Sunday, December 23, 2012

Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar

KEYWORD:  neighbor, love, sacrifice, Schindler, life, death, salvation, rescue

During WW II, Irena Sendler, got permission to work tn the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.  She had an ulterior motive:

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German).  Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of her tool box she carried, and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids). She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

Over the course of time, she managed to smuggle out and save 2,500 kids/infants.  She was caught, and the Nazis broke both her legs and arms, and they beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out, and put them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.  After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived in order to reunite the families.  Most of course had been gassed in the concentration camps.  For the children without parents she helped find families to foster or adopt the children.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where is the gold?

Quoted by Napoleon Hill...

"More gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth."

Friday, August 31, 2012

Christian Friendship and Socialization

SOURCE:  "No Divine Life Without a Social Life" by Joe Tremblay, Catholic News Agency.  August 31, 2012.
KEYWORDS:  community, fellowship, friend, love, unity,

For instance, in the first half of the 20th century the prevailing attitude was that children were to be seen and not heard. There were some advantages to this, especially when it came to discipline and order. However, this kind of authoritarianism was unable to withstand the cultural upsurge of Rock & Roll in the 1950’s coupled with the Sexual Revolution that followed a decade later. These two pop-culture movements- very much intertwined –appealed to the imagination of the youth. In many respects, the young Baby Boom generation at the time- shaped by the entertainment industry -became a rival subculture of Christianity with its own beliefs and language. Unlike today, the Catholic Church did not have an answer for it. She could not offer an alternative culture for youth. None existed.

Although Catholic education was good in terms of doctrinal memorization, religious practice had become perfunctory in some quarters of the Church. For many families, Catholicism has been an institutional affair; a commitment of one hour a week, if that. It is no wonder, then, that when the children came of age and went away to college, they lost their faith. It was as if the youth had rebelled against a religion which demanded so much of them in terms of morality but required so little of their time in terms of prayer, worship and social support. The incentive and strength simply wasn’t there to live out the life of Christ. Indeed, when Catholicism is reduced to a once a week ritual and thus ceases to be a 24/7 lifestyle, it ends up being displaced by something that is more complete and comprehensive.

What the Church is relearning is that the Faith is best transmitted from one generation to the next, not only through education and the initiation into the Sacraments, but through a Catholic social life as well. This latter component is vital. Indeed, friends that are rooted in a mutual love for Christ are one of the greatest gifts the Lord can bestow upon us. They run deep and can last forever. The more Christian friends we have, the more likely we are to remain firmly rooted in the Faith.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


SOURCE:  Magnetic Church Conference by Andrew Weeks

Lord, I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am your disciple. I won't look back, let up, bow down, back away, or be still. I am finished with low-living, sight-walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of despair, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stored up, prayed up and preached up for the cause of Christ. Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Prayer of an African Christian

SOURCE:  From Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Walking with Africans, p. 23. Translated by Mary B. Crawford.

O God:
Enlarge my heart
     that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.
Stretch my heart
     that it may take into it all those who with me around the world believe in Jesus Christ.
Stretch it
     that it may take into it all those who do not know him, but who are my responsibility because I know him.
And stretch it
     that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes, and whose hands I do not want to touch;
through Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hearing Only the Critics

SOURCE:  from an article by Brian Hiatt in the Rolling Stone.  Quoted by David Collins.
KEYWORDS:  sin, criticism, image of God, 

There was a story about Larry David (one of the funniest men alive) in Rolling Stone a while back.

In it, Brian Hiatt writes,
 “One night during his stay (in New York), David went to Yankee Stadium to see a game. His image went up on the big screen as Curb Your Enthusiasm’s theme song played over the big speakers. An entire stadium of fans stood and cheered for the hopeless case from Brooklyn. It should have been a life-defining moment, the redemptive final scene in the biopic. But as it turned out, not so much. As David left the stadium, a guy drove by and yelled, “Larry, you suck!” “That’s like, literally all he heard,” Berg (David’s friend) says.
David spent the ride back from the Bronx obsessing over that moment, running it over and over in his mind. It was as if the other 50,000 people, the ones who loved him, didn’t exist. “Who’s that guy? What was that?” He asked. “Who would do that? Why would you say something like that?”
I like that story. It has a lot to say about how we listen to our critics, but not our fans. (God being our biggest fan, after all)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Grace and Gratitude

KEYWORDS:  compassion, love, abuse, grace, gratitude, redeemed,

In 2003, police in Warwickshire , England , opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. The dog had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had quite clearly been abused.

In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a female greyhound, to the Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, which is run by a man named Geoff Grewcock, and known as a haven for animals abandoned, orphaned, or otherwise in need.

