Friday, May 18, 2012

International Prayer: May 18th, 2012

The theme for this week’s international prayer is politics, as we have a number of countries dealing with governments which seem to have lost the ability (or the will) to solve problems. Let us stand in prayer for:

Greece – Since 2010 the nation has agreed to two bailout packages, each contingent on major cuts in spending. In a May 6th election the people of Greece spoke out against the cuts by changing the complexion of the Greek Parliament. The defeat of the two major parties left parliament with no group able to negotiate a leadership coalition. As a result parliament was dissolved and a caretaker cabinet will guide Greece until the next round of elections on June 17th. At stake is Greece’s financial stability. Pray for direction as the people once again go to the polls in June and for the caretaker cabinet. Pray about the decisions needed to save the country from more civil unrest and financial collapse.

Burma – Just last year the military which lead Burma handed over power to the civilian government. On April 1st a pro-democracy opposition party won parliamentary elections in a landslide. The opposition party, lead by a woman who was once put in prison by the military government, is now tasked with bring reforms to a nation where the constitution still gives the military veto power. Pray for Burma (Myanmar) during this transition. Pray also for a change in the country’s human rights record as in the past the people were at the mercy of the government and of big business.

United States – Both Republicans and Democrats agree on what must be done. Differences on how to pay for it may lead to congress not acting. On July 1st people with federally subsidized student loans will see their interest rates double. The increased costs will rest squarely on the middle class. Of late this kind of partisan squabbling has become the norm in Washington. In this election year pray for government leaders in the United States.

The Bible calls for us to pray for our government leaders, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and honesty (1 Timothy 1:1-3). I believe as part of this prayer we should ask that decision makers receive wisdom. Let us do so desiring God’s best for all people, continuing in prayer according to the will of our Lord.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Façade Went Up in Flames

I have never had a grease fire in a charcoal grill. Charcoal grills are somewhat self cleaning, everything turning to ash which is easily swept into a trash can. This is not true for gas grills as I discovered recently when I tried to cook a pack of short ribs. The resulting fire quickly took over the interior of the grill. Instead of coming from the burners the flames were dancing across the grease along the bottom of the grill. Turning off the propane did not help. After salvaging the meat I grabbed the extinguisher, creating a big white cloud.

No one was hurt. I did not burn off my eye lashes or anything like that. But any thought of ever again using a gas grill disappeared in the flames. You see gas grilling just is not me. It was something I did just because others said I should, another case of following the crowd instead of sticking with the convictions of my heart. It was an easy way to fit in, a part of the façade created during my co-dependent years. As was often the case that façade was crafted to allow for fitting in instead of taking the risk of standing out.

It took a grease flare up to turn me away from gas grilling. It took a different kind of flare up to turn me away from my façade as it applied to my faith. I thought it okay to follow the pack, until my internet faith companions began acting out of fear. My façade went up in flames as I discovered how following the most vocal crowd just might mean a compromise that is not worth making. Those actions which made me so comfortable among my on line friends made me uncomfortable in the presence of God.

Gas grilling was not right for me. Neither was a faith which seemed to have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof. True Christian faith will make the believer peculiar to the world. It may also put us at odds with those who claim to walk as they should even while following their own wisdom. Not that I shun large groups, after all the Bible tells us not to forsake the gathering of the saints, but a stampede heading in the wrong direction is not where I want to fit in.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Mission Field: Our Front Yard

My family and I find ourselves in a peculiar position. At least I think it’s peculiar and ask if there are others out there dealing with something similar. Like all Christians we are called to attend church but the church God has chosen for us is about an hour and a half drive from our home. Our church brethren would love for us to move closer. However God has worked our circumstance in such a way as to deepen our roots in our home community. It seems that while we have a home church, distance has given us a unique mission field. Instead of a far away land our mission field sits just beyond our front yard.

At first we rushed out into the front yard ready to establish a new church. I had my plans and my way in which I would work for God’s kingdom in the community. If you have served God for any period of time you can probably guess how those plans turned out. God said no to each one. They were not His plans nor was I doing them in His power. Each fell way short of what He wants to establish. Instead of opening a church God spent the time breaking me of my pride, preparing me for His work. As a result I see a much different path; one God wants my family to take.

If my family were out on the mission field we would most likely look for what the community really needs. I have heard stories of missionary workers teaching English or serving in health clinics. I know Christians who have spent their time on the field rebuilding and repairing houses. By meeting needs they found doors opened for the spreading of the Gospel. In some cases the work resulted in the building of a new church but quite often it does not. These laborers returned knowing that if one person saw God’s glory reflected in the work the effort was well worth their time.

God has me where I am because the people are well worth my time. I may never see a new church built but others will see Christ if my family obeys. There is a lot to do on the mission field that exists just beyond our front yard. We must work knowing it is His plan not ours. I look forward to seeing what God cultivates as we serve Him. How about you? Are you ready to serve God by going into the mission field just beyond your front yard?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Would You Let Them Play?

How the death of Junior Seau weighs on the mind of a football dad.

I love football but must admit the relationship has become a bit strained lately. Over the last couple of years the news out of the NFL is causing me to rethink my support of the sport, especially with what we have heard the last couple of weeks. Word of bounties and the recent apparent suicide by a high profile former player have me questioning my interest. No, I am not too soft to watch an inherently brutal sport. I have become hesitant when it comes to football because of my oldest son’s dream.

My son dreams of playing in the NFL. As a kindergartener he could not wait to put on a helmet and make his first tackle. After a handful of years in youth football he still has his dream, staying with it though he knows the odds are against him. Each year he looks forward to playing on the next level, moving from one weight class to the next even thinking about what colleges he might want to play for. So it was a difficult decision whether or not to talk with him about the recent death of Junior Seau.

Junior Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We do not know, and most likely will never know, why he killed himself. Yet his death echoes that of former Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest about fourteen months ago. Their deaths add fuel to the discussion over repetitive head trauma and its effects on players in the NFL. And while most NFL players live after their carriers without showing any signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a good number do show other signs of the beatings that are an unavoidable part of football. Knowing this I can’t help but wonder if my son’s dream will leave him with a broken body or even a broken mind.

The news of Seau’s death opened the door for a conversation with my son about the heath issues being faced by a number of former NFL players. I did not want to crush his dream but I believe he is now at an age where he can handle this discussion. The odds are against him ever making it to the NFL but if the opportunity does arise I want him to make an informed decision, being aware of the issues surrounding the industry. However for some parents being informed is not good enough.

I have heard fathers say they will not let their sons play football. They have seen enough evidence of the game’s physical toll to warrant their pointing their sons in other directions. On the other end of the spectrum are the parents who push their children into the sport without any concern beyond raising the next pro-bowler. For now I have left the decision in my son’s hands, keeping him informed of what goes on beyond the game. How about you? In light of what we know about repetitive head trauma are you/would you allow your children to play football?