock, rock 'n' roll legend Tina Turner and college administrator Kathleen Henderson, who was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to have her family history researched and DNA tested alongside the series' well-known guests.

"Through even greater depth of research and more powerful storytelling, all of the stories in AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 share a common thread -- they show the value of knowing who you are and where you come from," added Gates. "And now, the inclusion of Kathleen's story shows that viewers everywhere can take this same journey."
  • Episode One, "The Road Home" (2/6, 9:00 p.m.), focuses on participants' ancestors in the early 20th century. Stories include the tragic account of Tom Joyner's great-uncles who, in 1915, were convicted by an all-white jury and executed in the electric chair for a crime that new evidence suggests they did not commit, and Bliss Broyard, who lived her life unaware that her father, renowned New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, was a light-skinned black man who chose to "pass" as white. She learned of her African-American roots upon her father's death in 1990.
  • Episode Two, "A Way Out of No Way" (2/6, 10:00 p.m.), continues tracing the guests' lineages back through the late 1800s to the Civil War, featuring such stories as Chris Rock's maternal great-great-grandfather, Julius Caesar Tingman, a black Civil War veteran who was twice elected to the South Carolina State Legislature; and Don Cheadle's ancestors, who had been enslaved by Chickasaw Indians and brought to Oklahoma on the tail end of the "Trail of Tears," the forced relocation of Native Americans during the 1830s.
  • Episode Three, "We Come From People" (2/13, 9:00 p.m.), reveals stories of participants' ancestors during the early years of the United States, such as a riveting account of life in slavery by Morgan Freeman's great-grandmother, discovered within the records of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, and Peter Gomes' ancestors, who were freed and supported by Quaker families in Virginia in the late 1700s.
  • DNA analysis leads to fascinating discoveries about participants' lineages in Episode Four, "The Past Is Another Country" (2/13, 10:00 p.m.). A groundbreaking study links Professor Gates to a powerful ancient Irish warlord, while evidence suggests Peter Gomes' direct paternal line traces back to a Portuguese Jew who fled the country in the early 1500s to escape the Inquisition.
A book by Professor Gates, In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past, will be published by Crown, a division of Random House, in spring 2008. Incorporating the family histories of all the participants from AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, OPRAH'S ROOTS and AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2, the book presents further discoveries not included in the broadcasts while weaving the narratives into an unprecedented tapestry of the African-American experience. In cooperation with seven public television stations across the country, a far-reaching educational outreach effort will guide K-through-12 teachers in the use of the broadcast program, Web site and educational print materials in standards-based classroom instruction.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Who is the Greatest Running Back Ever?

On the heels of my post on the greatest quarterback of all-time, I've decided to argue for the greatest running back ever. I have my biases as a Detroit Lions fans (hint: Barry), but I figured I'd use a similar formula to pick the top ten running backs as I did to select the top quarterbacks.

I selected 25 of the greatest running backs based on the NFL's all-decade teams, the career rushing list and MVP listings. From this group, I compared them on the following categories: Career Rushing Yards, Receiving Yards, Rushing Touchdowns, Receiving Touchdowns, Carries, Yards/Carry, Rushing Yards/Game, Rushing Titles, NFL Championships, Pro Bowls, All-Pro Selections and MVP awards.

I believe these criteria reward those that had long careers and were able to put up big numbers, those that had shorter careers but dominated while they did play and those that excelled at both running and catching the ball. Without any further adieu, here is the top ten in descending order:

10. Franco Harris - Harris was one of the leaders of the dominant Steelers teams of the 70's. The only member of this list to have won four Super Bowls, Harris rushed for over 12,000 yards and was selected to nine Pro Bowls.

9. Eric Dickerson - In his first four years with the Los Angeles Rams, Dickerson rushed for nearly 7,000 yards and averaged close to 14 touchdowns a year. He set the single rushing record in 1984 with 2,105 and was the fastest player ever to reach 10,000 rushing yards.

8. LaDainian Tomlinson - The youngest player on this list, this 2001 draft pick is fast becoming the best all-around back the game has ever seen. A threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball, Tomlinson has already been named All-Pro six times and holds the single season touchdown mark with 31.

7. O.J. Simpson - Back before he became an infamous criminal, the Juice ran all over NFL defenses as a smooth running back with the Buffalo Bills. Simpson was the first to run for over 2,000 yards in a season (going for 2,0003 in 1973) and averaged an impressive 4.7 yards a carry for his career.

6. Marshall Faulk - A stellar dual-threat runner/receiver for the Colts and Rams, Faulk could do everything. He scored 136 touchdowns (100 rushing; 36 receiving) and was the best pass catching back among this elite group by collecting close to 7,000 yards in the air, in addition to his 12,000 yards on the ground.

5. Marcus Allen - Probably best remembered for his spectacular run against Washington in Super Bowl XVIII, Allen ran for an impressive 123 rushing touchdowns for the Raiders and Chiefs. In addition, he was selected All-Pro five times and, most importantly, was a killer running-mate with Bo Jackson on Techmo Bowl.

4. Emmitt Smith - The NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and carries, Emmitt is arguably the most durable back on this list. His illustrious career with the Cowboys and Cardinals earned him three Super Bowl rings, eight Pro Bowl invitations and four rushing titles.

3. Barry Sanders - Sanders was the most exciting and elusive back the NFL has ever seen. Over the course of his stellar ten-year career, Barry never failed to rush for less than 1,100 yards. He was selected to the All-Pro team each of his ten seasons and averaged five yards a carry for his career. Sanders won four rushing titles and his 15,269 rushing yards is the third best all-time.

2. Walter Payton - The league's top rusher when he retired, "Sweetness" captivated NFL fans everywhere with his stutter-step and punishing running style. He ran for 110 rushing touchdowns, was named All-Pro nine times, had 21,803 all-purpose yards and led the Bears to the 1985 NFL championship.

1. Jim Brown - Very few fans of my generation had the privilege of watching Jim Brown play, but the numbers say that this dude was awesome. 15,549 all-purpose yards. 5.2 yards a carry. 104.3 yards rushing a game. 126 touchdowns. All by the age of 29! Not to mention the fact that he won the rushing title 8 of his 9 years in the league, he also was named All-Pro every year he played. A league MVP three times, Brown also won an NFL championship with the Browns in 1964.

So those are my top ten running backs of all-time. Players also considered for this list were (in alphabetical order): Shaun Alexander, Jerome Bettis, Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka, Terrell Davis, Tony Dorsett, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis, Curtis Martin, John Riggins, Gale Sayers, Thurman Thomas and Ricky Watters.