Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lessons of Memorials

Memorials remind us of what we value. They preserve memories of heroes or moments that changed history. This past week I ran on a trail alongside the Potomac River. As I ran, I could see the dome of the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial on the side of the river. George Washington's courage and dedication to his people still resonate today. Jefferson's writings still inspire. I walked the halls of a building whose walls feature paintings and plaques that describe heroic acts by American military personnel. I stood in a room and read the names of men and women who died suddenly as a terrorist-piloted airplane plowed through that building at that very spot. That tragedy and other similar events the same day shocked our nation and changed our attitudes toward liberty and security. The memorial, however, speaks to the loss of human beings who were dearly loved and highly valued by their co-workers and families. I said a prayer for those families as I stood there. These memorials challenge me to treasure each day and to use those days more wisely. They tell stories of pain and terrorism overcome by courageous acts and a determined spirit. They remind that tragedy scars the soul even as it strengthens the survivor. Our decisions and our actions lay foundation for memorials to our lives. What lessons will your memorial teach?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Following Elijah, Not Jonah

Several weeks ago I asked for prayer. Since then, a short-term work assignment has kept me quite busy as I adapt to a senior supervisory role. During that time, I've also grieved as I've read news stories telling senseless violence - teenage boys killing an aged World War 2 hero; different teenage boys killing an Australian college athlete who was a student in our country, killing him because they were bored; and allegations of chemical warfare in Syria. I've also notice what appears to be an increasing militant opposition to Christianity and its values. This opposition sometimes presents itself in ways that threaten the free expression of religious practice by Christians. While Coptic Christian churches burn in Egypt, in America actions by churches are scrutinized for failures in political correctness. I've been discouraged also by Christians who act, speak, and write with apparent hatred for those who disagree. That is not my goal here. Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies. As Christians, we should act with compassion and listen carefully to those who seem to oppose, to make sure that we understand correctly what they say. We should examine our actions, and the motives for those actions. We should avoid following in the steps of the prophet Jonah, who after preaching to a pagan city that its citizens should repent of their sins, camped outside the city so that he could watch God destroy it. Jonah, you see, didn't want his audience to hear his message. Elijah, who we remember because fire from God consumed his sacrifice, prayed that God would change the hearts of his audience. Elijah cared for the people who heard him. Love, however, does not always translate into tolerance. I might love someone who is determined to kill me, but I would seek separation from such a person. Neither Elijah nor Jonah tolerated the sins of the people to whom they preached. Elijah, however, loved them as he loved God, and because he loved them, sought to persuade them to change. Persuasion is a key words. Biblical Christianity persuades; it does not coerce. I ask again for prayer - for those Christians who are attacked by those who do not share our beliefs or values; for those Christians who act in hatred or fear feeling justified in doing so; for people who commit senseless acts of violence; and for those who seem to hate the cause of Christ and his values. May God turn their hearts back to him. That was Elijah's prayer. It is my prayer, too.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Get Real!

Let me begin by saying that I love sports. I thoroughly enjoy watching baseball and college football. I like to bowl and play basketball, but rarely have time to do so. As I've mentioned, I run several times a week. My favorite baseball team is having a great season so far; I'm hoping they make it through the playoffs and win the World Series. Several years ago, I yielded to my curiosity and put together a team in a fantasy baseball league. It was fun, but not necessarily tied to the actual teams playing on the field, just the performance of individual players. I realized after two seasons that that the fantasy league was taking time away from my marriage and preparation for my job. The fantasy league was just that - fantasy! Yet it asserted an impact on my real life. I stopped playing fantasy sports. A lot of people still play fantasy sports. Whole magazines and radio stations are devoted to helping them succeed. If people can manage their time and relationships well, no problem exists. Be alert, however, to what happens in real life. I don't usually quote from The Message paraphrase of the Bible, but its rendition of a passage in Galatians 5 hits the mark in this discussion:
"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom."
Pay attention to relationships at home, in your community of faith, and at work. Keep fantasy under control. Focus on helping real people in concrete and appropriate ways. Get real!