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims: to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved. They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.
Jasmine, however, had other ideas. No one quite remembers how it came about, but Jasmine started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It would not matter if it were a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting animal. Jasmine would just peer into the box or cage and, when and where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Sharing Christ

SOURCE:  "Sharing Christ" by David Gambrell.
KEYWORDS:  fellowship, communion, persecution, freedom

On Monday I heard a fascinating interview with Professor Fenggang Yang of Purdue University about the surprising wave of conversions to Christianity that took place in China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. In part of the interview, he was talking about a specific kind of Bible study that has sprung up at McDonald's restaurants in China. People move from table to table learning about the gospel, and finally how to share it with others.

The reason they meet at McDonald's has to do with government restrictions on religious activity—it can only take place on the grounds of church property, and presumably these groups don't have a building. But they've discovered that if you buy a meal at McDonald's you "own" the table for as long as you're sitting there. The government has since discovered this and cracked down, and the people have signed documents saying, okay, we promise not to go to that McDonald's (now we'll go to a different one).

And this has me wondering ... is there a sense in which these gatherings are "eucharistic" meals?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Holy Spirit

SOURCE:  "The Holy Spirit" by M. Catherine Day.  From her May 2012 Newsletter, reprinted in an e-mail from the Foundation for Reformed Theology.
KEYWORDS:  pentecost, holy spirit, trinity, acts 2,

Dear Friends and family,

Pentecost greetings from the Warm Heart of Africa.

This Pentecost weekend I had a conversation with a Malawian friend that gave me a whole new insight into the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He was telling me about his early life in a village in Nkhata Bay, in the central region. The economy was bad and a number of the men from the village went to South Africa and Zambia to work. After they had earned money over a number of years, they came back to the village to provide for their families. They were expected to provide the material needs not just for their wives and children but for their nieces and nephews, for aunts and uncles, for all the extended family. And they did so. They knew what was expected of them. Because they had lived away from the village and had seen other ways of life, they were regarded as wiser than the rest of the villagers. They were called upon to settle disputes within their extended families. People from the village came to them for counsel. They were expected to advise the younger members of the family in issues they were facing. They were sought out when decisions needed to be made in the family and in the village. My friend said that no one ever asked them about their lives away from the village or what they had done to earn the money to support so many people. The villagers just looked upon them as provides and as wise men. They were called "nkhoswe." That is a Chichewa term that means comforter, mediator, advocate, counselor/advisor, intermediary, or witness. All of these meaning applied to the one who came back and cared for the physical and emotional needs of the village family.

Today in wedding ceremonies here, nkhoswe are those who stand, one with the bride and one with the groom, as the couple says their marriage vows. These individuals are expected to stand by the couple throughout their married lives, to be there to give advice and to help settle any disputes that might arise in the marriage. They are the advocates for the bride or the groom, and the counselor to both.

Interestingly, the Chichewa translation of the Bible uses nkhoswe in John 14:16 in describing the Holy Spirit. The Chichewa says that the Father will send Nkhoswe to you. In English we translate that Counselor. That has a limited meaning. But Nkhoswe carries so much more of who the Spirit is in our lives of faith. I found that description of the Holy Spirit refreshing and encouraging as I thought about the role of Nkhoswe in this society.. It helped me to think afresh on the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I see it in the lives of my Malawian friends who live more clearly in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit at work in everyday activities as well as in the big events of life. They understand that they have a powerful Nkhoswe in the Holy Spirit.

My prayer for you this Pentecost is that you will know the power and presence of the Nkhoswe in your own life. Pray that we may all live in the power of the Holy Spirit in all that we do.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Love of a Mother

KEYWORD:  help, busy, care, silence, love

  An exhausted young mother dragged herself to the telephone when it rang and listened with relief to the kindly voice on the other end. “How are you, Sweetheart? What kind of day are you having?”
  “Oh, Mother,” said the woman, “I’m having such a bad day. The baby won’t eat, the washing machine broke down, the house is a mess, we’re having two couples over for dinner tonight and I haven’t had a chance to go shopping yet. And to top it off, I just sprained my ankle.”
  The mother was overwhelmed with sympathy. “Oh, Honey,” she said, “sit down, relax and just close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll do the shopping, clean the house and cook your dinner for you. I’ll feed the baby, and I’ll call a repairman to fix the washing machine. Now stop crying. I’ll do everything. In fact, I’ll even call Sean at the office and ask him to come home and help out.”
  “Sean?” said the housewife. “Who’s Sean?”
  “Why, Sean, your husband, of course!”
  “You mean Jim, don’t you? You’ll call Jim at the store.”
  “Isn’t this Julie?”
  “Sean? ”No, it’s Tiffany.”
  “Oh,” said the kindly person, “I must have dialed the wrong number. I’m sorry.”
  There was a long silence. Then the desperate young homemaker asked, “Does this mean you’re not coming over?”

