Century

I would recommend William J. Bennett’s “A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. You can purchase a copy for under $17 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Century-Turns-Fears-Hopes-America-1988/dp/1595551697/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264456985&sr=1-1)or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=1595551697&title=A_Century_Turns.

I was a bit skeptical of the quality and direction that this book would take. Though I do not endorse all of the author’s positions, I highly respect his political experience and place in the national discussion. However, I think that writing a historical account of the past twenty years is a bit early – there has not been enough time to properly evaluate the events and personalities with fairness. To make matters even more difficult, Bennett was greatly involved in some of those issues and thus cannot claim impartiality in such matters. The reader will see much of this come out in how he treats certain political figures (his treatment of President Clinton was a bit harsher than President George H.W. Bush who employed him). That being said, he does not shy away from revealing some of his positions and convictions and attempts to look at all angles (for example, he ends the book by speaking favorably of what it means for our nation to elect our first African-American President). Overall, the read was fascinating. Though we might know the full implications of what has taken place over the past two decades, it was an enjoyable experience to read through events that occurred from the moment that I turned ten years old. There has been a whole lot that has changes in my lifetime, a whole lot of accomplishments have been made, and a whole lot of challenges that lay ahead for all of us.

I kept on thinking about the words of the bible which read, “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age? And Jesus answered them, See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains (Matthew 24:3-8, ESV).

We often look at breaking news as the sign of Second Coming. I hesitate in taking such an approach. Conflict. Crisis. Chaos. Suffering. They have been around since the Fall. All these signs are just the beginning. The Last Days began the day that Christ ascended into Heaven and his Spirit was given to the Church. Whether we live in the Last of the Last Days is up to your own discernment. I choose not to paint my enemies as the Anti-Christ. That will be revealed in due season. On that note though, I will choose to live in such a way as if I believed that the Return will happen at any time. Because it very well could. There is a sense of Urgency. I am talking not of the urgency that is born out of fear and surely not of complacency. I am speaking of the urgency that comes out of the message and the mind of Christ – that wishes all of humanity to be saved.

The author spent a lot of time writing about the rise of an Islamic radicalism in the Middle East and now abroad. He showed how the last twenty years has brought about a transition from the Cold War to now one of an enemy who chooses not to play by “the rules.” He poses questions and makes comparisons between the approaches of different presidents. Every reader must make his or her own conclusions on which approach is more effective and necessary in the world in which we currently live. He quotes G.K. Chesterton who once proposed, “In truth it is inequality that is the illusion. The extreme disproportion between men, that we seem to see life, is a thing of changing lights and lengthening shadows, a twilight full of fancies and distortions . . . it is the experience of men that always returns to the equality of men” (Bennett, 271).

My concern with the issue of terrorism, and most notably with much of the Muslim world, is how might I as a Christian AND an American (which are anything but all-inclusive – but in my personal experience due in fact co-exist) deal with it? How do I, or do I, reconcile my desire to protect my family and freedoms with my devotion to the Kingdom of God? Where does my patriotism end and my allegiance to Christ begin? My support of certain wars and my hope for peace? The stance of defeating the enemy and my call to love my enemy? How will the church respond to the rise of Islam in the 21st Century? Will we be proactive? Will we begin discussions? Will we be about the mission of Jesus? What exactly does that mean? These are tough questions that must be answered in the years ahead.

Official Book Description: Author, historian, and educator William J. Bennett examines America’s last two decades. Twenty years ago, John McCain was serving his second year in the Senate, and Colin Powell had just been promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There was no Fox News Channel, no American Idol. Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni ruled Iraq and Iran, respectively. George W. Bush was the fairly unnoticeable son of the then-president. If you asked someone to “email me,” you would have received a blank stare, and “Amazon” was a forest in South America. Finally, 20 years ago a young man named Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The two decades from 1988 to 2008 have proved to be some of the most pivotal in America’s history. Based on a lifetime of experience in government and education, William J. Bennett defines the events that shaped American history during the final years of the century.

