Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Domestic Abuse is No Laughing Matter

The recent incident involving popular singers Rihanna and Chris Brown has brought attention to an issue largely ignored by the general public -- domestic violence. Although no one knows what exactly happened between Brown and Rihanna but themselves, it is evident that he physically assaulted her.

This matter of domestic abuse seems to quickly get forgotten within days days of high-profile cases. Another example would be the assault on evangelist Juanita Bynum by ex-husband and self-proclaimed "man of God" Thomas Weeks less than two years ago. Though often given a lot of attention by the mainstream media when celebrities are involved, domestic violence rarely garners much attention when it involves the average citizen.

According to the American Bar Association, at least 25% of women and close to 8% of men will be victims of a physical assault or rape by a spouse or dating aquaintance. Often this matter is used as a punchline for bad jokes or, even worse, victims are blamed. Lauren Williams (a writer for the Black Voices blog) had this to say about how this type of violence affects the black community, in particular:

"As much as Chris Brown's reputation has been ruined as a result of these allegations, Rihanna -- the one with bruised and bloodied face -- has been dragged through the mud as well. Consider this hypothetical scenario: Chris Brown exits a club after a night of drinking, encounters a cop and insults him. The cop tries to arrest him, but he resists. The policeman beats him to a bloody pulp. Let's imagine the reaction in the black community. Technically, he would have "started it", but I strongly doubt anyone would say he deserved what he got. Marches would be organized in his honor. Al Sharpton would hold a press conference! Barack Obama would be pressured into making a comment.
As a community, we will almost always take the side of the black man over the police. We stand up against police brutality. Why don't we stand up for our women? As insidious and rampant as police brutality and racial profiling is, violence against women is just as, if not more, rampant and insidious. It's a global epidemic as old as time.In the United States, the leading cause of death for black women ages 15-34 is murder by a former or current intimate partner. African American women experience domestic violence at a rate that's 35 percent higher than that of white women.
This is not a joke. If we were smarter, we would take this situation and turn it into a chance for us to grow as a community. If we cared more about violence against our women, we would use this an example of how domestic violence can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. Instead, we make jokes. We excuse alleged bad behavior and blame the one who is bloody and bruised. We say "if he did it, he must have had a good reason."
Unfortunately, the physical abuse of women has somehow found its way into popular culture. The term "wife beater" has become a popular term for a form-fitting white tank top. How this has become an accepted term for any respectable person is beyond me. It is this kind of casual attitude that contributes to the acceptance of assaults on women. Men that abuse women should not be excused or given a wink from others. They should be punished and then rehabilitated.

The reality is that if one out of four women suffer violence at the hands of a partner, then this is a serious issue that should not be tolerated or used for joke material. In fact, I just received an e-mail recently from a Christian woman that found herself in an abusive marriage and wasn't sure where to turn. If you or someone you love is the victim of domestic abuse, I'd encourage you to read this article and seek out the help of someone near you that can assist you in escaping this reality.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How Technology is Changing the World

We all know how much technology influences us, but few understand how dramatically technological innovations are affecting our world. The Barna Research Group recently conducted a study that gives some insight into how newer technology is perceived by age groups and how that technology is being utilized. One interesting perspective that the study found was this:

"All Americans are increasingly dependent on new digital technologies to acquire entertainment, products, content, information and stimulation. However, older adults tend to use technology for information and convenience. Younger adults rely on technology to facilitate their search for meaning and connection. These technologies have begun to rewire the ways in which people - especially the young - meet, express themselves, use content and stay connected."
Although most Americans have adapted to the use of newer technology like the Internet, cell phones and iPods, not everyone uses them in the same way. These differences are likely no more apparent than among those our ministry reaches out to -- college students. College students seek and share information, connect with current friends, make new acquaintances, find entertainment outlets and even search for answers to life's deepest questions through modern technology.

The world is rapidly changing and it is hard to keep up with all the new gadgets and updates that seem to come out on a monthly basis. For those of us in Christian ministry, it is imperative that we learn about current technology and the role that it plays in the lives of people of all generations. A resistance to adapt to modern technology will only lead to one thing -- irrelevance. The gospel message of Jesus never changes but how that message gets communicated to each generation needs to be adapted.

