Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christianity with a Criminal Mindset

SOURCE:  "My Criminal Mindset" by Julie Clawson.

A friend at church asked me to help with her son's project for a college psychology class. He was studying the criminal mindset of women inmates and needed a control group to compare them with. So his mom handed out the survey to adult women at our church.

I answered the questions as honestly as I could. Yes, I believe there are systemic issues that keep people in poverty. Yes, I believe people of color are sometimes treated unfairly by our judicial system.

A few weeks later my friend mentioned that her son was surprised by the results from our control group: we scored extremely high on having a criminal mindset. Now, I don't know much about the methodology. The test is apparently a standard survey developed and approved by boards to judge "criminal thinking." But I was offended by the results.

I tried to answer the questions from a Christian perspective. I care about things like liberation of the oppressed, fairness for the poor and acceptance of the ethnic other. I try to be educated about places  where injustice is present so that I can work for justice, encompassing righteousness, mercy and reconciliation.
But by following our church's biblical emphasis on breaking the chains of injustice, we church ladies were pegged as thinking like criminals. 

It's unsettling until I remember that Jesus was arrested, tried and executed by a society that saw his message of economic reversal and love for the poor and the oppressed as criminal too. Then I realize how countercultural Christianity really is.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love Came Down at Christmas

SOURCE:  posted on Diana Butler Bass on her Facebook page.

Christmas poem, Christina Rossetti c.1865

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
...Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

The Glory

SOURCE:  Posted by Diana Butler Bass on her Facebook page.
KEYWORDS: Christmas, incarnation,

The Glory
by Madeleine L’Engle

Without any rhyme
without any reason heart lifts to light
in this bleak season

Believer and wanderer
caught by salvation
stumbler and blunderer
into Creation

In this cold blight
where marrow is frozen
it is God’s time
my heart has chosen

In paradox and story
parable and laughter
find I the glory
here in hereafter

Is There a Santa Claus

SOURCE:  floating around the internet.
KEYWORDS: generosity, giving, charity, gift

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. 

On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been  I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so.  It had to be true. Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus?" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't you believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!!"

Now, put on your coat, and let's go." "Go? Go where Grandma?", I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.

As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car."

Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.

The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker.

He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter.

His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red  corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat.

I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Then she tucked the tag from the coat in her Bible.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.

Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes.

That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous.

Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team. I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care... And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Great O's

SOURCE:  ...shared by a friend.
KEYWORDS: Christmas, advent

The Great O's
O Wisdom, which earnest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest
from end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and
teach us the way of prudence.

O Adonai, the leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the bush
to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: Come and
deliver us with an outstretched arm.

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom
kings shall shut their mouths, and to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come
and deliver us, and tarry not,

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest, and no
man shutteth, and shuttest, and no man openeth: Come and bring the
prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness, and the
shadow of death.

O Dayspring, Brightness of Light everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness:
Come and enlighten him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of

O King of the nations, and their Desire, the Cornerstone, who makest
both ·one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and
their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any
like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at
me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Idiots and Church Membership

SOURCE:  “20 Centuries in 20 Minutes” in The Word Today  by Dr. James C. Denison, January 14, 2005.
KEYWORDS:  church membership, identity

A Baptist pastor was inviting people in his neighborhood to visit his church. An elderly lady said, "No thank you, young man, I'm a Methodist." "If you don't mind telling me," he asked, "why are you a Methodist?" "Well," she replied, "you see, my parents were Methodist, my grandparents were Methodist, and my great-grandparents were Methodist." The frustrated young pastor responded, "That's no reason, just because all your relatives are Methodists. What would you do if all your relatives were idiots?" "In that case," she smiled, "I'd probably be a member of your church."

Dr. James C. Denison
Senior Pastor, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas


SOURCE:   “The B-Team Report” by Dr. Isaac Butterworth.  Newsletter of First Presbyterian Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.  November 2004.
KEYWORDS:  thanks, thanksgiving, words

Rudyard Kipling, as you know, was the author of “Jungle Book” and “Kim” and such poems as “If.”   Unlike many great writers, Kipling had opportunity to enjoy his success while he lived.  He also made a great deal of money at his trade.

On one occasion, a reporter came up to him and said, “Mr. Kipling, someone has calculated that the money you make from your writings averages more than a hundred dollars a word.”

Rudyard Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, “Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.”

The reporter reached into his pocket pulled out a one hundred dollar bill, and gave it to Kipling.  In a noticeably cynical tone, he then went on to say, “Here’s a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling.  Now, you give me one of your hundred dollar words.”

Kipling looked at the hundred dollar bill for a moment, took it and folded it, put it in his pocket, and said, “Thanks.”

Kipling was right--wouldn’t you say?  The word thanks is certainly a hundred dollar word.  It may even be a million dollar word.  It is certainly a word that is too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, and very often forgotten.

The Perfect Pastor

SOURCE:  Quoted in “The Family Visitor,” Newsletter of the Central Christian Church of Vernon, TX.  October 2004
KEYWORDS:  pastor, unrealistic expectations, pleasing others

At last we have developed a model for a perfect pastor that will suit everyone!  He’s guaranteed to please any church that calls him.  He preaches exactly fourteen minutes.  He condemns sin, but never hurts anyone’s feelings.

He works from 9:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, in every type of work--from preaching to custodial services.  His salary is $60 a week.  He wears good clothes, buys good books, has a nice family, drives a nice car, and gives $30 a week to the church.