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Your Expectations be Frustrated

SOURCE:  "You are the Chief Sinner of Your Church" by J. R. Briggs.  Thriving Pastor Connection.  April 30, 2012.

KEYWORDS:  Last, First, Focus, Intentional

Author Henri Nouwen's mentor, Jean Vanier—who founded the L'Arch Communities for those with mental and physically handicaps and disabilities—gave this benediction blessing over Nouwen at his ordination service:

  May all your expectations be frustrated.
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desires be withered into nothingness
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Approaching the True Majesty of God

SOURCE:  "Remarks at Morning Prayers" by Michael Zuckerman.
KEYWORDS: friendship, support, community, communion
SCRIPTURE:  Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

The story is my own story, and it begins with a 13-year-old kid who's pretty angry at the world, who's lost his father just a year before and who has started spending his time outside of school in less than productive ways. Actually, you'd have to call them criminal ways.

And eventually, without getting into any of the details here in a place of worship, it leads to this 13-year-old kid having to do community service after school. And this kid is still pretty angry at the world, he's not so optimistic about the future, he feels knocked down and he feels knocked out.

But this kid has a friend—actually he has a few friends. Thanks to one of the friends—and the friend's mom—he gets set up with this terrific community service partnership between two local organizations, a program that's going to have him doing art projects and mentoring every week with homeless children who live in the strip motels on Route 1 outside Trenton, NJ.

And another friend—who didn't get in trouble and didn't have to do the community service in the first place—tells him, completely unprompted, that he's going to start volunteering alongside him, that he's going to accompany him every week, to spend hours with these younger kids on these art projects, just so he doesn't have to go it alone.

And that's what the friend does, and every week they meet up and walk into town together, where they're doing the art projects with the homeless children, and before long it's the highlight of the week and something they find themselves looking forward to.

And actually those friends are in the pews this morning—Eddie, whose mom helped found the community service program, and Dimitri who volunteered alongside every week—and that experience ends up being such a transformational one for everyone involved—including the 13-year-old kid, who I can now start referring to as myself, because this is the point in the story where I start to fully recognize him again—that it lifted all of us up. It lifted me up, lifted my friend up, hopefully lifted the kids living in the motels up, and lifted us all up, I think, to be helping lift each other up.

And what this story has to do with faith is simply this:

That one of the great mysteries of faith—one of the great joys of faith for many of us here who love the life of the mind—is the effort to try to conceive of the inconceivable, to try to comprehend the incomprehensible, to try to summon up the unsummonable, which is the majesty of God Almighty.

And although we know that we, in this City of Man, are still restricted to seeing only through a glass darkly, for my money, when we think of what God is, of what it is we can do to be most like God, it's not to try to seize the commanding heights of societal power and influence, or to try to decipher the formulas of the cosmos, or to try to engineer the scientific mechanisms of life and death.

In all those things, we are pretty poor imitators of the God who made this universe with its crashing waves and roaring winds and animals that graze the fields and man himself, whom God is so mindful of (Psalm 8:4) for reasons that pass understanding.

For my money, it is these simple acts of friendship, this walking alongside one another that we hear of in Ecclesiastes, in which we most approach the true majesty of God, in which we come closest to being vessels of His grace...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chimps and Religion

SOURCE:  "Interview:  Why Jane Goodall Thinks Chimps Have Souls" by Steven Greydanus.  Christianity Today; 4/20/2012.

What are other aspects of human uniqueness, besides than our intelligence?

Tied in with intelligence, we've developed and been able to elaborate on cultural acquisition of behavior. Chimps definitely have their own kind of primitive culture, but we live by our culture, we talk about it, children are taught how to model behavior. Our whole lives are bound by our culture, really. So even though we're reaching out to understand other cultures, nevertheless it's our language that's enabling us to do that.

What makes us special? People say maybe we have a soul and chimpanzees don't. I feel that it's quite possible that if we have souls, chimpanzees have souls as well.  Other people say, "What about religious behavior? Do chimps show any signs of that? In Gombe [Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park, where Goodall did much of her research], there are fantastic waterfalls where the water drops eighty feet through a natural gorge. There's a wind caused by the displacement of air with the dropping water, and ferns waving and vines hanging down. And this spectacle causes what we call an incredible "waterfall dance." The chimpanzees will sway rhythmically from foot to foot, and sometimes sit and look at the waterfall.
That makes me feel that if the chimpanzees could speak, if they could share the behavior that makes them perform these displays, which I think must be related to awe and wonder, that could lead to one of those early animistic religions where people worship water and sun and elements they can't understand.