Here is a video that I saw today that points out some of the realities of today's world. (If the player doesn't show up, click here.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Cartoon, a Chimp and a Controversy

You have probably heard or read about the controversy surrounding a recent editorial cartoon published in the New York Post in which a dead chimpanzee was interpreted as having been compared to President Barack Obama. It is common for political cartoonists to try to tie seemingly unrelated current events into a humorous image. In this case the subjects were the passage of the recent stimulus bill and the death of a well-known chimp.

I like what Edward Gilbreath has to say about it:
"The debate over whether the cartoon was just boneheaded insensitivity or blatant racism is something that will continue as long as there’s such a thing as mono cultural editorial teams (wasn’t there anyone in that NY Post newsroom to raise a caution flag?) and monophonic civil rights activists (Al Sharpton leads the charge again). But as a journalist, one of the most interesting aspects of the controversy for me is the ethical questions it raises for the media and other communication leaders.

From my perspective, the question should be: Will we use these incidents to start constructive conversations about race, culture, and understanding (the kind I believe Attorney General Eric Holder was attempting to get at yesterday), or will we use them as justification for our hostility and as vehicles for our continued separation?"

I think the ability to voice one's disagreement with public officials is part of what makes the United States a great country. But we can do it in a civil manner without resorting to outdated and racist stereotypical images. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this type of thing has happened with President Obama nor is it the first time a president has gotten compared to a simian (see at left). But because of the racial baggage that comes with it, I would hope that political junkies could think of something more original when they wish to disagree with the president. President Obama should not get treated with kid gloves because he's African American. But neither should his race be used a backhanded slight from those that still think black people belong in the back of the bus.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Best & Worst U.S Presidents

In honor of President's Day, C-SPAN has released a survey that ranks the best and worst U.S. Presidents in history. I generally agree with their rankings although I think John F. Kennedy is a bit overrated and some time needs to pass in order to accurately judge George W. Bush's legacy.

According to C-SPAN, here are the top U.S. Presidents:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Harry S Truman
6. John F. Kennedy
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
9. Woodrow Wilson
10. Ronald Reagan.

And the worst (from bottom up) :

42. James Buchanan
41. Andrew Johnson
40. Franklin Pierce
39. William Henry Harrison
38. Warren G. Harding
37. Millard Fillmore
36. George W. Bush
35. John Tyler
34. Herbert Hoover
33. Rutherford B. Hayes

Remember, although Barack Obama has assumed the 44th presidency, only 42 men served as president before him. Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms and is, therefore, considered to have had two presidencies. You can view the complete rankings of all U.S. Presidents here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When Our Heroes Fail Us

I have been thinking about the recent developments with the news regarding both Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez. I came across this article by's Jeff MacGregor and thought to myself, "Yep, that pretty much sums it up!"

Let me go on record as saying that I think both Phelps and A-Rod were in the wrong. Phelps should not be taking illegal drugs and Rodriguez should not have taken steroids. But let's be honest here. Phelps is not the first college-age dude to smoke some weed at a frat party and A-Rod is not the first professional athlete to try to gain an advantage in order to succeed in his field.

What they did was wrong, but the public response has probably been so strong because we expect so much more of our athletic heroes. We don't really care about some utility infielder that juices up and most of us certainly don't care about swimmers that don't win gold medals. It is because we have elevated these guys as icons and expect them to be something they are not -- superhuman.

As MacGregor writes:
"And this has been our recent trouble with American "heroes," at least the ones arriving still warm off the humming assembly lines of popular culture. The problem lies not in their manufacture, but in our perception of the final product. Once we've been sold their heroic stories by the media and the for-profit institutions in charge of such things, we refuse to see our heroes for what they really are: complex, fallible human beings just like us who rise briefly out of the mire to do something extraordinary, then return to join us in the hog wallow of moral confusion and squalid appetite that is everyday life.
Heroes never were meant to be an accurate reflection of daily human enterprise. They were meant to be examples of the rare capacity to exceed ourselves. Go back to ancient mythology, and you'll see what I mean. The Greeks understood that becoming a hero didn't absolve anyone of being human. In fact, that was usually the point of the story. Cautionary. Many of those "heroes" were lucky to get out of those stories alive. Most traded a single act of glory for a lifetime of punishing regret or a grisly death.
Here in 21st century America, however, we prefer the Candyland version of heroic myth, in which no one is doomed to die or drown or wander forever in a wasteland of pain, but instead sets a record, scores a contract with William Morris, makes a million and marries a swimsuit model, and everything winds up hunky-dory at the end. Nobody has to sleep with his own mother and then claw his eyes out with a brooch."
I don't think it's unreasonable to ask those that make millions of dollars playing a game to attempt to be good role models. But they are not perfect and they will fail. So even though Phelps and Rodriguez's confessions smacked of public relations scripting, they did admit to what they had done and asked for forgiveness. At least they've acknowledged it and sought to make things right. I think that says something about them. If we can't forgive them then maybe that says something about us as well.

