Saturday, April 26, 2008

Early morning thoughts on evangelism

I recently spoke with a good friend of mine who shared her thoughts on evangelism. She is a Christian but doesn't like the idea of sharing her faith with others. At first, I was tempted to rebuke her which is usually my fallback position when people disagree with me. As Christians we are called to share the message of God's desire to restore our relationship with him. Instead of being afraid or considering this a burden we should be thrilled to offer this hope to the many people in our lives who are struggling and hopeless. As Barack Obama might say this is hope you can believe in.

But rather than try to convince my friend I decided to examine my own obstacles to evangelism. My biggest roadblock to sharing my faith is my own walk with the LORD. I often have the same fear, anxiety and addictions that non Christians have. This makes me feel almost guilty telling them I supposedly know the truth that can set them free from these very struggles. My first instinct is to try and get my crap together first as a demonstration of Christ's power to transform lives. This is my desperate attempt to prove to others and to myself that Christianity "works". But frankly, what if that never happens? I am never going to be perfect examples to others.

I used to be worried that people would hold my sins against me if I witnessed to them and think I was a hypocrite. However, If I am honest my deeper concern is that my faith doesn't really seem to be the answer to life's problems. I begin to doubt the power of the gospel because it hasn't completely transformed me yet so how can it change the lives of others. Rectifying this attitude is difficult because my nature is to focus on the negative.

My best is answer to this problem is realizing that the true power of the Christ's message is the change that God has already made in my life and not the lack of progress in other areas. When I think of the person I would be without Christ in my life and how he has refined me in so many ways, that's when I realize the true message of hope I have for others. That realization gives me motivation and confidence to share the gospel with others. The fact, that I still mess up daily only reinforces the fact that I am no different that anybody else. It fact it demonstrates that if God's grace can help me, it can help anybody.

God's message of hope and reconciliation is not dependent on us or how we live. We can never prove to people to accept Jesus based on our example no matter how compelling it is. The power to transform lives rests solely on God's shoulders. Our only duty is to tell others the good things he has done in our lives. Remembering those good things is up to us, the rest is up to him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In the news

The City Pulse has an interesting article on evangelicals and politics. There are some exceptional people quoted in the article. It is well worth the read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Weekend with Grandpa

I wanted to update you on my weekend in Pittsburgh. While I was certainly nervous beforehand, I thoroughly enjoyed taking care of my Grandpa.

He was scheduled to leave the nursing home Saturday morning but was so bored that he convinced them to let him out early Friday night. My cousin and I arrived late because of traffic and we found him sitting in his chair with his bags packed, ready to go. His transition home went very well. The only problem was his mattress. The doctors want him to sleep on a pulsating air mattress but he says it's like sleeping on a bed of rocks. He has another more comfortable bed that he wanted to sleep on. We made a deal that he would sleep on the bed of rocks at night but could take naps on the comfortable bed during the day. This seemed to work for both of us although he still doesn't sleep well at night.

Grandpa is actually still very independent despite his hip surgery. The first day I went out for maybe an hour to pick up his prescription and check my email. When I returned I found him doing the laundry. I laughed out loud when I saw that. He is stubborn as well. My Aunt fought with the insurance company to make sure he received the top of the line walker for when he came home. But wouldn't you know it, he wouldn't touch the thing, instead relying on the borrowed walker he already had.

At first Grandpa was a little uncomfortable having me around. He was so used to being on his own that he didn't know how to respond to having someone else take care of him. Plus, he wants to recover his independence so strongl. Having me around only reinforced the idea that he wasn't quite fully recovered. However, by the end of my visit we had our routine down and he was both proud and appreciative of my help.

One of my favorite moments came Monday morning as we were waiting for the physical therapist. We had spent much our time the previous days either reading or watching the Penguins and Pirates play. Those times were fun but that morning he began to tell about growing up in Friendship and taking the bus across town to visit his cousins. We talked about his memories and our family, many of whom I don't know other than by name. My only connection being Grandpa. I just really enjoyed hearing those stories. Halfway through I began to realize that with his age I can't take these times for granted and so I simply sat and soaked in the moment.

I also realized this weekend that I enjoy serving other people. The feelings I had were similar to when I traveled to Mississippi post Katrina. It's a feeling of contentment and purpose that I very rarely find other times in my life. Having the privilege to take care of my Grandpa after years of receiving his support only added to those feelings. It's an opportunity that I will treasure for a long, long time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Women Masters

So I am watching the Masters this weekend thinking about how unsuccessful Martha Burk was in her attempt to force Augusta National to allow women to join their club. If we were to have believed the media women membership was an inevitability yet here we are several years later and it is still an all boys club. Now I think that eventually they will let a woman join but I am just not sure when or who. And that's the bigger question. Who will be the first female to join the hallowed club? Here are a few potential candidates:

1. Oprah Winfrey. She would definitely bring a lot of positive attention plus she meets their standards for success and income.

2. Sandra Day O'Connor. Her resume as first woman supreme court justice is appealing and I hear she is a golfer.

3. Condaleeza Rice. As one of the highest ranking females in government she has the credentials to fit in with the rest of the members.

4. Annika Sorenstam. Considered by many to be the best woman golfer she would be considered an asset to the club that likes to be among the best.

5. Pat Summit. She is a southerner and very well respected for her accomplishments as a basketball coach.

These are just a few suggestions. I would like to hear if you have other famous, successful women that would fit in at Augusta.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Live from Pittsburgh

I have taken the Fetzer File on the road this week. I am in Pittsburgh to help my Grandpa as he recovers from hip surgery. I am a little nervous about helping and my Mom and Aunt gave me a laundry list of things to do.

