Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Fun 2010

Me with my soldier, iPhone, Buzz Lightyear and football player
Carved by Lori: Princess Tiana & Curious George
Carved by me: Michigan's winged helmet & Stormtrooper

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seth Godin on Whining

Photo Credit: emrank
Seth Godin's take on whining:
"Two problems with whining.  The first is that it doesn't work. You can whine about the government or your friends or your job or your family, but nothing will happen except that you'll waste time.

Worse... far worse... is that whining is a reverse placebo. When you get good at whining, you start noticing evidence that makes your whining more true. So you amplify that and immerse yourself in it, thus creating more evidence, more stuff worth complaining about.

If you spent the same time prattling on about how optimistic you are, you'd have to work hard to make that true..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Church is Changing for Some African Americans

Photo Credit: Whiskeygonebad
"African-Americans go to religious services and pray daily more often than the general American population, studies show. And while those rates seem to be holding steady, the places of worship and the size of the groups are changing, says one expert.

Many people continue to attend mega churches, but the small communal gathering is rebounding in popularity, Teresa L. Fry Brown said.

“There is an increase now in house churches,” said Fry Brown, the director of black church studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “They kind of faded for about 20 years. But now more people are having small gatherings. And they may not even call it church - like Bible studies in homes.”

There are a couple of reasons for the change, she said. Some churchgoers find the bigger houses of worship too restrictive or simply don’t trust the leadership of the church.

She said people are meeting more often in club houses, homes and restaurants. And the gatherings aren’t always sponsored through a church.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center reported that 53 percent of African-Americans attended church regularly, compared with 39 percent of all Americans."
To read the rest of the article click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Role That Campus Crusade Played in the Chilean Miners' Rescue

Photo Credit: thomaswanhoff
For some reason, I woke up around 2 a.m. the other night and had a hard time getting back to sleep. I ended up turning on the television and found that the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners was in full progress.

The miners, who had been stuck nearly a half-mile underground for over two months, were all brought safely to the surface and reunited with their loved ones.  It was truly an inspiring thing to see.

Afterward, I learned that the ministry that I work with, Campus Crusade for Christ, played a small role in the lives of the miners while they were underground and during the rescue. tells the story of how staff members with the Jesus Film Project were able to get the miners some spiritual resources while trapped and t-shirts that they all wore during the rescue. 

"Seventeen days into the mine accident, Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI) country director for Chile, Christian Maureira, started contacting public officials to see if they could send the miners a copy of the film. Fiess said Maureira was able to reach a daughter and a brother of miner Jose Henriquez.

Through that family contact, the group was able to send an MP3 audio version of the Jesus film and an MP3 audio version of the New Testament in Spanish to Henriquez down in the mine.

The Jesus film explains that the New Testament tells how Jesus is laid in a tomb-like cave after his crucifixion. Three days later, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead. In the Jesus film, women come to the tomb and find the stone that blocked the entrance has been rolled away, the cave empty.

It is unclear if the miners saw the resurrection story as a parallel for their hoped-for rescue, but Jose Henriquez passed along a letter to CCCI's Maureira from inside the mine. Fiess shared the English translation with CNN:
Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me.
We have prayer services at 12 noon and 6 pm.
"At the end of the letter," Fiess said, "(Henriquez) said goodbye with Psalm 95:4, which says, 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.'"

A few days later, Henriquez asked Maureira to get them special T-shirts.

"The T-shirts were a gift from Campus Crusade for Christ Chile," Fiess said. "In the front you can read, 'Gracias Senor' – 'Thank you Lord.'"

And on the back, Psalm 95:4.

"Apparently, all the miners liked them," Fiess said. "It kind of solidified them."
The goal of the Jesus Film Project is to give every person in the world an opportunity to say "yes" to Jesus. It is nice to see that not only were these miners physical lives saved but they also got the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guarding Against Patriotism Becoming an Idol

Photo Credit: euripedies
Some good thoughts from Tim King of Sojourners Magazine on Patriotism and Idolatry:
"Idolatry is often subtle. I’ve never walked into a Church to see the cross replaced with a golden calf. It’s not that blatant. Idolatry replaces God with anything that is less than God, even if that thing is pretty good.

I would define patriotism as the love of country and to desire and work for its good. It is a good thing. Patriotism passes into idolatry if Christianity is reduced to a means of achieving the good of country, or love of country comes to mean the same thing as love of God and neighbor.

There are two primary ways we can slip into idolatry: through theology or fervor. Our theology, for starters, needs to distinguish between what it means to be an American citizen and a Christian; between the hope of Christ and the will of God for America. It needs to say how we love God and neighbor first and still love country.

When it comes to fervor, we can’t allow our political passions to cloud Christian discernment. For example, Christians should be concerned about our national security. But, that does not mean anything our country does in the name of national security is Christian or moral. Christians should be concerned about the poor. But, that does not mean anything our country does in the name of helping the poor is right. God desires America to be secure and just (as God does of the whole world), but Christianity is not to be reduced to something useful merely to these ends.