This perfect pastor is thirty years old, but has been preaching for 35 years.  He is tall, short, thin, heavy-set, and very handsome.  His hair is parted in the middle, with the left side dark and straight and the right side light and wavy.  He has a burning desire to work with young people, and spends all his time with older folks.

He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a great sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.  Although he makes ten calls a day on church members, ten on the unchurched, and five on those in the hospital, he is always available for telephone calls in the office.

--Author Unknown

Nibbled by Ducks

SOURCE:  “Nibbled by Ducks” by Mary Lou Redding  from the Upper Room
KEYWORDS:  prayer, discipline

Life can sometimes seem like a process of being nibbled to death by ducks.  Daily events nip at our heels, distracting us so that we forget to stay connected to God.  But there is something we can do.  We can train ourselves to see daily tasks, even annoyances and challenges as a call to practice what is often called “mindfulness” -- continual attentiveness to God.

Through the ages, believers have adopted various prayer disciplines to help them in this practice.  One of these is “praying the hours” -- stopping at the turning of each hour to reestablish a conscious link with God.  Another classic example is Brother Lawrence wrote of feeling God’s closeness as intensely while working in the kitchen as while praying in the chapel.  He meditated on God’s words and works whenever his hands were busy.  Others turn their mind and spirit to God by praying the Jesus Prayer or another breath prayer or by reciting often a beloved and personally meaningful scripture.

Any of these practices can be adapted to our lives.  Thought we may not have a clock chiming each hour, most of us have actions that we repeat several times each day.  Each repetition of a familiar task can become a personal “call to prayer.”  Those who work at a computer can set the machine to beep or chime on each hour.  Those who use the telephone often can use each ring or each occasion of reaching for the receiver to pray, “O God, speak to me and through me” or some similar prayer.  Those who are dealing with a behavior that they feel God wants them to change--perhaps worry or impatience--may use each instance of the behavior not as a failure but as an opportunity to turn once again to God.  When we are doing tasks to benefit others, we can pray for the recipients or in gratitude for meaningful work.  The point is to use the occurrences of each day as reminders to consciously renew our communion with God

Embracing the Pain

SOURCE:  from a post on National Review’s Corner; June 18, 2004

This comes from Karl Zinsmeister's hot-off-the-presses book, "Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq"

“There are times when the best response, perhaps the only response, to the hard blows of existence is to embrace each lump as a badge honoring the determined striving that produced it. In 1918, Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin (who had left Harvard during his sophomore year to serve in World War I) was shot out of the sky in one of aerial warfare’s early dogfights. German propagandists took photos of his maimed body amidst his plane’s wreckage and, hoping to dampen American morale, sent one to Mrs. Roosevelt. Rather than let herself be cowed, however, she insisted that the picture be framed and displayed over a mantelpiece, a symbol of her family’s sturdiness and their pride in sacrifice for a high cause.

As I traveled across Iraq with our soldiers, I thought of this incident. What Edith Roosevelt did was both a very hard and a very soft thing. She pushed aside her own grief and expressed admiration and undying love for her son by celebrating his bravery--and by refusing to abandon his fight.”

God Uses Others

SOURCE:  Newsletter, First Presbyterian Church of Colorado City, Tx.  April 2004

Rev. Chuck Fisher near death wrote this article for his church’s newsletter.

Sleep stood evasively at a distance on Monday night and early Tuesday morning.  All kinds of thoughts and feelings passed through my mind in the midst of the insomnia…

So, I thought maybe God is trying to tell me something--something very special that I have not yet heard.  Hoping that to be the case, I got up and began to sit and ponder.  In the early morning quietness, I pleaded for God to speak.

As I listened carefully, I reflected over all the wonderful cards and notes expressing both great concern and appreciation for the things I have done.  I am truly overwhelmed by the way folks have been touched by words and my work in the world.  I realize now that some of what I consider the most insignificant gestures and the simplest things have touched people in very meaningful ways.  I know that I am certainly far from perfect.  There is so much more I could have done, should have done, to make this world a kinder, gentler place.  But, even my feeble efforts have helped others in a variety of ways--as I hear daily in cards and letters.

Now, I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m bragging.  For, I am not.  I just find it strange and amazing that through doing plain old ordinary stuff--being present when people were hurting, hanging out in waiting rooms, visiting rehab centers and hospitals, sharing doubts and questions, searching for good when evil seems so pressing--wonderful things have happened.

I stand dumb struck to hear and feel how God has used this sinful individual to bring good news to others.  We see it time and time again in Scripture:  King David, the adulterous murderer;  Amos, the simple fig picker from Tekoa;  Isaiah, the man of unclean lips; the impetuous Simon Peter who denied Christ three times in one night; and the Apostle Paul, persecutor of the Church.  All became servants of the one true God.  And even Chuck Fisher with all his baggage of years of hard living, God has used for good service.

Jimmy Steward & "It's a Wonderful Life"

SOURCE:  Guideposts Magazine.  Published December 1987.
KEYWORDS:  Christmas, hopelessness, prayer

In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing were to turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant.  He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously praying for him.  In this agony I raised my eyes and, following the script, pled, “God…God…Dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if You’re up there and You can hear me, show me the way.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Show me the way, God…”

As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears.  I broke down sobbing.  This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.

Frank, who loved spontaneity in his films, was ecstatic.  He wanted a close-up of me saying that prayer, but was sensitive enough to know that my breaking down was real and that repeating it in another take was unlikely.  But Frank got his close-up anyway.

The following week he worked long hours in the film laboratory, again and again enlarging the frames of that scene so that eventually it would appear as a close-up on the screen.  I believe nothing like this had ever been done before.  It involved thousands of individual enlargements with extra time and money.  But he felt it was worth it.

