Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Re: Pat Tillman

More than 3 years ago, I posted the following blog entry about NFL standout turned military casualty Pat Tillman. Then recently, ESPN tweeted a reminder of his death, and I re-tweeted without directing the post to anyone and without including a hashtag or any @ symbol whatsoever. I added a comment in somber mourning, meant to remind myself of the fleeting glory of this life. I simply wrote, "Too bad he was an atheist."

Now I immediately acknowledge that those words can be taken as an insult, as if Pat Tillman's distinguished NFL career or his courage to leave that behind and pay the ultimate sacrifice by serving our country in the name of freedom was somehow lacking in merit or value because of his lack of Christian faith. But it was actually meant quite literally: "Too bad" = "exceedingly and painfully unacceptable." I wonder if it's like this:

When I was a teenager, there was this really nice girl who was very pretty. She was popular and I admired her. But then I found out she was a smoker. "Too bad." And one of my customers is a very likable guy. He's loyal, conducts his business in an ethical and organized manner, and if it wasn't for his gross profanity, I'd like to hang out with him in public. "Too bad." Or Carson Palmer leads the Arizona Cardinals to the best record in the NFL only to go down with a knee injury. "Too bad." These aren't insults; they aren't said with mocking sarcasm. They are literal remarks, meant literally.

You see, I liked Pat Tillman and I cheered for him in this life. I admired his football skill and his courage to leave it behind out of love for his country. I would have been honored to meet him and form a friendship with him. And therefore, when I say it's too bad that he was an atheist, I'm simply - and with genuine sadness - saying that I don't believe there will be an opportunity to share a relationship with him in the future. I know I have a future in the presence of the Lord for eternity. I believe that Pat's future is also eternal, a real, ongoing present even now after his earthly, bodily demise; but the Bible tells me that his future is not one that we share. That makes me sad, sad to see a successful and courageous man live only for this life, sad to see him - and perhaps even more so his family - lack a hope for eternity.

So had I directed this re-tweet to Tillman's family, or "all you atheists out there," or had I even left the "@ESPN" in the re-tweet, I certainly would feel ashamed about the comment. But I meant it for me, as I truly am sad that Tillman was an atheist. And let me say one more thing: I am certain that there are plenty of "too bad" statements about me that others may consider. "Too bad" for my wife that my flatulence is odorific. "Too bad" for party-goers (and all those liquor stores out there, since they won't be getting my money) that I'm a teetotaler. "Too bad" for democrats that I vote republican. "Too bad" for my kids - from their perspective - that I discipline them; I care about their character. "Too bad" is not necessarily mockery or insult. It's a statement, an opinion. And it wasn't addressed to you. So let it go. See the original post below:

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I watched this documentary / movie last night, because I appreciated Pat Tillman's successful football career and subsequent surprising departure from the NFL in order to enlist with the military following the events of September 11, 2001. I really did not know what to expect out of the film, but what I saw and heard was certainly unexpected. I'm still trying to process the motive for the production.


The movie primarily served to accuse the military and US government of a massive cover-up, attempting to honor Tillman and prevent the public from learning of his death by friendly fire. And I think most people are unsuprised if/when that sort of thing happens. How many films have been made about such activity? I think of Courage Under Fire and The General's Daughter, and the lines, "You can't handle the truth!" without much consideration. It's certainly not "right" to conspire or cover-up the truth, especially when it pertains to representing facts to the family and loved ones of a slain soldier. And it's all the more wrong to engage in such activity in an effort to promote military action in foreign lands when the purpose is questionable to begin with. And so for the efforts to make such activity public, I suppose I appreciate the film.


However, there were plenty of additional motives for this film, more subtly portrayed. First, there was a sort of subjective political message in addition to what is depicted objectively, and I can't quite put my finger on it. But I was skeptical, and saddened by the efforts to state that claim. Second, or of more interest to me, was the religious message implied in the film. Messages of hope from well-wishers were squashed by family members with an undoubtedly atheistic worldview. Tillman's younger brother spoke at his memorial service, cursing and declaring that Pat is not with God, because he was not religious. He is simply dead. The anger that was continually present from his family is understandable given their humanity, but illogical, given their atheism. Pat's mother continually replied to the military's and government's immoral behavior, but she had no basis for her views of morality to begin with.


