A Quiet Testimony

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Character, Heroes, Legacy | 0 comments

My first memory of a championship football was listening to the radio, as a 10 year-old in December of 1963, cheering on the Chicago Bears as they beat Y.A Tittle and the New York Giants. One of the stars on the Giants was Hall of Fame wide receiver/running back, Frank Gifford, who later went on to star on the legendary Monday Night Football announcing crew of 1971-1985 along with Howard Cossell and “Dandy” Don Meredith. Gifford brought a foundation of believability and steadiness to that entertaining team. What Gifford is less known for is that he was a man of solid faith; just less prone to drawing public attention to that fact than others might. The comments on this clip from his widow, Kathie Lee Gifford, on the Today Show demonstrate how important his spiritual values were to Frank. All of Kathie Lee’s comments are poignant and worth watching, but the heart of her comments, and of Frank’s faith, are mentioned at the 3:00 mark. Her testimony of Frank’s depth and impact reminds me of the great advice attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use...

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Unlimited? The Challenge of Human Freedom

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Character, Community, Culture | 0 comments

As we Americans celebrate Independence Day, I urge us to be aware of both the responsibilities we carry, as well as the rights we enjoy, with our freedom. It seems that we often resist the inconvenient demands of the former while insisting on unbridled opportunities for the latter. Too often I see us practicing the personal slogans of “Don’t fence me in,” “To each his own,” “You do your thing, I’ll do mine,” “If it feels good do it,” “My way or the highway,” while giving little consideration to the consequences on the larger community. I’m deeply grateful for personal freedom; I bristle at self-absorbed entitlement. Here is a clip, “Unlimited? The Challenge of Human Freedom,” featuring comments by Os Guinness and Ravi Zacharias on this topic, given at a conference sponsored by RZIM. Their comments are both enlightening and motivational. (Interestingly, the moderator, Stuart McAllister, who refers to his years living in Vienna, Austria, was a Bible-smuggling compatriot of mine back in the the 70’s.) Guinness’ comments in particular are extremely insightful; they run from 9:00-33:00 minutes on the clip. He does an outstanding job of revealing the foundational connections between Freedom-Virtue-Faith on which our liberty is founded. For those of us who celebrate independence this weekend, may we grasp and live out the bond that links our freedom to our character. Happy 4th of...

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A Mother’s Wisdom

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Character, Heroes, Legacy | 2 comments

The impact of mothers is amazing. They carry us for months, painfully deliver us into the world, love us at all costs, bear countless burdens for us, believe in us and send us on our own journey. What a gift moms are. In 1938, when he was 14, President George H. W. Bush’s mother gave him words of wisdom to live by. He wrote them in the cover of his Bible: I would be true, for there are those who trust me. I would be pure, for there are those who care. I would be strong, for there is much to suffer. I would be brave, for there is much to dare. I would be a friend to all, to the foe, and to the friendless. I would be giving, and forget the gift. I would be humble, for I know my weaknesses. I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift. Timeless words of wisdom from a mother. My mom gave my siblings and me countless words of wisdom throughout her lifetime, but the phrase that comes to mind most quickly is a fairly humorous one I heard for years: “Beat Gonzales!” That was Mom’s well-meaning, yet mispronounced, encouragement to beat the completely-out-of-reach, world class and future record-setting Olympian swimmer, John Kinsella, in a high school swim meet. Those were the last words my mom would say to me before just about every swim meet thereafter, regardless who I was competing against. Over time they took on a much larger meaning: “I’m with you! I believe in you!” Decades later, during a swimming competition at Stanford University in 2009, my impish wife, son and a couple of friendly cheerleaders, revived those significant words for me.  (Unbelievably, one of the official timers for that race actually knew who Kinsella was; she dated him in college!) I’ll never forget Mom’s encouragement. What advice did your mom give you that you’ll never...