Jimmy Stewart and Church

SOURCE:  Guideposts Magazine.  Published December 1987.
KEYWORDS:  church, Hollywood, father

I remembered how, after I got started in pictures, Dad, who’d come to California for a visit, asked, “Where do you go to church around here?”

“Well,” I stammered, “I haven’t been going…There’s none around here.”

Dad disappeared and came back with four men.  “You must not have looked very hard, Jim,” he said, “because there’s a Presbyterian church just three blocks from here, and these are the elders.  They’re building a new building now, and I told them you were a movie star and you would help them.”  And so Brentwood Presbyterian was the first church I belonged to out here.  Later that church was the one in which Gloria and I were married.  A few years after that it was the same church I’d slip into during the day when Gloria was near death after our twin girls were born.  Then, after we moved, we attended Beverly Hills Presbyterian, a church we could walk to.

NDA BOT: People of the House

SOURCE:   Brian, student at PTS, gave a portion of this speech at the dedication of a new dorm at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2003.
KEYWORDS:  household, family, church

Anyone who has known me for very long--ten minutes or longer--knows that my conversations always turn to Africa.

I am only a Middler at PTS, no older than most other students, but my five years experience as a Presbyterian missionary in Cameroon, Africa, has given me (if not the wisdom) at least the lengthy stories of one well beyond my years.

Most institutions--like PTS and like the mission school I served in Cameroon--have two lives.

There is the life one sees when one visit’s the campus during office hours, the stately buildings, the professional courtesies, the tended lawns.

Then there is the life that goes on during the evenings and weekends, outside the classrooms, among the residents.

We can call the first one the “Administrative Life” of the school, and the second one I can only call the “nda bot.”

“Nda bot” is a term in the Bulu language of Southern Cameroon, and it literally means “housepeople.”

“Nda bot” was the heart of life at my mission school back in Cameroon:  it was the teachers and students who lived at the school in their off hours.

Nda bot is the shared life--behind the scenes--of people whom for whatever reason share a common lot in life.

But whenever the community had an urgent need or joy, when a neighbor was ill or a child was born, when a relative died, the Nda Bot was always there:  singing and praying and serving peanut stew.

Nda Bot meant neighborhood and community in a way that put aside all official rank and privilege

"One Thing

SOURCE:  “The B-Team Report” by Isaac Butterworth.  Connections:  The Newsletter of First Presbyterian Church, Wichita Falls.  April 2004.
KEYWORDS:  priority, purpose, focus, movie

"Do you remember that scene in the movie “City Slickers” where Mitch (played by Billy Crystal) and Curly (played by Jack Palance) are riding along on horseback looking for stray cattle?  Curly, the crusty old cowboy, asks Mitch, the “city slicker,” “Do you know what the secret to life is?”

Mitch replies, “No, what?”

Curly holds up one finger and says, “This.”

“Your finger?”

“One thing,” Curly replies, “just one thing.  You stick to that and everything else don’t mean nothing’.”

Mitch looks back at Curly and says, “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?”

And Curly answers, “That’s what *you* got to figure out.

What's Up With the Ugly Baby?

SOURCE:  "What's Up With the Ugly Baby?" by Mark Moring, posted 03/01/04
KEYWORDS:  evil, devil

"Please explain the symbolism in the scene showing Satan holding a bald baby. Thank you."

That's just one of dozens of e-mails we've received in the last few days, asking about a surreal scene in “The Passion of the Christ” where Satan is shown cradling a hideous baby who looks like he's about 40 years old.

The scene occurs during the flogging of Christ. Satan is passing through a crowd of onlookers, cradling an infant in his arms. The baby turns to face the camera, revealing a sinister infant, creeping out audiences everywhere.

When asked why he portrayed Satan-an androgynous, almost beautiful being played by Rosalinda Celentano-the way he did, Gibson replied: "I believe the Devil is real, but I don't believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail. The devil is smarter than that. Evil is alluring, attractive. It looks almost normal, almost good-but not quite.

"That's what I tried to do with the Devil in the film. The actor's face is symmetric, beautiful in a certain sense, but not completely. For example, we shaved her eyebrows. Then we shot her almost in slow motion so you don't see her blink-that's not normal. We dubbed in a man's voice in Gethsemane even though the actor is a woman … That's what evil is about, taking something that's good and twisting it a little bit."

But what about the ugly baby?

"Again," said Gibson, "it's evil distorting what's good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old 'baby' with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it's almost too much-just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jewish Origins of Superman

SOURCE:  "Supermensch!" by Arie Kaplan. Utne Magazine. January-February 2004, pg 93-4.
KEYWORDS:  superman, jewish, messiah, liberation, golem

The idea of Superman occurred to a teenager named Jerry Siegel one hot summer night in 1933.  He was having trouble falling asleep.  While lying in bed, Siegel thought, “If only I could fly…” and began to envision a character who could fly--a character who was stronger, more courageous, more invincible than he could ever be.  Excited, Jerry hurried to his desk and wrote out in comic strip form the first Superman story; early the next morning he rushed over to the home of his artist friend Joe Shuster to share his idea.  Equally inspired, Joe immediately began to draw a prototype of the character.  Thus was a hero born.