Do you think that in doing so, chimpanzees—and humans in their religious behavior—apprehend something real?

Well, that's what different people think different things about, isn't it? From my perspective, I absolutely believe in a greater spiritual power, far greater than I am, from which I have derived strength in moments of sadness or fear. That's what I believe, and it was very, very strong in the forest. What it means for chimpanzees, I simply wouldn't say. Since they haven't had the language to discuss it, it's trapped within each one of them.

(emphasis mine)

Monday, March 05, 2012

More Than Political

SOURCE:  "We're More Than Political Animals" by Peggy Noonan, WSJ.

"We were not built to be all about politics. Empires rise and fall, nations come and go, but the man who poured your coffee this morning is eternal, because his soul is eternal."

--Peggy Noonan

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Use of Humor

SOURCE:  ...quoted in a eulogy for Andrew Breitbart by James Taranto.


"Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule. A sense of humor enables him to maintain his perspective and see himself for what he really is: a bit of dust that burns for a fleeting second. A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescriptions for salvation."--Saul Alinsky, "Rules for Radicals"

(emphasis mine.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Work and Recognition


Work is…about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.

--Studs Terkel 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Faith, Sin and Jeremy Lin

SOURCE:  "Faith, Sin and Jeremy Lin" by Elizabeth Tenety.  February 17, 2012.

The following interview with Stephen Chen appeared in the Washington Post on-line...
Stephen Chen is head pastor of the English-language ministry at Redeemer Bible Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif. Among the longtime members of his 300-person, largely Chinese American immigrant church is basketball’s latter-day wunderkind, the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin. 

On Faith: What is Jeremy like as a person and as a Christian?
Stephen Chen:...When people ask him, ‘How are you going to stay grounded? he says, ‘I understand that I’m a sinner.’ And when he says that, he’s saying that he understands that he’s a sinner saved by grace. He knows that [because] he came to salvation. He [knows] that what he has is not his and that does keep him grounded. That is part of Christian character that he continues to work on. I think we’d all agree that we need to be working on humility. That’s one of those things that he’s able to keep in check because he remembers where he came from and the work that God has already done in his life.”
On Faith: What  can other Christians learn from Lin?
Stephen Chen: His trust in the promises of God. There is no doubt in his mind that God is a sovereign God and that God controls all things. And yet he knows that in times in his life he’s had a lot of ups and downs in terms of hopes dashed. And he wouldn’t say it’s because God was angry at him but rather he would understand that this — even this — is good because God is good and God is love. Romans 8:28 is just his verse. And he knows that everything is working out for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. He knows he is a child of God and so in that sense he struggles, yes. He’s not perfect, he struggles to consistently hold onto and grip onto what God has said in his word rather than just letting his emotions take control of him. So I think that’s an example to other people.
On Faith: Do you, or does Lin, see his basketball career as a spiritual mission?
Stephen Chen: It would depend on what we mean by spiritual mission. . . I think he does understand that whatever he does he wants to do heartily unto the Lord. He understands even in his basketball playing that God did create him a certain way.
This is quoted by Christians all the time but Eric Liddell, this wonderful track athlete, talked about how when he runs, ‘he feels God’s pleasure.’ And I think, for Jeremy, when he plays basketball he feels God’s pleasure because he understands how he has been made. How he has been put together by God. And so in that sense, yes, there’s definitely a spiritual, Christian dynamic to his playing. And yet, in another sense . . . does he feel like he wants to take these gifts that God has given him and use it to proclaim Christ? Yes. I think he would say yes. I think any Christian would probably say yes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love One Another

SOURCE:  "Building One Another" by Stanley Ott, February 14, 2012,

February 14, 2012
Vol. 11, No. 5 Love One Another

Dear Friend,
Is not the essence of Valentine’s Day to affirm your love to the people in your life?

When it came to the love of the Thessalonian Christians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” I Thess. 4:9*  Indeed we have been.  Take a moment and read all the ways:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:35
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another... Romans 13:8
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  1 Peter 1:22
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love one another… 1 Peter 3:8
This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.  1 John 3:11
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  1 John 3:23
Friends, let us love one another… 1 John 4:7
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:11
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another...  1 John 4:12

It’s difficult to miss the point!  May what Paul asks of the Thessalonians be true of us, “And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” I Thessalonians 4:10
With joy- E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2012 E. Stanley Ott
*Scripture from the NIV