Friday, August 17, 2012

International Prayer: August 17th, 2012

In the midst of one of its worst droughts in years, the United States will soon face higher food prices. Chances are this will also affect global food prices, showing how what happens in one part of the world affects people in other areas. This week let us pray for farmers in the U. S. as they cope with this disaster. Pray also for those around the world who least can afford to pay more for what they eat. Along with those prayers let us pray for:

Iran – Last weekend the northwest corner of Iran was hit by two earthquakes, each with a magnitude around 6.3-6.4. According to 306 people were killed with more than 3000 injured. There were a number of aftershocks, leaving many afraid to go inside. Also, according to USA Today, the government of Iran has said it provided temporary shelter to 50,000 people who lost their homes. A change of heart by the government has opened the door to receiving foreign aid to help with recovery efforts. Pray for the people of Iran as they rebuild.

U. S. Solders – According to a report on 38 U.S. Solders committed suicide in July. This is a new and unfortunate record. Please continue in prayer for our solders.

Firefighters in the U.S. – The drought in the U. S. is not only a problem for farmers. A number of fires in the west are being fueled by the dry conditions. Pray for the men and women fighting these fires. Pray also for those who have lost their homes.

Enjoy the blessings of the Lord as you live each day. Don’t let those blessings distract you from fulfilling the command to pray without ceasing. And you pray remember your neighbors, both those nearby and those across the seas, each one needing you to lift them up before our Lord.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Have You Enjoyed the London Olympics?

His was the first of the gold medals won in the 2012 Olympics, his score breaking an Olympic record in archery. This is a special accomplishment in the life of any Olympian but what makes his story amazing is the fact that he is legally blind.
By Original author: Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With the closing ceremonies scheduled for Sunday I can honestly say I have enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympics. The competition has been great, coming second only to the great story lines behind the competition. From Im Dong Hyun of South Korea who cannot see out of one eye to Oscar Pistorius of South Africa who ran in the 400 meter and the 4X400 meter races.

Pistorius had his legs amputated when he was an infant but his parents never let him settle for being simply handicapped. Instead they pushed him to live and he eventually won several gold medals in the Paralympics. This year, after overcoming controversy over whether or not his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage, Pistorius was allowed to compete this year against able-body athletes, making the semifinals before being eliminated.

I look forward to seeing how Pistorius’ success changes the face of athletic competition. Has he opened the door for less traditional athletes to compete on the world stage in other sports?  Pistorius did not win a medal but he did earn his place as a pioneer and game changer.

Gabby Douglas is a game changer in her own right. The first African-American to win gold in both the team and the all-around gymnastics competitions and the first American of any color to win both in the same year, her victories expanding on the example first set by Dominique Dawes in 1996. These women both serve as reminders that success knows no color. I think the silly arguments about her hair or about whether she should have worn red white and blue should have been left at the side of the road. The Flying Squirrel has earned the right to forever be called an Olympic gold medal winner.

I look at these national heroes and wonder what holds me back. What limitations have I allowed to keep me from chasing my dreams? Even at my age seeing the world’s athletes challenge expectations has served to change my thinking. And as I discuss these Olympics with my children I hope they are also inspired to reach for the brass ring.

Yes I have enjoyed the London Olympics and I look forward to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia. How about you? Have you enjoyed the Olympics and what stands out in your mind as a great moment in this year’s games?

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Full Portrait of God: Part III (Repost)

(Originally posted prior to my hitting the reset button here at Fire & Hammer.)

In “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” (country of origin said to be India) a group of men try to describe an elephant without actually seeing the animal. Depending on the version, these men are either blind or in a completely dark room. The number of men varies but in each telling of the story the men are able to touch just one small part of a very large creature. Each man comes away with a description based on what he felt on the palm of his hand. Each man decides an elephant is something different based on what they felt; one saying the animal is a pillar, another describing a rope. The men compare notes and wind up getting into an argument. Some cultures say the men get into a fist fight, all be it not a very good one seeing as they are blind. The point of the story is that we all are limited in our view point and thus perceive ‘truth’ relative to our own background.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

In fact we all are like those blind men. Each of us interprets life and its origins based upon what we see, filtered through our own backgrounds and prejudices. From one vantage point God exists but from another he does not. Some see God as a metaphor while others see a power drawing all life together and still others see a person or persons who wield divine control. We debate gender: Is God he, she, or it? Is he distant or involved with his creation. Each of us has an opinion and, like the blind men with their thoughts on the elephant, we defend those opinions sometimes with great passion.

We passionately judge God. Some say they want no part of God if he is not pro-choice. Some question his love: If God really loves why does he allow _________ (fill in the blank)? We Christians do this as well: “How could God harden Pharaoh’s heart? That’s not fair.” “I lost faith in God because I prayed for him to stop _______ (fill in the blank) from happening and it happened anyway. He must not be real.” But each of these judgments and debates stem from our looking at God through eyes that are accustom to making judgments from our own personal world view.

None of the blind men ask the elephant to describe himself, to give his world view of what it means to be an elephant. Had they done so their faith in what they ‘saw’ with their own hands would have been shattered by the reality of the bigger picture. Truth is only relative when we cannot see or understand all things. The Bible challenges us to see through God’s eyes where we find a world view based on the (absolute) truth. It takes a lifetime of study during which we receive the important answers about life, often seeing our own view of truth shattered and left on the path.

As a metaphor “The Blind Men and the Elephant” serves as a great reminder of why there are so many different beliefs and ways of interpreting life’s ups and downs. Each man was relatively correct in his description yet none was absolutely right. In the end the animal was neither a pillar nor a rope, nor was it any of the other things the men said. It was simply an elephant and their different points of view did not change that fact. We are each entitled to believe whatever we want but our world views do not change the true nature of God nor do they change the true meaning of life.

See also Parts one and two