Superman actualized the adolescent power fantasies of its creators--two Jewish, Depression-era kids craving a muscle-bound redeemer to liberate them from the social and economic impoverishment of their lives.  [Others have seen a parallel between Superman and the Golem--the legendary creature magically conceived by the rabbi of medieval Prague to defend the community from an invasion by its anti-Semitic enemies]

The Superman narrative is also rich in Jewish symbolism.  He is a child survivor named Kal-El (in Hebrew, “All that is God”) from the planet of Krypton, whose population, a race of brilliant scientists, is decimated.  His parents send him to Earth in a tiny rocket ship, reminiscent of how baby Moses survived Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Jewish newborn sons.  In the context of the 1930s, the story also reflects the saga of the Kindertransports--the evacuation to safety of hundreds of Jewish children, without their parents, from Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia to Great Britain. 

Angst-ridden adolescent comic fans, Jewish and not, shared Siegel and Shuster’s feelings of helplessness and yearned for a super-savior, a favor that was not lost on the comic-book publishers, who responded with a succession of new superhero creations, many created by Jews--Bob Kane gave us Batman in 1940, and a year later, Jack Kirby unleashed Captain America

Absurdists and the Kingdom of God

SOURCE:  “Activate Your Creativity!” by Jo del Pesco.  Utne Magazine.  January-February 2004, pg 36-7
KEYWORDS:  kingdom of God, absurd, unexpected

The situationists, an iconoclastic group of French leftist theorists, artists, and pranksters active in the late 1950s and 60s, pioneered a critique of capitalism that called not for revolution in some distant future, but imaginative acts of resistance, refusal, and mind-alteration in the present.  Influenced by Dadaaist absurdity and deeply interested in how the routines of everyday life dull our responses to the world, they carried out, among other things, absurd actions that derailed our expectations of how life is supposed to “run.”  In their spirit, here are some amusing, enlightening, and absurd actions, suggested by Twin Cities--based artist and curator Jo del Pesco, to make your day a little stranger--and your life that much less stuck in the grooves of the “way things are supposed to be.”

Flowers to Strangers.
Go through the dumpster of a local flower shop, pull out the flowers that still look okay, and give them to strangers on the street.

Guerrilla Farming
Plant vegetables or flowers on a traffic island in the middle of a street.

Water Closet
Hang a black-light poster in the bathroom of a gas station, and then install a black-light bulb.

Music for Telemarketers
Learn to play a song using the number keys on the telephone.  When a telephone solicitor calls, play it for them.

Hundred Flyers
Stand on the street corner with 100 one dollar bills and try to hand them out as flyers.  Count how many people ignore you.

Mystery Aid
Sneak into a friend’s house and fold the laundry or do the dishes.

Soft Cover
Sew a fabric cover for a local park bench.  Consider padding it like an old toaster cozy

The Power of a Changed Life (Part II)

SOURCE:  "The Power of a Changed Life." Decision Magazine Vol 45, No 1, January 2004. pg 17-9
KEYWORDS:  inner-city, violence, grace, wisdom

Q: Your childhood was spent in a seriously deprived and difficult inner-city environment, yet you wound up attending Yale University.  That’s quite an accomplishment.

A:  I grew up in both Detroit and Boston.  It wasn’t a particularly pleasant situation.  There was never money for anything.  There were rats and roaches; sirens and gangs--particularly in Boston, when we lived right in the middle of the tenements.  Seeing people lying on the ground or dying was not uncommon.  Two of my cousins were killed.  I didn’t anticipate that I would live beyond the age of 25.

When I was 14, I tried to stab another youngster.  My knife blade struck his belt buckle and broke.  I locked myself in the bathroom and thought about that.  That day I started reading the Book of Proverbs, and I prayed a lot.  The Lord took my anger away from me, and I also began to gather insight into who God is and into the incredible power one could have from Him.  I had accepted Christ when I was eight years old  at a church service, but at that point I realized that by developing the potential that God had given me, I could live in any kind of environment and do anything.  The Lord had put that within me, as He puts it within each of us.

The Power of a Changed Life (Part 1)

SOURCE:  "The Power of a Changed Life." Decision Magazine Vol 45, No 1, January 2004. pg 17-9
KEYWORDS:  stress, identity, God in control

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson has been director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, since 1984...

Q:  How do you keep your composure and sense that God is in control when faced with the enormous difficulties you encounter as a neurosurgeon?

A:  It’s easy for me because every sing day I am dealing with complex things.  I realize that disaster is just around the corner almost all the time.  I think that’s probably one of the reasons that neurosurgeons die early. The average age of death for a neurosurgeon is 59. You are dealing with stress as stressful because God gets all the credit for all the good things, but He also is in control when bad things happen. The only thing He requires of me is that I do my best.  That’s all I have to do, and recognizing that takes an awful lot of stress off of me.

Q:  How do you integrate your faith with your work?

A: I start out every day with my own personal devotional time of praying, reading the Bible and contemplating.  I just try to keep God on my mind in everything I do.  I tell myself, “You are a Christian, and you represent Christ.”  This means everything that comes out of my mouth and every action I do must be affirming and positive to people.  I try to keep it that way no matter what is going on and no matter what anyone is doing.

Mister Rogers and the Pacifier

SOURCE:  Presbyterian Media Mission.  “Presbyterian Media Mission Remembers TV's Fred Rogers.”  PCUSA NEWS.   February 27, 2003
KEYWORDS:  Mister Rogers, pacifier, important, lost, found

PITTSBURGH - TV's most beloved children's program host and producer was ordained in 1962 by Pittsburgh Presbytery for The Rev. Fred Rogers to minister to children and their families through the medium of television. He graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963.

"He not only served as a neighbor and friend to viewers but was held in great esteem by many members of the Presbyterian Church and a variety of folks in the television industry," said The Rev. Jim Mead, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery and PMM Board member.

