Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering The Fallen On Memorial Day

Photo Credit: Nick Harris1
In honor of all American service women and men that have given their lives for the freedom of others:
In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Written by Lt. Col. John McCrae (taken from
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." ~ John 15:13

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Setting Our Minds On Heaven

Photo Credit: acroll
I am currently reading Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, and in the introduction Alcorn tells the following story:
"In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She'd already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly: she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn't until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, "All I could see was the fog... I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it." *
Life can be difficult and, at times, seems unbearable. The everyday challenges that we encounter can cause those of us that are Christians to take our eyes of Jesus and set them on temporal pleasures with no lasting significance. But understanding that a greater eternity awaits the faithful can help us in setting our priorities and making the right decisions when temptation calls. Although we don't know how long it will be until we make it to our true home, focusing on our destination can help us in living with an eternal perspective. See through the fog and look towards eternity.

*This story was shared in a taped message by C. J. Mahaney, “Loving the Church,” Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, MD

Monday, May 16, 2011

Leroy Barber On The Danger Of Racial Stereotypes

Photo Credit: japi14
Leroy Barber, a pastor and president of Mission Year, offers some food for thought when it comes to racial stereotypes:
"The problem with stereotypes is that they are generalities used as descriptors of categories of people. When these generalities are used as descriptors outside of relationship — and sometimes within — they form our opinions about groups of people that may or may not be true about individuals within that demographic (e.g., white people have no rhythm.) This leads to relational breakdown and causes a lot of pain (e.g, all Asians know karate.)

I met a white man who could not dance or play basketball, and it solidified what I thought I knew of white people. Oh yeah, and I was poor and from the city — weren’t all black people? Our relationships will go nowhere if we let our misinformed stereotypes dictate them.

We now live in a world where stereotypes are less and less true, but we still have Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford type of relationships. (Google them if you’re too young to know the reference.) The city is for poor black people, restaurants or dry cleaners for Chinese, 7-Eleven for Indians, construction for Mexicans, reservations for Native Americans, and though white people can’t dance, they are all rich. These all sound absurd and yet we live as though they are true for everyone. Our stereotypes are falling every day – will we be able to relate outside of them?"
To read Rev. Barber's complete post, please click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Russell Moore on Osama bin Laden & Narcissism

Photo Credit: bitmask
Vanity. Ego. Self-absorption. Conceit. Pride. Haughtiness. These are all terms associated with narcissism and each one of us is in danger of falling victim to this destructive personality trait. Narcissus was a figure from Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection and we, too, can become so consumed with ourselves that great harm can come to others if our ego is not kept in check.

Dr. Russell Moore offers a compelling argument on how narcissism drove Osama bin Laden to become a despot responsible for the murder of thousands. Dr. Moore comments:
"Osama Bin Laden was wicked. Osama Bin Laden was feared. He was also, it turns out, kind of pathetic. Among the items American forces pulled out of the terrorist leader’s compound last week are videos of Bin Laden, wrapped in a blanket, watching himself on television. As ABCNews reports, the warlord is seen to be "a vain pathetic old man." When I read this in the New York Times, I immediately thought of 1990s song "Mr. Jones" by the band Counting Crows: "When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me."

And what the old fox wanted to see was not just himself, but a younger version. American forces confirm that Bin Laden was dying his beard, to manage his image in order to appear more vibrant to his supporters around the world.

We shouldn’t really be surprised. The nature of evil, ultimately, is narcissism. And the end result of our narcissism is always evil. Sometimes that evil shows up in preening and boasting. Other times it shows up in the ease with which one takes offense. Sometimes that offense even morphs into a crusade or a jihad, around the world or in your office cubicle or church foyer."
The same pride that ultimately drove bin Laden to his grave is the same pride that Lucifer displayed ages ago in his rebellion against God. Perhaps more scary is that it is also the same pride that lurks in my heart and yours. There is no greater antidote to our self-absorption than the gospel of Christ that tells us that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

You can read Russell Moore's complete post here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Photo Credit: Bisayan lady
Today is the Mexican holiday known as Cinco de Mayo (which translated from Spanish to English means "the fifth of May). Although most Americans are likely familiar with this holiday or have at least heard the phrase, few probably are aware of its origins. Here are some tidbits of information on Cinco de Mayo:

* Cinco de Mayo is not an "official" holiday and is mostly recognized in the Mexican state of Puebla.  It is more widely celebrated within the United States than in Mexico.

* It commemorates the Mexican Army's defeat of French military forces in the state of Puebla in 1862.

* It is a Mexican holiday and does not necessarily represent the other Latino cultures represented in the United States (e.g. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Colombians, etc.). However, those that are not of Mexican heritage may choose to celebrate the holiday much in the same way that others celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Black History Month or the Chinese New Year.

* It is not Mexico's independence day.  That day is September 16th.

* The holiday is typically celebrated with music, food, dancing and other items of Mexican culture.

To learn more about Cinco de Mayo, click here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Death Of Osama Bin Laden & One Christian's Response

Photo Credit: QuinnDombrowski
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, has written a thoughtful response upon reflection of the death of Osama bin Laden. You can read it here. Here is a highlight:
"Pumping our fists in victory or celebrating in the streets is probably not the best Christian response to anyone’s death, even the death of a dangerous and violent enemy. The world can be relieved that a leader as evil as Bin Laden can no longer plot the death of innocents. We can be grateful that his cynical manipulation and distortion of Islam into a message of division and hate is finally ended. Even if we sharply dissented from the moral logic or wisdom of the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of the last decade, we can be glad that a mass murderer has been stopped and brought to justice. And we can be hopeful that the face of the Arab world might now become the young nonviolent activists for democracy rather than a self-righteous smirk of a self-promoting video character who tells us he is going to kill our children if we don’t submit to his hateful agenda.

But the book of Proverbs clearly warns us to "not rejoice when your enemies fall" [Proverbs 24:17,18]. And, in the hardest words of the gospel, Jesus tells us to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" [Matthew 5:44]. Neither of those texts have been very popular pulpit texts during the years since 9/11. So as people of faith, we don’t celebrate the death of other human beings, regardless of how twisted or evil they have become."
As the picture accompanying this post illustrates, our American patriotism should always be overshadowed by our Christian faith. For those of us that are followers of Christ, it is not our political leanings or even the country that we claim citizenship that it is of utmost importance. It is our faith in Christ that supersedes everything else. Let's not forget that.