In one clip, a radio conversation between military personnel is played, and the gist is that the family can't get over it because of their atheistic thinking. I think it was meant to glorify atheism in some sense, to honor their perseverance, as if to say that theists are weak and give up easily at the will of the system, while atheists are strong and never yield to the system. In another series of clips, one of Tillman's group members, a "religious" mormon, was shown to be (1) small and puny and weak (in comparison to Tillman), (2) in the best care under Tillman's "practical" leadership, rather than in the hands of his impractical "god" - Tillman even encouraged him not to pray in the midst of gunfire, and this was shown to be a good move for the soldier - and (3) better off when he let go of his wimpiness, his "faith," and instead toughened up and "acted like a man." I can't believe that this subtlty was included unintentionally. I just wonder why.


In the end, Tillman was shown to be much more intellectual and open-minded than you might have expected him to be as a jock. He was portrayed as a risk-taker who lived life to the full, a faithful husband to his high-school sweetheart, and a family-loving son and brother. He was called a hero, and anyone who voluntarily gives up their game-playing multi-million dollar career to fight for their country's freedom, risking their life in foreign lands for minimal (if any) pay, I suppose ought to be given such a title - at least on earth. But I am afraid Pat Tillman has received his reward, if only honor and joy in this life. For the atheist, as his brother clearly stated, is dead. He understands death to be merely the end of this life. He has no concept, as his dead brother now does, of the second death, eternal separation from God. The Tillman Story protrays that family to be ever-in-pain, hardened by the loss of Pat, and in hostility toward God. Only God can take away that pain, and He has to do it by softening their hearts of stone, and reconciling them to Himself. I pray that He would, for their good, and for His glory.

Investor's Business Daily: 10 traits for turning your dreams into reality

1. A positive attitude

I have never met a successful pessimist. It is absolutely essential that you have a positive mental attitude in every aspect of life. Where your mind goes, you go. If you think you’ll fail, chances are good that you will. If you believe you’ll succeed – you’re halfway home. 
 

2. A definitive goal

Winners set goals. Losers make excuses. A goal is a dream with a deadline that is measurable, identifiable, obtainable, specific and in writing. Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Goals tend to tap the deeper resources and draw the best out of life. Achieving goals produces significant accomplishments.

3. A courageous spirit

Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage is regarded as one of the major human virtues. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerves all rolled into one. So what does courage have to do with running a business? Plenty. I admit that most folks’ daily lives are not filled with such dramatic challenges. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

4. An inquisitive mind

I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. You don’t go to school once for a lifetime; you are in school all of your life. Pursue learning in all its forms – reading books, returning to school, attending seminars and training classes, listening to those who are wiser and more experienced.

5. A strong heart

What makes a champion? Is it attitude, confidence, courage, desire, determination, discipline, endurance, mental toughness, perseverance, physical ability, self-discipline or visualization? Yes. It’s probably a little bit of all these characteristics, but it’s also a lot of heart. In addition, it takes a strong heart to be a successful businessperson. Use your head, to be sure, but don’t ignore what your heart is telling you.

6. An analytical brain

Do your homework; get the facts. Learn to analyze details. Often the best ideas stem from little seeds everyone else overlooked.

7. A focused eye

How many times have you heard an athlete talk about focus? It’s a topic I also hear about frequently in business. The most common complaints? Too many irons in the fire. Too many projects spinning at one time. Too many interruptions. Too many phone calls. Too many emails. Too many things to do. Too little time. Stay focused as best you can, and don’t let things happen to you – not when you can make things happen.

8. A fearless approach

Innovate. Be different. Those who are content to follow the crowd never get the chance to stand out. Believe in yourself even when no one else does. If you believe in what you are doing, your confidence will win over skeptics. Confidence doesn’t come naturally to most people. Even the most successful people have struggled with it in their careers. The good news is that you can develop confidence, just like any muscle or character trait, if you’re willing to work hard. 
 

9. A disciplined tongue

He or she who burns bridges better be a very good swimmer. You must learn the art of communicating effectively with others. Clear communications prevent miscommunications. When you say what you mean, mean what you say and you keep your word, you foster trust. Stick to the subject at hand, and avoid the temptation to dredge up old issues.

10. A clear conscience

Always act like your mother is watching. Don’t forget those rules you learned in kindergarten: Play nice. Be dependable. Tell the truth. If you can’t get to the top by being true to yourself and straight with everyone around you, your success will be hollow—and probably short-lived. Dreams can come true. These traits, coupled with hard work and perseverance, will keep your dreams from becoming just wishful thinking.