Century

Ring


I would recommend John and Stasi Eldredge’s “Love and War: Finding the Marriage You’ve Dreamed Of.” I was fortunate enough to receive a special pre-release copy from Random House Publishers. You can purchase the hardback edition for under $16 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Love-War-Finding-Marriage-Dreamed/dp/0385529805/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265829384&sr=8-1) or directly from the publishers at http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385529808.

My favorite chapter was the one titled, “A Perfect Storm.” It is in this section that they quote the classic country tune, I fell into a burning ring of fire” (Johnny Cash) when describing the messy, painful, difficult, incredible, passionate, indescribable thing we call love. The authors suggest that every woman ‘[comes] into the world with the question deep in [her] heart that [goes] something like, ‘Do you delight in me?'” while “every little boy carries an essential question in his heart . . . ‘Do I have what it takes?'” (Eldredge, 45-46). In short, every female desires to be pursued and protected while every male wants a cause to fight for and a prize to carry home. Seems like this would be the perfect match. It was. At one time. In Paradise. However, humanity somehow and somewhere managed to lose focus of their Creator and settled for the easy route which leads to death and destruction. Selfless love was replaced by selfish gain. Commitment and compassion have been overshadowed by the casual and commonplace. The fire which was meant to bring two into one has now burnt both parties in the process. Love has too often turned into war.

Marriage can still come to the rescue. I am convinced that marriage still holds the greatest witness of Christ’s love for the church and vice versa. People, once they see authentic love, will absolutely be drawn to it’s Maker. If only the church can rediscover intimacy and redeem sexuality. Jesus once challenged, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12, NIV). There is no other relationship than that between a husband and a wife that reveals the true heart of each person. The masks quickly come off. When we are tired. Hungry. Upset. Discouraged. Insecure. Frustrated. Have you ever noticed that we would never dare talk to a stranger the way we talk to our closest friend? Is it because the home is such a safe place? Is it because we cannot keep it inside any longer?

Here is the flip side on the issue: Is there anything more beautiful and Christlike than devoting our hearts and lives to one person forever? To give them everything and only to them we give that everything? To love them when it is easy. When it is hard. The good times. The tough times. To death do us part. Marriage is discipleship. Sanctification. The authors propose, “The years have simply reconciled us to the fact that we are all here for our transformation. And we understand that there is no place on earth quite like marriage for the kind of transformation god is after” (56).

Official Description: What the Eldredge bestsellers “Wild at Heart” did for men, and “Captivating” did for women, “Love and War” will do for married couples everywhere. John and Stasi Eldredge have contributed the quintessential works on Christian spirituality through the experience of men and the experience of women and now they turn their focus to the incredible dynamic between those two forces.

With refreshing openness that will grab readers from the first page, the Eldredges candidly discuss their own marriage and the insights they’ve gained from the challenges they faced. Each talks independently to the reader about what they’ve learned, giving their guidance personal immediacy and a balance between the male and female perspectives that has been absent from all previous books on this topic. They begin “Love and War” with an obvious but necessary acknowledgement: Marriage is fabulously hard. They advise that the sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we’ll find our way through.

“Love and War” shows couples how to fight for their love and happiness, calling men and women to step into the great adventure God has waiting for them together. Walking alongside John and Stasi Eldredge, every couple can discover how their individual journeys are growing into a story of meaning much greater than anything they could do or be on their own.

Ring

Saints



Super Bowl XLIV was as close to a perfect Super Bowl as I think that I could have ever asked for. I would have truly been happy with either team winning. This had to be the first time that this was the case. There have been those times when I hated both teams (AKA the Broncos vs. the Falcons or the Raiders vs. the Bucs). However, the 2010 match up was featuring my favorite NFL player (Peyton Manning) against my favorite NFL team (the New Orleans Saints).