Life & Death

I am sitting in the Orlando airport preparing to board a plane for Detroit this afternoon. When I woke up this morning I wasn't planning on traveling today. But early this morning, my grandmother, Gramma Ollie, entered into eternity and I am traveling up to Michigan to be with my family.

She lived a long, good life, but her health had declined in recent years and she had not been doing well in recent days. So her death was not unexpected, but it still makes me sad. It's particularly hard when you live apart from your extended family and can't be there during times like this. I'm grateful that I will be able to be there in the days ahead.

The picture I've included here is from when I was a baby. It's my mom at the top, my Gramma and Grandpa in the middle and my brother on the left and me on the right. Sadly, only my mother and I are still living.

Because of my brother's passing within a year or two of when this picture was taken, I was introduced to death at a very young age. So like Jesus when his friend Lazarus passed away, I am mourning the death of my grandmother. But I do not mourn as one with no hope. I know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and that I will one day see all those that I love that have placed their faith in him. My brother had done this in his relatively short life and, gratefully, my grandmother indicated that she had done the same late in her life. Death is hard to deal with, but it is also a reminder to value those we love while they are still with us.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Who Are The Greatest Athletes of All-Time?

My hometown newspaper, The Port Huron Times Herald, is going to be doing a series on the top 50 athletes to ever come out of St. Clair County, Michigan - the county in which I grew up. Although there haven't been very many notable athletes to come out of that part of Michigan, there have been several people that have played at the professional level. I'm interested to see which people I competed against or was able to see play that will make the list.

But the thought of this type of ranking got me thinking - just who are the greatest athletes ever? I've done a little research and have come up with my top 10 athletes of all-time. I chose athletes that not only dominated in their primary sport, but also had demonstrated ability in at least one other sport at a high level. Here they are in descending order:

10. Vincent (Bo) Jackson - Although his baseball and football careers were cut short due to a hip injury, Bo Jackson exhibited his vast athletic abilities during his relatively short pro career. The first person to play in the All-Star games in two different major sports, Jackson was a punishing running back for the Raiders and possessed a devastating combination of power and speed for the Royals and White Sox.

9. Rafer Johnson - Johnson excelled in the decathlon during the late 1950's and took home the gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. His athleticism spread to the football field where he was offered a football scholarship to UCLA (which he eventually declined) and the basketball court, where he was a starter on the UCLA basketball team. Johnson was also a student leader with Campus Crusade for Christ at UCLA in the early days of the ministry there.

8. Dave Winfield - Most well-known for his versatility on the baseball field, Winfield demonstrated a graceful mix of power and speed during his Hall of Fame career for such teams as the Padres, Yankees and Twins. But Winfield also started for the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball team in college and, because of his obvious athletic talents, was drafted by the Vikings in the NFL draft -- even though he never played football in college. No other athlete has ever been drafted in all three major professional sports.

7. Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Arguably the greatest female track and field athlete in U.S. history, Joyner-Kersee's top event was the heptathlon where she won an Olympic silver in 1984 and golds in 1988 and 1992. She also excelled at the long jump and won a total of six Olympic medals - the most ever by a female U.S. track and field athlete. In addition to her dominance in track and field, she also was a member of the basketball team at UCLA.

6. Jackie Robinson - Everyone knows Robinson as the trailblazer who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947, but few know that his athletic pursuits extended to several other sports. In fact, some felt baseball, in which he enjoyed a Hall of Fame career, was his weakest sport. Robinson also earned varsity letters in college in basketball, football and track and field.