Idolatry can creep up on you. For personal accountability, I try to be in regular contact and relationship with Christians who share different political opinions, especially Christians living in different countries. Having close friends and family who passionately disagree with my politics has helped me discern between my political fervor and Christian conviction. Having friends whose patriotism is directed at a different nation-state, but who still share my faith, has helped me distinguish between my love of God and my love of country."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

PBS to Air "God in America" Series

Photo Credit: shutterchik
PBS will be airing a series this week that will focus on the role that religion has played in American Life. The six-hour series, named "God in America, will on October 11, 12 and 13th.

From the PBS website:
"God in America examines the potent and complex interaction between religion and democracy, the origins of the American concept of religious liberty, and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation's courts and political arena. The series considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace.
It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po'pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell.

"The American story cannot be fully understood without understanding the country's religious history," says series executive producer Michael Sullivan. "By examining that history, God in America will offer viewers a fresh, revealing and challenging portrait of the country."

"Americans are awash in a sea of faith, but their knowledge about religious faiths and religious history often runs as shallow as their commitment to religion runs deep," notes Stephen Prothero, chief editorial consultant for God in America, professor of religion at Boston University, and author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't. "A series like God in America can help correct that imbalance and provide the basis for a common understanding of the role religion has played in American public life."
Check your local television listings for times and station.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Preparing for the Michigan-Michigan State Game

Photo Credit:
Andrew Morrell Photography
As a young boy growing up in southeastern Michigan, the annual match up between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University was always the biggest college football game of the year for me.  I know that the Michigan and Ohio State University game has traditionally had more Big Ten title and Rose Bowl implications, but the MSU game was always the bigger deal to me when I was a kid.

You see, I didn't go to school with any Ohio State fans and, therefore, didn't interact with them on a daily basis.  The only Buckeye fan that I knew was my grandfather and he had been born and raised in Ohio.  But, as a Michigan fan, I dealt with Spartan fans year-round so bragging rights meant something.  In fact, most of my closest friends rooted for MSU.  I don't know why that is exactly but I suppose that growing up in a blue collar, working class city that more people identified with the agricultural roots of Michigan State than the supposed intellectual snobbery of the Wolverines.  All I know is that I loved the Michigan helmets, Bo Schembechler and Jamie Morris.  

Whatever the case may be, the U of M/MSU battle each fall meant that you were going to have a lot of fun in school the following week or you would have to go into hiding for awhile.  Living in Florida now, this game isn't nearly as much fun since there are few Spartans that I come across.  But I know that the rivalry up in the state of Michigan is as strong as ever and I will be tuning in tomorrow to see if the Wolverines can reclaim the Paul Bunyan trophy

With both teams ranked and undefeated for the first time in this game since 1999, it should be a hard fought battle.  There have been some exciting games in this rivalry in recent years and I look forward to watching what is sure to be another classic.

My Prediction:  Michigan - 38, Michigan State 35

Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tuskegee, Guatemala, and a National Shame

Photo Credit: National Archives
Some recent research has shed a troubling light on a dark blemish in our nation's history.  In the middle part of the 20th century, the United States government conducted some unethical and immoral scientific studies on unsuspecting victims.

The first of these studies, commonly referred to as the "Tuskegee Study", took place from the 1930's through the early 1970's and has been known about for some time.  The Tuskegee Study took place when over 400 black men from Alabama who had been infected with a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, were led to believe that they were receiving free treatment when they were, in fact, being left untreated and were being examined for the effects of syphilis.  President Clinton public acknowledged this horror and publicly apologized in 1997. 

Another study similar to Tuskegee has been recently discovered that took place in Guatemala during the 1940's.  In the study that was conducted in Guatemala, jailed men were intentionally exposed to infected prostitutes and then received treatment afterward.  This experiment was also conducted by the U.S government.  Linda Villarosa penned an insightful column on these findings for here

Having learned about the Tuskegee Study in college, I was not surprised to learn of what happened in Guatemala.  This is not to say that it does not disgust me, nonetheless.  Even though there are many great things about the United States, our government has committed (and still commits) some pretty horrible things.  We have bombed innocent people, we have enslaved and jailed our own citizens because of the color of their skin or their country of origin and have treated human beings as lab rats in the name of science.

In learning about these things, it should come as no surprise that some members of certain ethnic communities remain distrustful of the government when "help" is offered.  Look at what Villarosa has to say:
"Numerous studies have shown that African Americans remain much less likely to get immunizations of any kind. For older African Americans, who more often than their peers of other races have heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses, a flu shot can mean the difference between life and death. African Americans of all ages avoid shots -- and the health care system in general -- out of mistrust. Last year, during the height of the H1N1 hysteria, a widely circulated Twitter message warned, "Don't take the swine flu vaccine. Remember the Tuskegee Experiment."

