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Last week was momentous in the battle for marriage in the U.S. It was a little like riding a roller coaster. On Tuesday, the D.C. City Council finished their first of two readings of their proposed same-sex marriage law. The reading passed by a margin of 11 to 2. The council seems determined to prevent the people from voting on this issue. Their rationale is that "civil rights" is not something that should be voted on by the masses. One councilman, who represents a strong, pro-marriage ward, looked visibly shaken. He spoke with a quavering voice. Ironically Harry Thomas, Jr., son of a former city council member, stated that he would not allow anyone in his ward to be "disenfranchised." Undoubtedly, he meant to say that he did not want anyone to experience discrimination.
Disenfranchisement, however, is exactly what is happening to the average voter in D.C. The council feels that it has a right to vote on this issue, but it will not allow the citizens to vote. They also chafe at the fact that the District does not have a genuine vote on the Hill - it only has a shadow congresswoman. Sadly, there was only voice for democratic justice on the council --- Marion Barry. The former mayor correctly told the group that the city council had not gone far enough in allowing liberty and true democracy to have their way. As a result of the fact the city is "deeply divided," he announced that he would be working for a popular vote on the issue.
I used to be a consummate Christmas shopper. By the time December hit, I was way ahead of the game. I would have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys to die for tucked away on a shelf just waiting to be wrapped and stowed lovingly under the tree. I found that shopping ahead spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped me avoid the last-minute holiday shopping rush.
Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? I thought so, too, until several years ago. Something happened that made me rethink my supposedly brilliant strategy.
It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse! The tree looked bulimic — only I was the one who had binged. Brilliantly wrapped packages were bulging from every available nook and cranny.
I slumped to the floor and thought, "We have only two children. There's enough here for 10!"
My husband and I stared at each other. We realized that things had gotten out of hand. We had to ask ourselves: What message are we giving our children?
One by one we started dismantling the swollen pile. This present can wait for a birthday, this one for next Christmas, this one for a special reward for hard work.
Finally the stack looked sensible.
Right then and there, we made a decision. In the future, Christmas gifts would be limited to three types: (1) A gift really desired; (2) a needed item; 3) something educational. Of course, our children hated the idea and hoped we would eventually come to our senses.
And we've seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of "wants." There is a new emphasis on cherished gifts. This represents a stark contrast to the disturbing trend among kids today to feel entitled to get whatever they want, whenever they want it.
As I've listened to children move through the hallways of our house, I've heard the chatter of "more." "We have more videos than you." "I have a CD player in my room." "You don't have your own phone line?" "I'm asking for a laptop." "You need a cell phone to look important."
They get it from their parents. My favorite is the mother who proudly boasts that her daughter will outdo everyone in the neighborhood. She will have the best of everything -- before everyone else. The daughter knows this strategy and is horrified if anyone beats her to the material punch.
Not understanding her conscious intention to overload her daughter with "stuff," I naively asked, "Aren't you worried you're spoiling her?" The blank stare she gave me was enough to answer my question.
One summer the hot ticket was a scooter. Everyone on our block ran to the stores to buy one. My kids asked, but they knew what was coming: "Tell me again why I should run to the store to buy you a $100 item?"
Materialism not only distorts the meaning of Christmas but also creates ungrateful kids. It's time to stop the madness. Instead of a new scooter, take your kids to a soup kitchen and let them serve. Visit a homeless shelter or a hospital children's ward, and put things in perspective.
I know what I am saying isn't new, but we need to hear it regularly. It's so easy to indulge our kids this time of year. But we need to examine our motives.
Is our overindulgence related to guilt from being absent or unavailable? Is it an attempt to communicate love, compete with others, create an identity or look successful? Is it the result of idol worship, a lack of self-restraint or misguided thinking?
When I see kids quickly open presents and throw them off to the side without even a thank you, I know something is wrong. When little Suzie tells me Christmas was no fun because she didn't get what she wanted, I am concerned. The Grinch hasn't stolen Christmas; our ungratefulness has.
Christmas is about God's giving His Son as a glorious gift to mankind. Don't clutter that gift with so many others that He gets lost in the fray. This season teach the children in your life to cherish the gift they already have — Jesus.