In 2000, Rogers was honored by the Religion Communicators Council who presented Rogers a Lifetime Wilbur Award in supporting religious values in the public media. The Rev. Dennis C. Benson accepted on Fred's behalf the Wilbur Award with these words that capture the essence of Mr. Roger's ministry . . . "A friend was recently walking down the street in Pittsburgh with Fred Rogers. Fred suddenly stopped and picked up an infants pacifier on the sidewalk. He said, 'Someone lost something very important.' He walked up to a nearby house and knocked on the door. When a woman answered the door, Fred asked, 'Did someone here lose this?' She said, 'Why yes. Thank you.' So on behalf of the children of America, and the child in each of us, thank you for honoring Fred Rogers.

Mister Rogers and Dr. William Orr

SOURCE:  Zoba, Wendy.  “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  Christianity Today.  March 6, 2000
KEYWORDS:  coat, Martin Luther, fortress, forgiveness, love, Mister Rogers, Pittsburgh

[At Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA] Mister Rogers studied systematic theology with Dr. William S. Orr. "From then on I took everything he offered; it could have been underwater basket weaving.

"He was a great influence on many of our lives. Not just because he was brilliant," he says. "He was the kind of person who would go out on a winter's day for lunch and come back without his overcoat.

"I studied Greek with him and then I studied New Testament with him. Every Sunday, my wife and I used to go to the nursing home to visit him. One Sunday we had just sung 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God' and I was full of this one verse. I said, 'Dr. Orr, we just sang this hymn and I've got to ask you about part of it.

"'You know where it says-The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. For, lo, his doom is sure …. one little word will fell him? Dr. Orr, what is that one thing that would wipe out evil?'

"He said, 'Evil simply disintegrates in the presence of forgiveness. When you look with accusing eyes at your neighbor, that is what evil would want, because the more the accuser'-which, of course, is the word Satan in Hebrew-'can spread the accusing spirit, the greater evil spreads.' Dr. Orr said, 'On the other hand, if you can look with the eyes of the Advocate on your neighbor, those are the eyes of Jesus.'

"I've never forgotten that."

Parable of the Ten Virgins

SOURCE:  Barclay Commentary on Matthew
SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 25:1-13
KEYWORDS:  poem, too late, oil, lamp, virgins

Poem by Tennyson...

"Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

No light had we; for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
O let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
O let us in, tho' late, to kiss his feet!
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now."

How do you identify yourself?

SOURCE:  "Revolution" by George Barna, pg 88, Barnabooks.
KEYWORDS:  identity, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20

"In his book, "Revolution", Pollster George Barna says one of the reasons the church has so little influence on the world today is that most believers do not understand their true identity in Jesus. Barna says, "Our research indicates that churchgoers are more likely to see themselves as Americans, consumers, professionals, parents, and unique individuals than zealous disciples of Jesus Christ. Until that image is reoriented, churches will not have the capacity to change their world."


SOURCE: (Baptist Press), "Hondurans give $18,000 to Hispanic church hit by Katrina," October 21, 2005.
KEYWORDS:  generosity, 2 Corinthians 1:4

"Seven years ago, the Good Shepherd Hispanic Baptist Church in Metairie, Louisiana showed compassion to fellow believers in Honduras who were suffering after a hit from Hurricane Mitch. The people at Good Shepherd sent twelve containers of food and clothing to an evangelical church and a Baptist church in Honduras in 1998 to meet the needs left by the storm. When Hurricane Katrina hit Good Shepherd hard this summer, they were surprised when both Honduran churches returned the favor by helping them.

Though the people of the Honduran Baptist Church were poor people who worked in the local marketplace, they sent their pastor a love offering of $1,000 to help their American friends. The other church from Honduras sent their pastor and five workmen along with a gift of $17,000 to help Good Shepherd. The men helped in cleanup efforts, and cooked a chicken dinner for a celebration service attended by more than 450 people.

The Pastor of Good Shepherd Church, Gonzalo Rodriguez said Good Shepherd never expected the Honduran churches would remember what they did seven years ago and decide to come and help. He said, "What makes a difference is that Honduras is what we consider a country of the third world. They are very poor people and we never expected they would come here to help us."

Rodriguez is thankful for the gifts and admits Good Shepherd will struggle for some time because most of their congregation was scattered by the storm and have not returned. He hopes the church can reach out to other Hispanics in the community during this opportune time. He added, "We need to organize an evangelistic team because there are lots of needs among all the people without a place to stay, and we need the wisdom to see how we can help these people."

Battle for Your Worship

SOURCE:  "The Air I Breath: Worship As a Way of Life" by Louie Giglio; pg 30
KEYWORDS:  worship, idolatry

In his book, "The Air I Breath: Worship As a Way of Life", Louie Giglio writes, "Worship also matters because every day there's a battle for your worship.

The things we elevate. The values we serve. None of those choices are made in a vacuum. There's a war raging for our worship, and it's been raging since before there was time.

Even before the earth was formed, one of God's highest angels bolted from His presence, refusing to join the ranks of the true worshipers, refusing to exalt God above all. The account records that in a flash Satan fell like lightning from heaven. Exalting himself more than God, Satan was banned from His presence."


SOURCE:  http://www.mnnonline (Mission Network News), "Foot washing teams share the Gospel in Zambia," October 10, 2005.
KEYWORDS:  footwashing, servanthood, John 13:14-15

A Teen Missions International team recently learned there was more to caring for the needy than just collecting and distributing shoes and socks. The group of teens traveled to Zambia with nothing more than backpack for their personal belongings and a duffle bag full of shoes and socks to distribute to AIDS orphans in the region. When they arrived, they used puppets to share the gospel and helped the children learn to read. Most of the African Children had never owned a pair of shoes in their life. This presented the mission team with a unique opportunity.