5. Michael Jordan - Jordan redefined basketball success with the Chicago Bulls during the 1980's and '90's. Possessing the skill and competitiveness needed to succeed in what is arguably the most athletic sport in existence, Jordan dominated the NBA by winning ten scoring titles and six NBA titles (including six NBA Finals MVP's.) During his first retirement from basketball, he played professional baseball for a short time.

4. Babe Didrikson Zaharias - Considered by many to be the greatest female athlete ever, Zaharias outshone her competitors on the golf course, basketball court, baseball diamond and on the track and field. She won three medals (two gold, one silver) at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic games and was an All-American basketball player. She achieved her greatest success on the golf course where she won a total of 82 tournaments, including 17 straight wins at one point.

3. Wilt Chamberlain - It could be argued that Wilt "The Stilt" is the most dominating presence to have ever played professional basketball. He averaged 50 points/game over the course of a full NBA season and famously scored 100 points in a single game. He averaged nearly 23 rebounds a game over his career. As a college student at Kansas, Chamberlain shone in track & field and, after his basketball career was over, he played professional volleyball.

2. Jim Brown - Remembered for his Hall of Fame career as a running back for the Cleveland Browns, Brown was a punishing runner who led the NFL in rushing all but one of his nine seasons in the league. While at Syracuse, Brown was an All-American in lacrosse and earned letters in basketball and track & field. If that wasn't enough, he was given the opportunity to play for the New York Yankees and became a movie star after retiring from the NFL.

1. Jim Thorpe - In an era when Native Americans were all but dismissed by mainstream society, Jim Thorpe became a legend due to his athletic dominance. His abilities almost seem unbelievable in this day and age. He was an Olympic gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon. He had a Hall of Fame career as a football player and helped to found the NFL. He played professional baseball and also played on a barnstorming basketball team. Considering the challenges that he must have encountered, his accomplishments are all the more impressive.

So that's my list. Who would you include?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Discipline of Dejection

I read this today from Oswald Chambers on dejection:
But we trusted... and beside all this, to-day is the third day... ~Luke 24:21
"Every fact that the disciples stated was right; but the inferences they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that savours of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If depression and oppression visit me, I am to blame; God is not, nor is anyone else. Dejection springs from one of two sources - I have either satisfied a lust or I have not. Lust means - I must have it at once.
Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer. What have I been trusting God would do? And to-day - the immediate present - is the third day, and He has not done it; therefore I imagine I am justified in being dejected and in blaming God. Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track.
The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer. It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected. Dejection is a sign of sickness, and the same thing is true spiritually. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it.
We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power (the fact that we are dejected proves that we do), and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized."

Friday, February 06, 2009

25 of My Core Beliefs

This is a take on the “25 Random Things About Me” and is inspired by The Internet Monk. It is entitled “25 of My Core Beliefs.” Not so much habits, preferences or likes/dislikes, this list contains those things that define who you are at your core.

For Facebook Users
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 of your core beliefs. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “Notes” under tabs on your profile page; paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 core beliefs, tag 25 people - in the right hand corner of the app. - then click publish.)

I believe that:

1. Christians are the greatest apologetic for and the strongest argument against Christianity.

2. If I fail as a husband and father then I have essentially failed at life.

3. The religious right and the liberal left strike me with an equal amount of fear.

4. Abortion and the killing of innocent civilians in war are ultimately two sides of the same coin.

5. The Bible is the Word of God and contains the answers to anything we face in life.

6. All problems in the world lead back to the fact that the human heart is sinful.

7. America’s foundation was built on a combination of religious liberty, a desire for freedom and greed.

8. If individual Christians took on a greater personal responsibility to care for children that are not their own that the number of those in the criminal justice system would decrease.

9. Killing animals for sport -- and not food -- is cruel.

10. Sex is holy and should be reserved for a man and woman within the union of marriage.

11. Giving of our financial resources to others blesses both us and them.

12. The justice system in the United States is racially and socio-economically biased.

13. Following the American dream can often lead to a nightmare.

14. Competitive athletics can help teach children valuable life lessons.

15. Developing a love of reading can open new doors of opportunity.

16. God made women distinct from men, and vice versa, for a reason.

17. Prioritizing a strong relationship with God and family is more important than seeking riches or fame.

18. Some Christians spend way too much time answering questions that no one outside their inner circle is asking.

19. The Civil War was God’s judgment for slavery and Native Americans have gotten a raw deal ever since Europeans first graced their land.