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I tell my friends in Latin America that my Spanish is peligroso—dangerous. Here's why.
I took three semesters of Spanish in college and spent hours practicing conversation with a Nicaraguan immigrant a few years ago. But when I travel in Latin America these days, my mantra is: Mi español es muy peligroso. My Spanish is very dangerous.
On my first visit to Guatemala, for example, I discovered its most popular fast-food restaurant, Pollo Campero. It means "country chicken," and (with apologies to KFC) it is the moistest, tastiest, most delectable fried chicken on the planet. You will smell it on flights from Guatemala to Miami because people like to take boxes of it to relatives.
Against this fluid backdrop of concern and financial worry, many people would ask, What's there to be thankful about? Although I am a minister, I avoid preaching in this column; nonetheless the season and the circumstances beg another question in response to the hypothetical question I just posed, How many of us really celebrated the holiday in proper fashion?
What could possibly be wrong?
I despise airplane turbulence. Even though I enjoy high-speed roller coasters, there is something about hurling through stormy skies in a commercial jetliner at 37,000 feet that turns my knuckles white. This is why I always ask for a window seat. Whenever we hit rough air and the seat belt sign flashes on, I feel safer if I can look outside.
But that didn't help me last week when I was flying into Canada. I was not aware that rough weather was raging below and that parts of Vancouver were flooding. All I knew was that our journey through Canadian airspace reminded me of Doctor Doom's Fearfall—a theme park ride I have enjoyed many times with my daughters. (That ride lasts only a few seconds, and it is firmly bolted to the ground. The turbulence over British Columbia lasted half an hour.)
"Days of wonder and days of dread, these are the days that lie ahead." These words bubbled up in my spirit recently as a prophetic song. I could not take them lightly as this is the second time in the last few weeks God has given me a song with the exact same theme and message. The first song started, "Great and grave things will be happening / all at the same time--intertwined." I believe God is speaking through these songs and confirming to us what lies ahead.
Why the name? The group met a few weeks ago in Manhattan where we read a draft of the document. It was there we concluded that we had to bridge the huge historic chasms separating the major branches of the Christian faith. The famed Chuck Colson along with co-initiators issued a call to all Christians that we must remain true to our core convictions, based upon the scriptures. The group also came together to let the secular community know that increasingly Christians from Catholic, evangelical and orthodox traditions will work together and speak with one voice.
I opened the front door and came face to face with a rather large gift basket wrapped in clear cellophane with a gigantic velvet orange and brown bow. It was so big that it blocked the face of the deliveryman.
The sight of such a gift was too wonderful for words! As a young married couple, Terry and I were going through hard times, with little money for extras, much less the basics!
The arrival of this surprise basket of goodies was not only timely, but a miracle!
Just who was behind this?
Like so many other poor communities in Guatemala, the village of Saspán is way off the beaten path. To get there you first must travel on a two-lane highway from Chiquimula, then turn onto a one-lane dirt road that winds precariously for two miles up a mountain. The scenery is spectacular, but if you look too long you might drive right off the side of a cliff. It's best to wait until you arrive at the top to enjoy the view.
I went to Saspán last Monday with my friend Oto, a pastor who was born in this village, and Roque, a Puerto Rican minister who leads a church in Pennsylvania. We came to preach at Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Visión (Christian Church of New Vision), one of two growing evangelical churches in this town of 1,000 families. The church's pastor is Oto's sister, Gisela, an energetic young woman who has a particular concern for the children in this isolated community, many of whom lack education and proper nutrition.
The church is entering into a new season. Many are about to experience great restoration and harvest in their lives.
John 10:10 declares: "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)" (The Amplified Bible). It may feel as if the enemy has come in like a thief and tried to rob, steal, kill and destroy. But I have a word from the Lord for you:
The thief has been found out!
The question was exactly what many secular parties had been asking in Portland, Maine, where she was speaking to me by satellite. My answer was that Jesus would have given the money to oppose same-sex marriage. My reasoning was simple: Jesus would have upheld his own teaching; refusing to be a loving, permanent enabler of a misguided local government. I mentioned in the interview that Washington, D.C. was struggling with the same question.
Today started out as any other day, but for some reason things just affected me differently than they usually do. I got out of bed and began my regular devotional time with the Lord, reading the Word, studying a powerful book, and praying. When I stood to my feet, I was filled with peace and gratitude.
