“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in Character, Community, Compassion, Courage, Forgiveness, Leadership, Redemption, Transformation | 31 comments

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

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Your Gift to Your (Grand)Father

Posted by on Jun 11, 2018 in Character, Fathers, Forgiveness, Legacy | 0 comments

I was moved by the photography and message of this clip. It’s less than 3 minutes and definitely worth a look.

With Father’s Day right around the corner you may already be thinking of what you might want to say to your dad or grandfather. There’s a good chance your thoughts are also mixed with memories of regret or disappointment. I know how that feels.

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Black Lives Matter; Blue Lives Matter; All Lives Matter

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Community, Compassion, Courage, Culture, Forgiveness, Hope, Redemption, Transcendence | 19 comments

Once again, I’m stunned at the video footage that confronts all of us:

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • 49 patrons of an Orlando dance club are brutally slaughtered by a man who apparently hates gays, non-Muslims or both
  • A black man in Louisiana shot twice in the chest as he’s wrestled to the ground by two officers
  • A black man in Minnesota is shot four times after getting pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, as his wife and 4 year-old daughter watch in horror
  • A protest in Minneapolis turns into a virtual riot as firecrackers, Molotov Cocktails and bricks are thrown at police, who then response with smoke and tear-gas. Dozens on both sides are injured
  • A peaceful protest in Dallas, in response to these shootings, turns into a sniper attack where a black man kills five police officers and wounds several others

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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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Prison Redemption

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Anger, Character, Compassion, Forgiveness, Redemption, Transformation | 3 comments

I haven’t spent a lot of time in prison. But I vividly remember each visit. Last weekend I joined my friend, Ron, in a visit to the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, about 2 hours southeast of Colorado Springs. It wasn’t my first visit to a jail or prison, and just to be clear, none of them had anything to do with my misbehavior. When I was in high school my dad and I joined a pastor on a visit to Cook County Jail in Chicago, one of the largest and notoriously violent jails in the U.S. In 1998 I explored the possibility of involving men from Willow Creek Church in regular prison ministry in Latin America. I’ll never forget the awful conditions of the nearly 100 men living in a filthy holding cell designed for 30, in Quito, Ecuador. They were angry and violent; waiting endlessly for the trial that would determine their future fate. The conditions at Arkansas Valley were far cleaner, organized and peaceful by comparison. The men I met at a large group Bible study were still facing a similar open-ended future of managed lock-up, but there was a pervasive sense of peace and hope. It was a shocking contrast to me. I was welcomed at the classroom door by Deon, a kind-faced, friendly, eloquent inmate who helps lead the study. My friend Ron has a special place in his heart for Deon. Years ago Deon got into a heated argument with his best friend, also named Ron. In the heat of the moment, Deon was overcome by rage and beat his friend so severely that he was hospitalized suffering from trauma that will probably never heal. Deon nearly killed him, and now lives out a years-long sentence. It was hard to connect this story of violence and rage with the kind man who greeted me at the door. On the way home Ron told me the incident that brought transformation and peace to Deon. He will most likely never see his friend Ron again, so his opportunity for any face-to-face repentance or reconciliation is virtually nil. But on one of their first meetings with each other Deon turned to my friend Ron, and asked him, since he shared the name of his friend, if he would personally “stand-in” for the Ron he nearly murdered. What followed were intimate words of confession, apology, repentance; tears and weeping. Deon was looking at my friend, Ron; but he was speaking to his friend Ron. That day Deon embraced spiritual and emotional freedom. It’s a tangible story of redemption. God takes awful brokenness and transforms it into power and compassion. That’s the only way the Deon, who nearly killed his best friend, could become the Deon of grace who leads others into deeper knowledge of God. When we confess, apologize and repent, God can do the same for all of...

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How to Apologize

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Character, Courage, Forgiveness, Redemption | 0 comments

I’ve commented before, (see “I’m Sorry”), about the poor apologies we see in public, where the perpetrator essentially says, “I regret if others may have taken offense at what I was construed as having said.” Or some other mangled nonsense that absolves them (or us) of actual responsibility. Giving a direct, clear apology at times seems to be a dying art. Not this example. It’s from Steve Coburn, owner of California Chrome, the horse that just missed winning horse racing’s Triple Crown—winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, within a span of just a few weeks. It’s such a difficult accomplishment that it hasn’t been done since 1978. When his horse won the first two races, but then lost the third, Coburn, frankly, made a jackass of himself. He launched into a nationally-broadcast rant against the other owners, calling them “cowards” because some didn’t race their horses in all three races. It’s an understatement to say that his comments went viral. At his request, he and his wife showed up the following day on Good Morning America to offer an apology to those he offended. Click here to see a good example of how to apologize. It makes any open-minded, open-hearted person respond, “Thanks. I’ve been a jackass in my life, too. I forgive you.”...

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