I just made it to town and he looks great. I expected him to be a little more frail following the surgery but he seems to get around pretty good with his walker but I can tell he gets worn out easily. He still has his sense of humor and doesn't seem nearly as worried or concerned as my Mom or Aunt Nancy. Funny how others worry about us more than ourselves sometimes.

I am writing this post from a coffee shop near my Grandparents old house. It was a place my Grandma took me to over 10 years ago. I love the fact that is still here for me. And that they have wi-fi. Another thing that hasn't changed is the nursing home he is staying at. It is the same one my Great Grandmother lived in and the last time I went there was in 1991 maybe. They still have the same decorations and everything. I even think I saw the same few lonely women perched in the wheel chairs by the elevators to watch all the action.

My trip this morning was exactly what I needed. As I was surfing through the radio channels I came across a religious station and it reminded me to take the time and pray. It's amazing how cleansing it is to spend 45 miles in prayer. It was great to release some stress and to pray for others and well generally I am in a good mood because of it.

Tonight I am meeting up with my cousin to grab dinner. I haven't seen him since Christmas time so it will be nice to catch up. I'll write more later this week.

Monday, April 07, 2008


This weekend my nephew David came to Lansing to watch the NCAA basketball games. He and I have made it a tradition to watch the final four each year. A couple years ago we went out to some backwoods bar to watch the games with my buddy Jason Feltz. We all three took turns hitting on our poor waitress. As you might have guessed, none of us got her phone number. Then two years ago I was in Las Vegas with David and my brother's entire family for the final four. We all made wagers on the game and David was the only one to win money. Hopefully next year we can get final four tickets since the games are being played in Detroit.

David is turning into a really fine young man. As we spent the weekend together, I was impressed with how grown up he has become and how well he handles all the drama in his life. I warned him ahead of time that this year I had church on Saturday night but he didn't complain about having to go or missing most of the first game. Because he works at a coffee shop, he was put in charge of making coffee for the service. He also haul chairs and speakers to help set up. After church we went to Trippers and watched the second game. Even though the game was a blowout, I still enjoyed spending time with him. We finished the night by heading home and playing cards.

He and I haven't seen each other as often this past year as I would have liked. By sharing March madness as a tradition it was a good excuse to make seeing each other a priority. When he and his brother were younger, we made it a tradition to get root beer floats at A&W when they would come to visit. I remember when my parents would take Vince and I out for root beer floats and it was a great time and I wanted to pass that along to them. As he's gotten older we now have our new basketball tradition. It's really fun to hear his enthusiasm for college basketball. It gives us something to share and I appreciate that. It's nice to know that we have at least one weekend a year set aside regardless of how the rest of the year is going. I look forward to watching many more games with him in the future.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Culture of Corruption

This week yet another political scandal broke, this time involving Sen. Debbie Stabenow's husband. Apparently, he was involved with a hooker and was discovered as part of a sting operation. I truly feel bad for Sen. Stabenow as she has to listen to this play out among the media. But lately it seems like every week, another Democratic politician is in the news regarding some type of scandal.

First it was Gov. Spitzer from NY and his affair with a prostitute and possible money laundering. Then his Lt. Gov. admitted his own affair, cocaine use and misuse of campaign funds. Next was the dishonorable Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, and his indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice. And unlike Spitzer who at least had the dignity to resign, Kilpatrick seems ready to drag the city through months of bad publicity and an expensive, racially sensitive trial.

These recent events give modern credence to one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes: "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
Obviously, many of our current leaders are failing that character test.

What I find frustrating about these scandals is how they have been covered by the mainstream media. Two years ago when the Republicans were rightly being exposed for their wrongdoings, the public got bombarded by the "culture of corruption" line. This message hit home by making all Republicans look crooked and helped pave the way for the Democrats victory in 2006.

Yet here we have several high profile Democrats engaged in scandal after scandal and no one in the media is making that same connection. They want to report each story as their own separate incident without the underlying theme of Democratic corruption. Is the media so myopic that they cannot see a pattern of corruption this year? Or are they just trying to protect the brand image of Democrats in an election year?

I was reading the comments of a Democrat who posted a response to the Stabenow story making the case that these scandals are not a big deal because Democrats are not the party preaching moral values and therefore they are not hypocrites like Republicans. But isn't that argument basically just an admission that unlike Republicans, Democrats have no morals and therefore can't be held accountable?

Maybe we should hold those who espouse moral values to a higher standard, but does that really excuse everybody else from their moral shortcomings? Regardless of parties or their particular views of morality, we should expect more from our leaders. Unfortunately, we live in a society where even obvious scandals become opportunity for partisan politics instead actually holding the person accountable for their actions.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A good start

Well baseball season is finally upon us and my beloved Pirates are leading their division. What I liked most about last night's win over the Braves is the number runs and hits they managed. The last several years, their offense has been abysmal. If they continue to show signs of life, we could be headed to a 75 win season which for the Pirates would be remarkable.

But I will not let a good start lure me into making another foolish wager like I did last year. Which reminds me; I still owe Noah a free movie since his Reds finished ahead of the Pirates in the standings last year.

Oh and for all you Tigers fans, don't buy your world series tickets just yet. Losing to the Royals is never a good way to start any season let alone one that has such high expectations.

Finally, I don't want to brag or anything but my Pirates have more wins than the Tigers and Yankees combined. What a great season so far!