20. Most military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, pastors and missionaries don’t get near the appreciation they deserve.

21. God can use sickness, suffering and the death of loved ones to draw us closer to Himself.

22. Nepotism is fundamentally no different than affirmative action.

23. A child’s relationship with their father has the power to affect them more than their friends, school, media or church.

24. God gave us music, the arts and nature so we could enjoy the reflection of His beauty.

25. Heaven and hell are both literal places and what we decide to do with Jesus will determine where we will spend eternity.

Barack Obama on Protecting Life

It has now been a couple of weeks since President Obama assumed the responsibilities of the most powerful position in the land. He has inherited an economy in a downward spiral, a war in a distant land and, in may respects, a divided nation. His task is enormous and he can use our prayers.

President Obama recently set up his White House office on faith-based initiatives. The office will work with nonprofits organizations in order to help them in making a difference in their local communities and be able to utilize government dollars in doing so.

While appearing at the National Prayer Breakfast this week, President Obama commented on this initiative. The Associated Press reports on his comments:
"Obama told the annual National Prayer Breakfast that the program would not show favoritism to any religious group and would adhere to a strict separation of church and state. Addressing the gathering of lawmakers, dignitaries and world leaders, Obama spoke of how faith has often been a divisive tool, responsible for war and prejudice. But, he said, "there is no religion whose central tenet is hate." "There is no god who condones taking the life of an innocent human being," he said, and all religions teach people to love and care for one another. That is the common ground underlying the faith-based office, he said."
Sadly, President Obama fails to extend his belief that "there is no god who condones taking the life an innocent human being" to the unborn. Although there has been much excitement over the election of the first African American president (and rightly so), there has not been equal attention given to how abortion affects the black community in disproportionate rates. According to The Dunamis Word blog, the following numbers are true within the African American community since the enacting of Roe v. Wade in 1973:
  • 203,695 people have died of AIDS
  • 1,638,350 people have died of CANCER
  • 2,266,789 people have died of HEART DISEASE
  • 13,000,000 babies have been aborted. This amounts to approximately 1,452 deaths per day.
As I've mentioned before, I believe that abortion is my generation's slavery. It is the depriving of life from innocent human beings. And when I read about stories like this, I am deeply grieved and disturbed. But in a society that continues to legally allow the taking of the life of a baby in a mother's womb, should we be surprised when that life is not valued shortly after taking its first breath? I do believe that the solution to abortion involves programs to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to care for those that choose to give their baby up for adoption. But our government cannot continue to allow for the murder of our most important resource -- our children.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Internet Monk & Defining our Beliefs

I read a wide range of blogs on a daily basis that cover topics of interest to me. Some of these cover areas like culture, faith and politics with a broad spectrum of beliefs and opinions. I don't agree with everything I read. In fact, some of the blogs I read I do so specifically because it will challenge my thinking. I think introspection is healthy and that simply ingesting everything we're fed by others is unwise.

As a Christian, I attempt to have the Bible as the filter for the things I read. As I've grown in my faith, I've studied the Bible extensively and learned Church history. I've taken a number of seminary classes, been a member of churches from various denominations and interacted with Christians from other cultures. I've found that quite a bit of what we as American Christians hold as "God's truth" may simply be tradition passed down through the ages or interpretation based on certain cultural biases.

On of the bloggers whose writings I enjoy reading is Michael Spencer, aka "The Internet Monk." Michael teaches at a rural Christian school in Kentucky where a number of people from other countries attend. He interacts with non-Christians on a regular basis and seems to enjoy questioning the things that many of us in American evangelical Christianity take as gospel truth. He is one of the most widely read and respected Christian bloggers on the web. I don't agree with all he writes, but much of it I find myself nodding my head in agreement.