Yeah, I said it: New Orleans is my favorite team. No, I am not a bandwagon fan. No, it is not because of Katrina. No, there is not some sappy story of why I chose that team to be mine. I am actually sort of embarrassed to share with you why I initially became a fan. Sometime during my eighth grade year, about sixteen years ago when no one ever thought of being an “Aints” fan, I decided I needed an NFL team to cheer for. I wanted to be different. I wanted to pull for a team that never won. That no one had ever appreciated. I am guessing that I did this just so that when they would be good I could look genius – which has paid off this year – I just did not perceive how long I would actually have to wait (New Orleans has only had two playoff wins before this season). I went out that very day and purchases a hat and never looked back. If you know anything about me and my sports allegiances, it is that I am loyal. Through thick and thin. However, I am also incredibly pessimistic. I did not see this one coming. I never do. But I am glad that it finally came.

That being said, my love for the Saints pales in comparison to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Not even close. This difference is probably due to a few factors. First, I came to love the Dodgers and the Irish largely because of sentimental reasons: I heard my Dad tell my Grandpa Buller in 1986 that he grew up as an LA fan – and I wanted to be just like him (he has sense sold out and began cheering for the American League Seattle Mariners). My passion for the Irish was solidified when I watched them upset Florida State in the early 1990s – the final college football game that I saw with my Grandpa Farley before he passed away. They went on the next week to be upset by Boston College and watch as their championship season slipped through their fingers. If (and hopefully when) Los Angeles wins their next World Series or Notre Dame takes home the national trophy, I have to admit that I will do nothing less than cry tears of joy. I will love every minute of it. I can’t say that I was even close to being that excited for New Orleans. Surprised. Shocked. Pleased. Proud. But no tears. I will enjoy this off-season. I will wear my jersey (that my brother bought me a couple of Christmas seasons ago). I have now received just a small taste of what it will be like for my other teams – and I like it.

Whatever you do, don’t call me a bandwagon fan. My name is not Troy Farley (my brother changes teams like they are underwear). The Irish and the Dodgers have not won a championship since 1988 (and only have a combined three titles in the thirty-one years I have been alive). Don’t even get me started on the New York Knicks (who I starting pulling for purely based upon the fact that they were the Anti-Michael Jordan). I should point out, however, that it seems that God is a New Orleans fan as well. Wasn’t it King David who once cheered, “As for the [S]aints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3, ESV). Of course I am speaking tongue in cheek. Here are a few general thoughts about New Orleans Super Bowl Championship season. I would love to hear your thoughts in return:

* Drew Brees is a class act. He is not Manning. He is not one of the greatest ever. But he one of the greatest right now. I appreciate his attitude. His service. His leadership. It is a refreshing change from what we usually expect in pro sports today.

* The Super Bowl win was good for the city of New Orleans and the rest of the gulf coast. However, it was a diversion and not a solution. Victories are temporary. Let’s not forget to pray for the people of that region and to give to local churches and relief organizations still committed to rebuilding that city (such as Convoy of Hope).

* This loss does not tarnish the legacy of Peyton Manning. John Elway lost three before he finally (and tragically) ended with two wins. Brett Favre is 1-1. Dan Marino never hoisted the Lombardi trophy over his head. Manning is still in his prime. He already has one ring. Let’s not miss what very well could be the greatest quarterback of all time (and surely the smartest) just because we have unrealistic demands. In the era of free agencies, I would argue that to have two Super Bowl wins today is equal to Montana having three or the Steelers having four. He has great odds of getting at least another one before all is said and done. Besides, more rings does not always equal being greater. Troy Aikman with three trophies was not better than Brett Favre. John McMahon? Williams with the Redskins? Eli Manning beating Tom Brady? I rest my case.

Just for the record, my prediction for next year is that the Colts will return to the Big Game and enjoy a Super Bowl win over the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s be honest, the ‘Boys losing is almost as sweet as the Saints winning. I would be remiss if I did not end this blog with . . . Who dat?

Saints