Before they could be fitted with shoes, the orphan's feet had to be treated because many had sores and worm infestations. The Teen Missions group displayed genuine servanthood by washing the feet of the children and then putting socks and shoes on for them. President of Teen Mission International, Bob Bland says the Foot Washing Ministry was a first. The team distributed 6,000 pairs of socks and 2,400 pairs of shoes in Jesus' name. He said, "We had hundreds of young people that accepted Christ as their personal Savior." Teen Missions is planning similar outreaches next year, and has already begun to collect shoes.

Picking a Name

SOURCE:  Albuquerque Journal, Mark Magnier, (Los Angeles Times), Mongolians Look to History for Surnames, October 24, 2004. Quoted by
KEYWORDS:  identity, Galatians 2:20

A government initiative in the nation of Mongolia is causing many residents to reconsider their identity. For a long time, Mongolians identified themselves using only first names. In an isolated nomadic culture, that method of identification worked well. Officials are asking people to add a surname now to avoid confusion in an increasingly modern society. The plan is to help people delve into their clan histories and discover how they are related.

Surnames became a bigger issue recently when the government introduced a new identity card. More than 90 percent of the nation's 2.5 million people have adopted surnames. Some have chosen names reflecting their personalities or interests. One school principal chose the surname "Nomad" because of his wandering spirit. The nation's defense minister chose the last name "Cosmos" because he was the only Mongolian to venture into space. The most popular surname is Borjigin, the clan of legendary
Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan. For those having difficulty choosing a new identity Serjee, a Mongolian linguist and director of the State Central Library of Mongolia, suggests residents look for local histories that might reveal a family or clan name. Serjee says most original Mongolian surnames were bestowed by neighbors in the village and might not be very desirable. Instead Seejee suggests adopting a clan name specific to a person's area, profession or hometown. He says a nickname or something unique about a person's lifestyle also works. Serjee adds, "Be imaginative, be brave. Make up your own name. They may be new now, but in 50 years they'll be old."

Names are an important component of our identities. When we accept Christ, we are given a new name-we're called "Christians." Now we bear the name of our Lord and have a new identity. One that should guide our conduct.

God as Judo Master


"Chad Hall, lead Pastor of Connection Church in Hickory, North Carolina says, "We believe glimpses of God can be found in culture, even those parts that are seemingly opposed to him. We envision God as similar to a great judo master, one who uses the opponent's energy to his own advantage."

--Leadership Journal, Fall 2004, p. 42

It is one thing for a church to be culturally relevant, but quite another to leverage culture for the gospel's advantage. Or to put it the way Hall does, to use the opponent's energy to our advantage. The goal is not to get the culture as a whole to act more like Christians, or to get the church to act more like the culture as a whole, rather it is to use whatever means necessary to proclaim the gospel so that people may be radically transformed by the gospel.

Romans 1:16 (NIV) "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Humility Consider Others Better than Yourselves

SOURCE: "Barn Dance" by Glenn Q. Bannerman.  Presbyterian News Service, December 17, 2010.
KEYWORDS: incarnation, humility,
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2

During a conference, participants had arrived for an old fashioned Montreat-style barn dance. The bleachers were full and the floor was comfortably crowded. As the Stoney Creek Boys played good mountain dance music, everyone danced the figures with ease and all were enjoying the company of friends and conferees.
As the caller, I decided to do a trio dance called the Black Mountain trio in which trios are facing trios. The instructions were given and the dance was about to begin, when two little boys came forth and said, “Mister, we want to dance.”

So I asked for one person to come and dance with the little boys to make the trio.  To my surprise, out of the more than 100 conferees on the side lines, no one came forth. I asked several times, with no response, and then out of desperation, I asked, “Is there a Christian in the house who could dance with these two boys?”
Still, no one came forth. To keep the many dancers on the floor from waiting any longer, I was about to say to the little fellows, “Just pretend that you have a third person.”

Then, at the far end of the barn, I saw folks moving out of the way and, to my surprise, a gentleman in a wheel-chair came rolling across the floor toward the little boys. He rolled up between the two fellows, held out his hands and made the trio complete.

I worried about how the whole dance sequence would work with the new trio’s having to move around the dance floor, but then somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that Scripture has something to say about our being led by children.

At that point, I relaxed and called the figures and to my amazement the participants danced as if there wasn’t a wheel-chair on the floor. It was beautiful to see the graceful movement of the dancers on the floor. At the end of the dance, the two young boys hugged their partner with huge grins on their faces.

I, of course, recognized the man in the wheel chair because he was the keynote speaker for the conference and that year’s moderator of the General Assembly — Howard Rice.

As we talked after the dance, Howard said he was embarrassed that no one came forth as partners for the two young fellows.  He said, “After you asked for ‘a Christian’ and still no one came forth, as keynote speaker of the conference, I could do no other than come forth in order that the young boys wouldn’t have to pretend that there was a third person to dance with them.”

Even though I have had many wonderful experiences seeing Scripture being fulfilled instantaneously while leading recreation, this has been a highlight of my recreation ministry. The same Jesus who came alive in a barn for the shepherds and townspeople of Bethlehem that first Christmas came alive for those two boys that night in a barn at Montreat in the form of Howard Rice.

At the close of the evening one conferee remarked to me that my style of barn-dancing just isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea.” I recognize that.

