Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sports vs. the Front Page

I don't post a lot about parenting here. I remember when I didn't have kids yet, thinking to myself that parents seem to be obsessed with the topic of parenting, and I didn't want to join that crowd. I haven't changed my mind. Don't get me wrong: I love being a dad. I love Abby, Jacob, and Zachary with all my heart, and I also know that I have a lot to learn about my role as a father. But I don't want to be one of those people who talks about my kids, or about parenting, all the time.

Having issued that disclaimer, I must say, as a dad, i am saddened at what I see on ESPN.com today. See, my 8-yr-old son Jacob, while not being allowed to surf the entire internet yet, is free to go to the ESPN website. He also gets to read the sports section of the local paper. He likes sports, and I've seen some good things in his life as a result of his role as both a spectator and a participant. Thanks to baseball cards and the stats and standings listed in the paper, he has learned a lot of math that I didn't get till I was at least 4 years older. He embraces good role models like Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. He gets the concept of teamwork and trying hard to accomplish a goal. He sees what's wrong with being a selfish team member.

But there's a dark side to sports, too. When I look at the headlines, I see a bunch of stories he isn't ready for yet. Just today, for example, I see, on the front page of ESPN.com, stories about:

--a college football player's stabbing death after a party

--another college football player's suspension for lying to authorities

--an NFL running back referring to fans and reporters as "fags"

--a pro tennis player using crystal meth

and that's just today. In a few days, the list of disturbing, not-for-kids stories will be replaced by new ones.

Ideally, I'd like the sports page to be a place where my kid can read stories which have more to do with...I don't know, sports, maybe? I know that he will be exposed to the realities of life, and the failures of humans, in time. I'd just like to be able to put off that exposure a little longer, if possible. I would like to know there's one section of the newspaper I can plop in front of him and not have to worry that he might be reading something he's not ready for yet. But this is the world we live in, so I have to watch everything and assume nothing is safe. And that's a shame.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cleaning your own house

I recently heard a liberal who I like saying some things about how mean and ridiculous Glenn Beck is. I’m not defending Beck. I don’t have cable so have never heard him say anything, the sole exception being except a youtube clip where he misinformed about the cars.gov site. However, the comment about him, similar to what I have heard about Rush, O'Reilly, Coulter, and other commentators from the Right, all have one thing in common: they come from people on the Left.

It’s my view-–and this is a view I cannot support with Scripture or anything else–-that people should be more prone to cleaning their own house that the house of others. In other words, liberals should be slamming the rude people who are in line with them politically before they go off on conservatives who draw their ire. And conservatives should do the same.

It’s incumbent upon us on the Right to let Rush, Beck, Coulter, etc. know that their tactics are unacceptable, and it’s up to those of you on the Left to concentrate on communicating the same message to Al Franken, Jeanine Garafolo, Maureen Dowd, Bill Maher, and Jimmy Carter. All in that list have said things as uncalled-for as anything Beck has ever said.

For instance, why did I not hear anyone on the Left bashing Carter for his statement equating disagreement with Obama’s policies with racism? That accusation is revolting, extreme, inflammatory, and untrue. But it wouldn't surprise Carter or his supporters to hear any conservatives point this out. However, if a liberal, or several of them, said something, it would carry some weight. To his credit, Obama did publicly disagree with the statement somewhat. It would have been nice if other voices from the Left joined in.

It’s easy to slam the guy you don’t agree with; it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Be different. Do the brave thing. This world would be a better place if we concentrated our complaining to those those with whom we are more closely aligned politically.

Would Beck listen to his own party members if they spoke up about this? If enough people said something, the answer is yes. (Note: if the answer is no, then what good does it do for anyone, including the ones on the Left, to complain about him?)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Review: What Difference Do It Make?

"What Difference Do It Make", by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent, is a follow-up to their best-seller "Same Kind of Different As Me". And when I say follow-up, that's exactly what I mean. It isn't a sequel; it's a continuation. It's a way to reveal the bountiful fruit yielded by the first book.

If you have not read the first book, I don't recommend this one. It might be understandable, but it won't pack a punch. That said, for those who have completed SKDAM, the new piece is a valuable read.

In summary, WDDIM is made up of vignettes; we get to hear Denver and Ron speak through chapters individually, in one or the other man's voice. While the book as a whole doesn't have a real defined structure, each chapter does, and each is filled with stories that tell us the effects of the first book on various readers. Some are heart-warming, some heart-tugging, and all are inspiring. In many cases, SKDAM served as a catalyst in the life of someone who needed a jump-start. Ministries were formed, lives were impacted, and hearts were turned to God.

It's a very good book, and I am glad I read it.

Disclosure: Thomas Nelson, the publisher of What Difference Do It Make, provided me a free copy of the book in exchange for my review. I am free to give a positive or negative review.

Friday, October 02, 2009

If you really want results....

I have to say, this is one of the most exciting passages I have ever seen. God answers people who have confronted Him because their prayers and fasts haven't impressed Him, and haven't yielded the kinds of results they have been looking for. He responds by saying that the problem is that they have been fasting according to their criteria, not His. Their idea of serving God kept them in their comfort zone. In contrast, here's what will please Him:

Isaiah 58
v.6 "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed ones go free, and that you break every yoke?
v.7 Is it not to break your bread to the hungry, and that you should bring home the wandering poor? When will you see the naked and cover him; and you will not hide yourself from your own flesh?"

And check out the results!

v.8 "Then shall your light break out as the dawn, and your health shall spring out quickly; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of Jehovah shall gather you.
v.9 Then you shall call, and Yahweh shall answer; you shall cry, and He shall say, Here I am. If you take the yoke away from among you, the pointing of the finger, and speaking vanity;
v.10 and if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.
v.11 And Yahweh shall always guide you and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make your bones fat; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
v.12 And those who come of you shall build the old ruins; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in."

I want to let God do the speaking, so my only comment will be that the above passage doesn't just apply to helping the poor financially, although that certainly is included. It's broader than that. The afflicted and the oppressed mentioned above are people caught up in sin, or some sort of hurts resulting from sin that is present in this world. We are to be ready to bear the burdens of others who are going through something tough, and the list of possibilities is a long one.

Be ready, listen for His voice, in order to be there for someone; to allow God to use you as His relief agent.

2 Corinthians 1:4 "[God is] comforting us in all our trouble, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in every trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."