He recently wrote a post entitled, "Twenty-Five Sort of Random Things I Do and Don’t Believe." In it he outlines some of the things that he questions or accepts found within traditional evangelical circles. Most of it I heartily agree with; some of it I profoundly disagree. But one of the things I appreciate about The Internet Monk is his desire to get to the heart of Christian teaching and faith without getting caught up in the relatively minor issues that so often define evangelicals. I encourage to check out the aforementioned post and see what you think.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Subtle Pull of Pornography

In a troubled and struggling American economy, there is one industry that seems to be in no danger of loss of revenue. And that would be the business of pornography. According to Family Safe Media, the porn industry generated over 13 billion in profits for 2006. If that doesn't shock you, that is more than the COMBINED revenue of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink for that year!

Some other startling statistics:

- There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, which is 12% of total websites.

- Almost 43% of Internet users view porn on a regular basis.

- 20% of men admit to accessing pornography at work.

- 90% of 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online, most while doing their homework.

- Every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on and 28,258 Internet users are viewing porn.

- Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.

If these statistics are unsettling for you, they should be. So how did such a generally frowned upon practice become so commonplace within American culture? The website, Breaking Free, recently wrote about the history of porn within human civilization. From drawings on cave walls to the invention of the Gutenberg Press to the photographic camera to movies, Playboy and VCR's to the present Internet age, makers of pornography have remained on the cutting edge of technology in order to offer their product to an all-too-willing public.

Sadly, Christians often find themselves caught in the web of pornography as well. According to that same Family Safe Media study mentioned earlier, 53% of men involved with Promise Keepers viewed porn within the last week. And porn is not just affecting men. In a poll conducted by, 20% of Christian women are addicted to pornography.

Because of the widespread use of the Internet and the ease of accessing pornography, even unintentionally, a growing number of people are developing addictive patterns to porn that are affecting their personal lives, families and work. Were it not for addressing my own struggles in this area shortly after entering adulthood, I shudder to think of where it could have led.

I know too many Christian men that are truly seeking to live a godly life affected by this issue to think that any of us are immune from this struggle. Even those of us that serve in vocational Christian ministry are affected. In fact, a couple of courageous Christian artists, Clay Crosse and Kirk Franklin, have been vocal about their own struggles with porn and the healing that God has brought in their life with this issue.

So why does porn get so many into its grip? Walter Kendrick, author of The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture, has this to say:
"Pornography is always unsatisfied. It’s always a substitute for the contact between two bodies, so there’s a drive behind it that doesn’t exist in other genres. Pornographers have been the most inventive and resourceful users of whatever medium comes along because they and their audience have always wanted innovations. Pornographers are excluded from the mainstream channels, so they look around for something new, and the audience has a desire to try any innovation that gives them greater realism or immediacy."
A casual look at a magazine can lead to perusal on the Internet which can lead to videos and then onto strip clubs and even prostitutes. It is a never ending cycle once the claws of porn have gripped your mind and heart. Like any other addiction, those in bondage to pornography need help from others to find deliverance and healing. If you're someone that is currently struggling with an addiction to porn, I encourage you to read this article by Gene McConnell or visit Pure Online. Then talk to someone you trust that can aid you getting the help you need. If there is not someone in your life that you feel like you can talk to, feel free to shoot me a message.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

When the Majority Becomes the Minority

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the changing demographics within America and the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity that is taking place as a result. For those of us that are part of the majority culture, we need to realize that the frequency of situations where we are the only white person in the room will increase.

Many might not experience this much now and, for some, it may take decades. But it is happening. I was recently sent a report from a white, American missionary that spent some time at a conference for Asian American students. Here was what he experienced:

"One of the things I became keenly aware of this past weekend is that I was one of a few white people in the midst of the Asian-American crowd. I could “feel” that something was different. While I have experienced the same sort of scenario when I have gone to Asian countries, this was totally different. In a foreign country you expect it. At home you do not expect to be a minority (at least I don’t) so it really played with my mind bit.

Even though I was surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ, I still felt like an outsider, like I don’t fit. I found myself often standing in meetings while people were mingling, or in the lobby and no one initiated with me, even though my clearly displayed name tag signified that I was part of the conference.

Now, as an adult I knew what was going on. I was indeed NOT part of the crowd, not an “insider.” While I did experience feeling a bit lonely, and uncared for, I processed it like an adult and realized it was nothing personal. They were not trying to ignore or marginalize me, . . . I really was the outsider wanting to be a part. So it often took initiating on my part to actually connect with people.