But when there is an obvious need, it seems to me that this is a time for self-giving so that others may enjoy life. Mary and Joseph didn’t want to be in that barn and Jesus didn’t want to go to the Cross, but they did it for you and me. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Someone Who Cares

SOURCE: "New Smartphone App Pretends to be Your Girlfriend" Reuters, December 14, 2010.

KEYWORDS: lonely, community, friendship, marriage, unity

Stressed out South Korean men without time to date can now at least pretend they have a girlfriend, albeit on their smartphone.

Launched on November 30 by Nabix, a South Korean developer, the iPhone application "Honey it's me!" is warming lonely hearts with the voice of "Mina," a 20-something virtual woman.

For $1.99, Mina will make video-calls four times a day, showering subscribers with a message of bliss from 100 available. With recorded messages such as "good night, sweet dreams," Nabix said it would help subscribers feel someone cares for them and is consistently thinking of them.

According to Nabix, the application was downloaded 80,000 times on the first day alone.
An Android operating system version is expected to be launched this week and Nabix plans to provide the service in other languages, including Japanese.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



"I have often wondered that persons who boast of professing the Christian religion -- namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity -- should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily toward one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith."

Baruch Spinoza (17th Century)
(quoted in Douglas Moo's The Letter of James )

"A Christmas Carol" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

SOURCE:  "A Christmas Carol" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Reposted at

The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother’s song the Virgin-Mother sung.

They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng,
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a mother’s song,
Blest Angels heralded the Saviour’s birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.

She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she pressed;
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
The milk rushed faster to her breast:
Joy rose within her, like a summer’s morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music’s loudest note, the Poet’s story, —
Didst thou ne’er love to hear of fame and glory?

And is not War a youthful king,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth’s majestic monarchs hail
Their friend, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden’s love-confessing sigh.

“Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state!
I am a woman poor and mean,
And therefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the ag├ęd father tears his child!

A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow’s toil had won;
Plunders God’s world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.

Then wisely is my soul elate,
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I’m poor and of a low estate,
The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer’s morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.”

We Believe in the Resurrection

SOURCE: "We believe in the resurrection" by Joel McClure. (I received this via e-mail. I believe it was found in Generate Magazine.)

KEYWORDS: Easter, hope, purpose, difference

We believe in the resurrection, by Joel McClure

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We don't just believe that the resurrection happened. We don't just believe things about the resurrection of Jesus. We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.

In a world where it appears that death wins, where violence, murder, disease, and terrorists might cause us to fear and lose heart, we say that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. We say that there is a power beyond our understanding that is able to give life back to those who've lost it. And not metaphorical life, but real, actual, fish-eating, hand-touching, word-speaking, bread-breaking, sitting down at the table life.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. In a world that teaches and trains us to protect and secure ourselves, we say there is a power at work now in this world that exposes the fragility and short-sightedness of such so-called securities, and offers, no, promises and has proven the ability to deliver us through, not merely from, danger and death.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. And so we refuse to accommodate ourselves to the fear, despair, and cynicism all around us. We choose, instead, to give words and expression to the groaning of the creation. We say that a new day has begun, and the darkness all around us will find no more safe quarter, for the light of life has dawned. Death's teeth have been pulled; it holds no threat any longer.

So we live our lives with abandon. We stand up for and alongside those who are most at risk, and we say in word and in action that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. God has begun His good revolution, and change is on the way. Oppression, violence, deception, rejection, selfishness, apathy, brutality, manipulation, malice, murder, hatred and all their kind are living on borrowed time.

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. So we refuse to be seduced or coerced into sharing in the behavior of that which will be removed and replaced. Instead, we love rather than hate, we share rather than steal, we give rather than take, we show kindness rather than brutality, we tell the truth rather than deceive, we hope rather than despair, we believe rather than doubt, we help rather than oppress, we heal rather than destroy, we embrace rather than strike, we lose rather than win at any cost. Because we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Moral Examples

SOURCE:  Bennett, William. “Teaching the Virtues.” Imprimis 32.2 (Febrary 2003).
KEYWORDS: sacrifice, moral example, invisible, remember, follow

You have probably seen Mrs. Beamer on television—Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer, who was one of the heroes on Flight 93. She has said that her children will look at the picture of her husband every day, and that she will tell them daily that he is a hero and they are to try to be like him.

This reminded of a statistic I uncovered in a book that I wrote on the American family a few years back. We all know, based on countless studies as well as common sense, that if you want to raise happy and successful children, the best fomrula is a two-parent family…But the statistic I discovered when writing my book was that children who lose a father in the line of duty—because the father is a police officer or a soldier for example—are indistinguishable from children who grow up in intact two-parent families. Why is that? It is because the moral example doesn’t have to be there physically. It can be in the mind and in the heart. As a result of Lisa Beamer saying. “Be like him,” then, Todd Beamer will be in the minds and hearts of his kids.

This illustrates one of my favorite themes: the importance of things we can’t see, of non-material things. Moral examples can exist in the memory of a father or in the memory of the Founding Fathers or in the memory of any of the marvelous heroes in the long history of humankind. The historian Tacitus wrote, “The task of history is to hold our for rebrobation every evil word and deed, and to hold out for praise every great and noble word and deed.” So we don’t need courses in values. We need good courses in history.

Alone with the Silence

SOURCE:  Shahin, Jim. “Takings and Leavings.” American Way. March 1, 2003.
KEYWORDS:  silence, noise, 

Was I upset when my car stereo was stolen? I suppose you could say so…At first, I blamed the victim, i.e., me. Around here, we park on the street and I hadn’t locked my doors…But then I rationalized that not locking my doors was a good thing. If they want your radio, ready or not, here they’ll come. At least my windows were intact…Later, as I drove around town, it occurred to me that maybe the vandal did me a favor.

