August 19, 2004

Ego and Coffee

It is Olympic time in the world. All the nations of the world have sent their best athletes to compete against one another to know who is best this year in each specific sport. It has been exciting to watch and to take in the events. It was exciting to hear and see the international crowd that attended the opening ceremonies cheer in joy for the Iraqi athletes, knowing that in their coming to compete, there is a new found freedom for them. At the same time it was heartbreaking to see the arrogance and ego of many of our country's athletes as they entered into their competitions. Two that come to mind at the moment are Michael Phelps, the "I'm going to win 8 gold medals" swimmer who was humbled during his first two events. The other is our superstar basketball team that has "dominated" the last decade in basketball. Their ego swelled heads helped them to lose horribly to the team from Puerto Rico.

It makes me think and wonder why we as Americans are so egotistical and sure of ourselves. We might have right to be that way because we are really at the top of most things in the world. Yet, that really doesn't give us right. That should make us more humble, knowing that we have much to be thankful for. I guess that is what ego does to us—it blinds us from thankfulness and humility.

Today in the coffee shop I frequent, I saw the opposite of what I have seen on the Olympic coverage. Every so often as I sit, think, and work on the various things in my life of ministry, a guy brings three mentally and physically challenged people in for coffee. I don't know his or their stories, where they come from, whether they live in a group home, or what. But I do know that there is humility and thankfulness oozing out of them. The man who brings them looks as if he could be running a corporation or leading multitudes of people forward in business or whatever the "successful" thing is to be doing our "American" eyes. Yet, he brings these three people in for coffee. He gets their coffee and brings it to them as they sit around the tables. He talks with them as if they were best friends, sometimes looking through the newspaper with them and talking through the daily events. And they, in turn, treat him as if he were normal, just like them. There was such a peace here in the coffee shop when they were here. There was a sense of knowing that the world really is ok, that there are those bright spots of life in amidst our "ego" driven existence.

We who make up the body of Christ are called to live humble lives. I sometimes wonder if we do. Do we allow ourselves to get caught up in other things and lose sight of what we were called to be? In the last few moments of his life, Jesus took the time to wash his disciples’ feet, giving them yet another example of how to live. Then he gave his life for them—for you and for me. He calls us to live as he lived. What life are you living?

Lord, may we learn to live with much humility and thankfulness.

August 6, 2004

What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar?

I have the habit of reading the news on the internet rather than watching it on the television. It allows me to read what I want to read and steer away from that which I find unimportant and uninteresting, which in my opinion is most news anyway. Most of the time I find myself reading the "oddly enough" sections. These are stories that you would find morning radio personalities or late night talk shows talking about. They are National Inquirer type stories, only with truth.

The article that most caught my attention today was concerning a game show for Hispanics where the prize was the chance to get a green card.

Green Card Is Ultimate Prize on Hispanic TV Show

It seems that those who can eat the most worm filled burritos or whatever other Fear Factor-ish challenges the producers can come up with will get a year's worth of legal help towards attaining their green card for the USA. Now, for those of you not up on the worth of a green card to non-citizens of our country, you should take the time to watch the timeless Cheech classic, Born In East L.A. For those who want the shorter version, a green card gives an alien certain rights and status here in America. It is a necessary item to have if you are an alien in the US and you would like to legally have a job.

Now, my opinion of Fear Factor, Survivor, and all the other quarky spin offs that have come about in the last few years is one of loathing. You would never find me on one of those shows, no matter how much money I could win or the prestige I would receive. Nor would you find me wasting my time in front of the TV watching to see who can choke down the most bull testicles. The shows have no worth to me, and I pay no attention to them. (Though I will watch the mindless Most Extreme Challenge on Spike TV--I know, I know--hypocrite)

So why, you ask, have I spent so much time then, talking about this Hispanic show? I've wasted your time because of the prize. Forcing someone to do stupid things because they think they are going to get a certain amount of dollars and the prestige of being Fear Factor Champion doesn't get under my skin. However, when you raise people's hopes that they might get the opportunity to stay in the "Land of the Free" if they are the champion of gross and inhumane, I cannot not help but be disappointed.

I'm disappointed that the producers would stoop to such a level to get ratings and contestants. I'm disappointed that people would even entertain the idea of flaunting such a privileged item as a prize. I'm saddened by the fact that there is hope in the minds of the contestants that their lives might be improved by enduring such things. Most of all, I'm saddened by our willingness to be entertained by the suffering of others, albeit planned and wanted suffering.

Let me make a comparison. What if we only offer our salvation through a Fear Factor type church. What if you had to be the champion of the box full of spiders to get your eternal security? Unfortunately, I don't think that type of church would have the draw that the reality show in the article has. I don't think there would be people lining up to take a "controlled" risk for their salvation. Why is that? Maybe it's because we as Christians aren't treating our salvation with the respect and hope that we should. Maybe it's because the church doesn't radiate hope to the masses like America does to those who have nothing and want the "American Dream" bad enough to eat worm filled burritos.

Luckily, we don't have to do outrageous things for our salvation. Grace, hope, and love are freely given by our great and good God through his son. From that, death of the old life and birth of new life--living in the "kingdom of light"--happen. May we take our salvation seriously and not cheapen it through poor living and thinking. May we live the right lives in the "kingdom of light". May draw others to that kingdom of the grace, hope, and love of God in right ways that don't cheapen those we are drawing near or the kingdom we are drawing them to.

August 3, 2004

Looking Out, Looking In

I know, I know, blogging is probably a fad right now. My wife thinks it is crazy--writing one's thoughts into webland for all to read. I think it is intriguing. Lately I've taken to reading blogs of both friends and strangers. Interestingly, most of the friends are like strangers, since I have not seen or talked to most of them in ages. Whether friend or stranger, you never really know what you are going to find as you pull back the curtain and peer into their lives and thoughts. I figure if I'm taking the priviledge of peering into the minds of others, I should allow them to look back.