This was very eye opening as it helped me experience what others who are minorities feel when the situation is reversed and they are the outsider, the minority in the group. I understood how people could feel like others just don’t care. I knew they did care at the conference, but a less mature person…might not process things the same way and walk away feeling hurt.

I believe my experience will help me be more aware of the new person, the visitor, or the minority student who steps in to our midst and to go out of my way to connect with them and help them to feel welcomed and wanted.

It was a great learning experience for me!"

One of the best things that those of us in the majority culture can experience is to spend some time immersed in another culture -- even right within our home country. Since I spend much of my time within African American environments (and have for close to a dozen years), I am fairly used to it and feel pretty comfortable in that setting. But I've also been in places where I'm the only person in a crowd of Hispanics or Asians. Although I enjoy the people, I am not as "at home" in those settings. My Spanish is limited and I feel like an outsider when others are communicating in a way that I can only gather bits and pieces of what they are saying. I've been in Asian restaurants where I'm not sure about the appropriate way to eat the food and I become particularly self-conscious about whether I'm doing things the right way.

Even though most of these situations can be unsettling, they are usually temporary and I can get back to my comfort zone within an hour or two. But try being in that situation for several days, months or years. Those experiences change you at your core. You can longer dismiss those from "minority" culture as being overly sensitive or easily offended. Once you know what it's like to be the only person that looks like you in the room, your appreciation for the experience of others grows tremendously.

Monday, February 02, 2009

J. Oswald Sanders on Leadership

I've recently been re-reading J. Oswald Sanders classic book, Spiritual Leadership. Although it is over forty years old, Spiritual Leadership still offers valuable insight on leadership from a Christian perspective. Sanders strikes a fitting balance between the qualities of leadership that can be learned and those that are God-given. He offers the following questions to ask ourselves in order to assess the natural qualities of leadership we possess:
1. Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead others, you must master your appetites.

2. Do you keep self-control when things go wrong? The leader who loses control under adversity forfeits respect and influence. A leader must be calm in crisis and resilient in disappointment.

3. Do you think independently? A leaders must use the best ideas of others to make decisions. A leader cannot wait for others to make up his or her mind.

4. Can you handle criticism? Can you profit from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism?

5. Can you turn disappointment into creative new opportunity?

6. Do you readily gain the cooperation of others and win their respect and confidence?

7. Can you exert discipline without making a power play? True leadership is an internal quality of the spirit and needs no show of external force.

8. Are you a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility.

9. Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?

10. Can you induce people to do happily some legitimate thing that they would not normally with to do?

11. Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition.

12. Can you make and keep friends? Your circle of loyal friends is an index of your leadership potential.

13. Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going? Can you hold steady in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence?

14. Are you at ease int he presence of strangers? Do you get nervous in the presence of your superior?

15. Are the people who report to you generally at ease? A leader should be sympathetic and friendly.

16. Are you interested in people? All types? All races? No prejudice?

17. Are you tactful? Can you anticipate how your words will affect a person?

18. Is your will strong and steady? Leaders cannot vacillate or cannot drift with the wind.

19. Can you forgive? Or do you nurse resentments and harbor ill-feelings toward those who have injured you?

20. Are you reasonably optimistic? Pessimism and leadership do not mix.

21. Do you feel a master passion such as that of Paul, who said, "This one thing I do!" Such a singleness of motive will focus your energies and powers on the desired objective. Leaders need a strong focus.

22. Do you welcome responsibility?
These are some great reminders of what we can look at within ourselves to see how we may be doing as leaders -- at home, at work, at church or wherever we find ourselves. When I look at this list I'm reminded of some of my "gaps" and where I need to continue to be intentional about developing myself. The age-old question is, "Are leaders born or made?" I think the answer is a little of both. Some people just possess qualities to be an A-level leader - qualities that are difficult to learn.

In a similar way, when it comes to basketball, not everybody can be Michael Jordan. But even Michael Jordan had to develop his God-given ability to become the player he became. Without practice and hard work, he never would have made the NBA, much less perform on the level he did. So even if we don't possess the natural gifts of a Jordan, we might be able to become a decent ball player if we practice and work on our game. Leadership is no different. Not everyone is an Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr. But we can develop those qualities we do have into greater assets.