Mackay’s Moral: You can’t get ahead if you don’t get started.

 Courtesy of Lamont Breland

Friday, October 03, 2014

Fundamentalist homophobia?

What is love? Acceptance? More? I think the author of this article - http://leoweekly.com/news/inbox-october-1-2014 - should answer that question. His answer might explain - or change - his understanding of some activity going on in an area of our town.


My brief response to the letter:

I can appreciate the guy's point about the possibility of fundamentalist views contributing to the very problems they are trying to heal - but of course, I disagree since any contribution to the problems would come from a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the fundamentalist views.

He points out that Sojourn preaches a message that homosexuality is a sin, and then he calls it an attempt to demonize our nature. He doesn't want anyone to say that what he's doing - or who he is - is wrong - or sinful. Who are we to judge?

He simply doesn't understand the concepts of sin or of "loving the sinner but hating the sin." And that's because he has a faulty concept of love. Of course, Biblical love, God's love, is all there really is. Anything less is a shadow at best, corruption at worst. Love is transforming. It changes you to give it; and it changes you to receive it. God is love, and He cares for His people so much that He stops them from engaging in sin and changes their hearts to desire His ways, all of which saves them from His own righteous wrath towards their sinfulness, both their behavior and their very nature.

If we have the cure for cancer and don't share it, what kind of people are we? Are we loving? Or hateful?

The author of the letter lost me at the end when he said that he doesn't mind Christianity, but only the details of it. I think that shows his ignorance to the message and method that Sojourn and Access Ventures are putting forth in that community. Sojourn loves Shelby Park and so seeks to transform it and save it from self-destruction, which is clearly the path it has been on in the past few decades. The very same logic applied corporately to Sojourn and Shelby Park fits individually to the love and care that the individual members of Sojourn and employees / volunteers of Access Ventures have for the individual residents of Shelby Park.... Just as CS Lewis has said (paraphrasing), "We are like a house and God's love changes us. We knew we needed a little updating, light remodeling. But God tears down walls and adds a new wing and raises the roof. He takes us from a dilapidated shack to a luxurious mansion. It's painful and we often don't understand why at first. But when we realize that He intends to live with and in us, it makes sense."

Sojourn members are moving into Shelby Park. Shall they not attempt to change it for good? For safety? For beauty? For glory?

The author's one jab at Fundamentalists' Biblically inconsistent application came regarding the text that says a rapist must marry his victim. He doesn't understand - and couldn't apart from the Holy Spirit's conviction - the context and culture and reason for such a requirement. Nor does he understand how Christ both fulfilled and abolished the law for Christians. The only law we have is love. And what Sojourn and Access Ventures are doing in Shelby Park is certainly a proper expression of that. Until he sees his need for transformation, for salvation, for that kind of love, he can't appreciate it.

And all Christians should be changing their worlds - their families, neighborhoods, schools, jobs, athletic teams, etc. - with this same love.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not by obeying the law, but by walking in the Spirit

I was reading Galatians 3 with my family last night, and gained some new understanding on a crucial question for the Christian life. The Galatians had been justified by believing the Gospel, by grace through faith according to the power of Holy Spirit regeneration, not by feeble - or even mighty - attempts to obey the law. Why then, Paul asks, were they trying to proceed through obedience to the law instead of by that same Holy Spirit power?


I've long pondered the step-by-step method of living in the Spirit, or keeping in step with the Spirit. How do I live in the present by the Spirit, not trusting my own efforts to follow Christ? I think it has to do with "being" rather than "doing." It's not so much that I need to obey the law - for Christ did that for me; rather, I need to pursue the fruit of the Spirit. I need to be loving, joyful, patient, kind, gentle, self-controlled, etc... In "being," I will find the "doing" follows naturally - or perhaps supernaturally - as the Holy Spirit conforms not merely my behavior but my very character to that of Jesus.

There was some good family discussion around this topic, and we concluded, hopefully rightly, that justification comes by grace through faith by the logically primary regenerating action of the Hoy Spirit, and sanctification follows in the same manner. Our failures and setbacks in the sanctification process come when we concern ourselves more with "doing," instead of focusing on "being." We will always and inevitably fail at the "doing," because that comes through our own efforts, even when we think we are cooperating with the Spirit. But a greater level of success - though not perfection in this life - will come as we keep in step with the Spirit, by "being."

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

So it's not, "I need to obey better today." Instead, it's, "I need to be more like this today." Lord willing, I will be.