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Glory and Ruin, Part II

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Character, Heroes, Redemption, Transformation, Uncategorized | 0 comments

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”   —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn As a survivor of the Gulag Archipelago, the massive Soviet system of prisons to which political and religious dissidents were abandoned from the 1940-80’s, Solzhenitsyn had an unusually awful exposure to mankind’s wickedness. Though he might have considered himself above those who committed such crimes, he was honest enough to admit his own flaws. I am convicted, and compelled, by the fact that men are capable of performing some of the most heroic of acts, as well as the most heinous of crimes. (I touched on this theme in a post a year ago, also entitled Glory and Ruin). Our daily headlines reveal stories of men engaged in life-risking bravery alongside depictions of men committing unspeakable brutality. Glory and Ruin. It would be nice, as Solzhenitsyn suggests, if we could just separate the wicked men of our world into a consolidated group and just get rid of them. The truth, as honest men will admit, is more complicated. Although there are without question, unusually evil men and unusually good men in the world, most of us know that, while we long to become men who others trust and admire, we also have the capacity for selfishness, betrayal and deceit. Glory and Ruin. I am convinced that, just as men carry the potential to inflict unusual harm, they carry equal potential to bestow unusual blessing. Glory and Ruin resides in all of us (women, too, by the way). Scripture urges us to  “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Heb. 3:13, 14. Men, let’s take an honest look in the mirror, and admit and repent of any selfish patterns of Ruin. And then, quickly, embrace the Glory present in all of us who claim the transforming power of the blood of Christ. Glory and Ruin. I see it in me; I see it in other men. You do, too. Believe in, and call out, the...

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You Are Light

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Character, Community, Transformation | 0 comments

As I’ve met with a group of over 50 men on Friday mornings this past year, I John 1:7 has been a core verse for us: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.” What a great verse for us to remember, and to live out. This verse reminds Christ-followers that since “God is light,” we do not intentionally walk in darkness as we did before. Eph. 5:8 says the same, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…” At one time we were defined by darkness; now we are defined by light. Our group has applied this challenge “to walk in the light” to our relationships with each other as well. We have increasingly entrusted our stories, our joys and hopes, and our struggles and challenges with one another. In doing so, two wonderful things happen: • “We have fellowship with one another”– We discover we aren’t alone in our journey; many others have similar circumstances • “The blood of Jesus…purifies us”– Our shared faith in the power of the blood of Christ has a transforming affect on us. Are there men, or is there one man, in your life with whom you can have this kind of walk? Will you reach out to...

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Racial Redemption

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Character, Community, Courage, Culture, Forgiveness, Heroes, Redemption | 0 comments

It has been so disturbing recent months to witness the series of events that have brought into glaring spotlight the differences that still separate the races—especially white vs. black—in the United States. We who long for genuine reconciliation and mutual respect, regardless of one’s race, are pierced when young black men are killed by officers of peace, when police who defend our homes are treated with vile disrespect, when those who disagree with our president smear him with names and images that mock the dignity of his office, let alone his value as a human being. And still, how shocking it was to see the uploaded video of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma chanting, in a bus, vows that no “n—–” will ever join their frat. (As if any black person in their right mind would want to get on the bus with these people.) You’ve probably seen the clips, and they don’t need to be repeated here. One of the sad ironies here is that fraternities were originally established at universities to provide support for students finding themselves on campuses increasingly straying from Christian values and morals. My son, Alec, joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Wyoming and found that their founding priorities were to urge high character and honorable behavior. When will we see genuine respect, repentance, apology, forgiveness, even a degree of reconciliation and redemption in race relationships? We just did. One of the frat members who led the chant, Levi Pettit, after  two weeks of silence made a public apology. It appeared genuinely contrite and sincere. “There are no excuses for my behavior,” he said. “The bottom line is that the words that were said in that chant were mean, hateful and racist.” He’s right. There are no excuses. He has been expelled from his university and will have to live with the images and consequences of his actions for a long time. He has paid a heavy price and he has now humbly owned up to his role in causing that price. More importantly, he didn’t stand alone. It wasn’t fellow frat members, or fellow students, or even family members who stood closest by his side as he asked forgiveness. He was surrounded by black clergy and civic leaders—members of an African American Baptist church and Oklahoma state Senator Anastacia Pittman among others—who visibly gave him moral support as he faced the public. These were men and women who easily could have snubbed any display of association with Pettit. They easily could have responded with their own name-calling. Or spit in his face the first time they saw him. They didn’t; they stood with him. When Pettit was asked a challenging question by a member of the media after his apology, it was a black man standing behind him who reached forward and placed his hand firmly on his shoulder as if to communicate, “I got you, bro. You’re not alone.” I don’t know who that man is, but I want him to be my friend. I’m moved by that kind of act of forgiveness and allegiance. I think almost all of us are. It’s the power of redemption. When an act of disrespect, conflict or violence is met with patience, forgiveness and humility, a power emerges that turns destruction into reconciliation. Redemption brings hope in the midst of despair. Let’s see more. Let it begin with me....

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