By and large, though, it's not a hazy memory of the Tuskegee episode that's fueling suspicion and distrust of the system. Most of us are too young to remember it; even Dr. Cutler is long gone. Rather, our broken and battered current health care system is what is driving African Americans away from treatment and care. It's been a decade since Congress first admitted officially what 37 million black people already know: that the U.S. medical care system doesn't treat us well. A damning 2002 report by the well-respected Institute of Medicine called "Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care" laid it out point by ugly point for Congress and everyone else. And according to numerous studies, little has changed."
To read more on the Tuskegee Study, click here and to read Professor Susan Reverby's article on Guatemala click here.

(h/t to the Black Voices blog for the link)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

How Many of You Are There?

I just finished reading this article from USA Today about a lawyer in Indianapolis with the name of Mark Zuckerberg.  His name might not seem like anything special until you consider that he shares it with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social media giant Facebook.  Zuckerberg (the lawyer) claims he receives over 500 Facebook friend requests each day and constantly gets calls to his office asking for tech support from Facebook users.

The USA Today feature also mentions a website,, that tells a person how many people within the United States share their name.  I encourage you to take a minute to check it out.  My results are below.
LogoThere are
people with the name Scott Crocker in the U.S.A.
How many have your name?

On another note, I watched a documentary recently by the name of "Google Me." The movie tells the story of Jim Killeen, a filmmaker who "googled" his name and ends up filming his visits with others in the world who share his name. Behind every name and behind every face is a story and it is interesting to think how something as simple as a shared name could bring a bond to people. You can watch the trailer below or here on the movie's website.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Why Aren't There More African American Missionaries?

The following video from CNN tells the story of the challenges that one organization, Mission Year, has faced in seeing African Americans join with them.  Unfortunately, Mission Year is not the only missions organization that has had a difficult time in seeing African American young people join their ranks. You can watch the video and then read on for some more thoughts on the subject of African Americans in missions.

Several years ago, my good friend, Vaughn Walston, penned an article for Mission Frontiers magazine entitled, "Ignite the Passion: African Americans in world missions."  Vaughn adeptly cites some of the statistics regarding African Americans in missions, the historical injustices that formed current realities and how the black church can move forward.  Though the article was published a decade ago, Vaughn's research still holds true.  Here are some of his findings and conclusions:
"The latest statistics paint a sad picture of the current involvement of African Americans in missions. Jim Sutherland counted 242 total African-American missionaries serving cross-culturally in 1998.  In 1973, Robert Gordon reported under 300.  These numbers compare to 33,000 missionaries from the U.S. in 1973 and about 45,000 U.S. missionaries today.  African Americans make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population but less than 1 percent of the U.S. mission force to the world. If it was proportionately represented in the mission force today, the African-American community would have some 5,400 cross-cultural missionaries.

We know that history has played a part in bringing about this shortfall. Several generations were simply cut off from direct involvement and promotion of missions. Because of this, subsequent generations just did not have missions on their agenda at all. But what other factors have come into play in today's church situation?"

"Most African-American pastors are unfamiliar with what is going on in the world today regarding missions. They were not taught about missions. They do not know general missions history. They are unaware of the heritage of African Americans in missions. Thus they cannot teach their congregations about missions."

"African-American pastors desire financial stability. They want to bring the money into the church - not send it out. Since the African-American community has historically been oppressed and deprived of opportunity for financial gain, now that many opportunities exist, the desire is to bring it in and keep it in the community. Many African-American churches still struggle financially for their own survival. Yet the statistics indicate that a high percentage of African-American churches are doing very well financially."

"Historically, the American dream has eluded the African-American community. For many, attaining it has become a Christian value. Thus, moving from oppression and want to materialism and comfort is a subtle but natural distraction. American prosperity is finally within the reach of the African-American community, and missions runs counter to that plan.

Many African Americans fear rejection and a lack of emotional support from white mission agencies. In the past, African Americans were accepted to serve with white mission societies, but on the field they were given menial tasks. Blacks were accepted to work, but not to lead. With a lack of mission education and a priority on home, it is no wonder that the African-American church represents only a small percentage of the mission force in the world."
Vaughn also offers several suggestions on how black Americans can be more effectively mobilized for world missions.  You can read Vaughn's complete article here.

In demonstration of a reversal of the trends that are mentioned in the video and the Mission Frontiers article, The Impact Movement has seen 120 African American college graduates give at least a year of their life to the Great Commission over the past thirteen years.  Most of these missionaries have served domestically, while leading short-term terms throughout the continent of Africa and other parts of the world.  In 2002, Impact took 300 African Americans to eastern and Southern Africa for Operation Sunrise Africa, the largest single mobilization of black Americans for world missions in history.

(h/t to Kathryn Taylor for the video link)