"I feel great!" I thought to myself. And off I went to begin what I thought was going to be a wonderful day.
The kitchen was first on my agenda. I don't know why, exactly, but I have a plaque over my stove that reads, "A kitchen is the heart of the home." When I was growing up, my mother always kept a clean kitchen, with a pot of something deliciously fragrant simmering on the stove.
The only thing fragrant about my kitchen this morning was a hot, empty coffee pot, left sitting on the coffee maker with the switch in the "on" position, by my husband.
"I get so tired of this," I thought. "Why do I have to clean up his mess?"
I picked up the pot and carried it over to the sink. There I discovered the spoon he'd used to stir the sugar in his cup. It had been set beside the sink and now lay in a brown, sugary puddle. I grabbed a cloth and began to wipe the counter-muttering the whole time.
"That man!" I said in frustration. "Why can't he just put the spoon in the sink where it belongs?"
I decided to tackle the bathroom instead. You can probably guess what I found-beard clippings and blobs of toothpaste in the sink, and puddles of water on the counter top. I turned to grab a towel.
As I did, I looked at my towel, folded neatly in thirds over the rack (Mom said double is allowed, too, but not as nice looking). My husband's towel was bunched and crumpled, as if he doesn't care at all about being neat. I stood there staring.
After a few moments, I started to unravel and re-fold his towel. But something happened to change my whole mind-set and along with it, my feelings. I looked from his towel to mine, back and forth.
I felt myself begin to soften. I started to appreciate and praise God for our differences. Feelings of love, softening my heart, began to manifest. I tenderly touched his towel, leaving it as it had been.
Then I went back into the kitchen to clear the table, where he had been sitting and drinking his cup of coffee. My eyes caught sight of his open Bible and a yellow highlighting pen. I remembered the early morning I discovered him sitting in the same chair with closed eyes and folded hands, offering up a silent prayer to God.
Last week was a milestone in modern American political history. The election results (New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races) and the battle over healthcare show that the nation’s interest in social issues has not waned. New coalitions are forming around the pivotal legislative concerns of our day. From my vantage point, I am noticing a passion among individual citizens to engage in the political process - whether the topic is the economy, healthcare or gay marriage. The average citizen not only wants to express their opinion, but also has become savvy in engaging the powers that be. The insight of these new activists is shown in their ability to organize and get results. Over 20,000 people came to D.C. last week to voice their concerns about healthcare.
Here are six ways to identify an unhealthy leadership style in a church or ministry.
My world was shaken 20 years ago this week. On Nov. 10, 1989, one day after German protesters tore down the Berlin Wall, a Christian ministry I had been a part of for 11 years also fell apart.
Maranatha Campus Ministries was a vibrant outreach to college campuses. It was founded in Kentucky during the Jesus movement by a passionate charismatic couple, Bob and Rose Weiner, who eventually started churches on more than 50 American universities. In its heyday in the Reagan era, students from Maranatha took the gospel around the world.
In this season we must rehearse the Word! We must meditate on what God says until the power of that revelation enters our bloodstreams and cell structures. We also must learn to worship and minister in our homes. Doing so will allow our gifts to be activated in new ways in small groups. When the time comes that we are not free [to worship publicly in our church buildings], we will already know how to continue in our homes. Take the points below and use them to speak into your life and the environment around you.
Have you ever asked God why? "Why me, Lord?" "Why not pick somebody else for this?" "Why am I always the one going through the fire?"
In the good times we say, "Lord, I love You." We quote, "Oh, in the volume of the book it is written of me I delight to do Your will, O Lord." Then we add, "Father take me, mold me, use me. Take my life, and let it be consecrated to Thee."
Americans are losing the ability to live out the high promise of love and fidelity in the context of a covenant relationship called marriage. Marriage, on a personal level, is on life support, gasping for breath because of the lack of role models, training and mentoring by qualified survivors of the War of the Roses. Do you remember the dark comedic movie with the same name that stared Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito? The movie was a satiric study of the reasons relationships begin, deteriorate and end. The classic picture ends with the once amorous couple attempting to physically divide the house that was the symbolic center of their union.
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