I hate the radio.

I obsessively search the dial for something to listen to. There’s Britany and classic rock…and “soft rock” and plodding anger-drenched heavy metal and insipid pop country and easy listening (which is anything but) and watered-down hip-hop and morning deejays who mistake obnoxiousness for humor. There are apoplectic talk-radio political commentators who might blow a synapse right through your dashboard. There are fund drives and commercials and hucksters of every stripe.

Considering I would no longer be subjecting myself to any of that, the theft was actually a sort of liberation…So, in a way, I should actually thank the thief. In my car-cocooned solitude, not having the distraction of all that noise would give me the opportunity to listen to my own thoughts. The problem is, I discovered after only a few short trips around town, that I don’t have any thoughts.

War and our Fallen Nature

SOURCE:  Hanson, Victor Davis. “Old Books in the New World.” Weekly Standard. March 4, 2002.
(A review of The Culture of Classicism by Winterer)
KEYWORDS:  war, peace, discouragement, wisdom, tragedy

In the days since September 11, my own classics students have cited Plato’s “Peace is only a parenthesis,” and Heraclitus’ “War is the father of all things.” Meanwhile, PhDs in counseling and sociology have been holding rallies to decry this apparently inexplicably barbarous lapse of education and maturity on the part of the United States in its decision to go to war. Classics seems to have the strange effect of making its twenty-year-old students wise beyond their years.

Indeed, we didn’t fail to foresee the attacks from the Middle East because too few Americans are acquainted with peace studies, multiculturalism, and various therapeutic theories that emanate daily from the university. Rather, our puzzlement at someone who hates us so in 2002 arises from our knowing so little of the unchanging nature of man and politics. An hour with Thucydides—whether reading of the great debate at Sparta, the stasis at Corcyra, the Melian Dialogue, or the argument over going to Syracuse—might have warned us that people attack others over their “fear, honor, and self-interest.”

Faithful Interpretation and the Church

SOURCE:  by Mark Achtemeier, overheard.
KEYWORD:  bible, scripture, interpretation, church

"Ireanaeus of Lyons noted the problem of multiple readings of Scripture in the second century. He compared biblical interpretation practiced by the heretics of his day to a person who takes apart a mosaic of the emperor and reassembles the colored stones so as now to depict a dog. The raw materials are all from an authentic source, says Irenaeus, but their arrangement and interrelations communicate a vastly different message!

The heretics and the true church both quote Scripture, but the church knows how to arrange the pieces of the biblical witness into a faithful portrait."

--Mark Achtemeier

Knowing Where to Tap

SOURCE:  overheard
KEYWORDS:  wisdom, knowledge, tools

A railroad company was having some serious difficulties with a specific diesel engine. No matter how the workers tried, they could not get the engine started. At last, they called an expert on diesel locomotives. Hearrived and examined the engine. He then produced a small hammer. He lightly tapped the engine with the hammer. The engine sprang into life. He later sent the company a bill for $1000. The company asked the expert for an itemized bill. He sent the following: For tapping the engine with a hammer, $10; For knowing where to tap the engine, $990.

Hospitality on September 11

SOURCE: Debra Gordon in Family Circle.“Strength in Numbers.”  Readers Digest.  September 2002
KEYWORDS: hospitality, unity, kindness, outreach, gratitude

On September 11, Lloyd George was ending a Salvation Army meeting in Lewisporte, Newfoundland when his cell phone rang.  Hanging up, he told his committee:  “There’s been an emergency in the States.  They need our town.”  Thirty-eight U.S.-bound planes with 6595 passengers and crew had been diverted to a nearby airport.

Lewisporte (pop 4000) threw open its schools, churches and social clubs to take as many as they could.  Mayor Bill Hooper had all the temporary shelters wired with extra phone lines and cable TV.  Townspeople delivered bedding, underwear and pajamas, and served hot meals three times a day.  Doctors and nurses went on 24-hour call; pharmacies filled prescriptions for free.  In the evening, the Newfoundlanders entertained their guests with folk songs, poems, karaoke.

Recalls one passenger, “Short of being home, we were in the best place I can imagine at a terrible time.  We felt safe, cared for, welcomed.”

When flights finally began ferrying people home, grateful passengers pledged to start a college fund for Lewisporte students.  By July 2002 the figure had reached $50,000.

United We Stand

SOURCE:  by Kevin Sack in The New York Times. “Strength in Numbers.”  Readers Digest.  September 2002
KEYWORDS: offering, gratitude, help, thanksgiving, unity, communion
In 1867, two years after South Carolina was devastated by fire at the close of the Civil War, a group of New York City firemen made a magnanimous peace offering.  They shipped a state-of-the-art hose carriage to Columbia.  When it sank in a shipwreck off the Outer Banks, they raised $2500 for another.

The Southerners were touched by the gesture and promised to return the favor should similar misfortune ever strike New York. After the devastating attacks of September 11 some 135 years later, that day has come. Lead by a brigade of schoolchildren, Columbia raised $525,000 to buy a fire engine for New York.

White Knoll Middle School principal Nancy L. Turner conceived the idea and was spurred on by Columbia’s fire chief John D. Jansen, Jr., a New York City native, who told her of the 1867 gift.  As word of the campaign spread, unsolicited contributions poured in.

Today, as in 1867, a gift may narrow regional differences.  According to Turner, since 9/11 even prideful Southerners have come to see New York as the capital of the American heart.