\”Concepts create idols, only wonder grasps anything.\” – Gregory of Nyssa

Politics

Michael Ignatieff’s Equality for All Speech

Michael Ignatieff

Started writing this morning on FB about some of my thoughts to Michael Ignatieff’s speech in Ottawa and it kind of turned into a full note. Anyways, it’s been a bit since I’ve been writing; I just needed to get some things of my chest, so it’s nothing extensive but I thought I’d share it here also.

Michael Ignatieff - “Equality for ALL” (From this mornings speech in Ottawa) – Question: Does this same equality include the Canadian Citizens within the Federal Prison Systems be they people seeking reformation or employees amidst over population? Does this same equality include those who are in service to our military struggling with substandard equipment?

They are honest questions of Federal prioritization. In light of resent global events, I’m not sure I’d count on the US covering our _____ in the event of military movements! :( Prisoners serving their detentions in a correctional facility are not second class citizens in a society which claims equality for all. Over population can also force into early release in dangerous circumstances which in turn also impacts society. Should we not give adequate space and legislative time to the reformation of such people; not to mention the danger over population places of Correctional Employees?!

Family Care, Health Care, and Education are also all valid concerns and issues Canadians face. Yet, these can be issues perhaps more directly addressed within the Provincial and Local Municipalities alternatively. Ultimately, my personal nee-jerk reaction is to say it also falls to the role we as individual citizens play as active participators and care givers to our society and communities.

We must stand up for our neighbour and ourselves; not leaving the sole responsibility of health and education to government parties. We must make better health choices for our own bodies and inspire and encourage others to do the same. We can and should give freely to others as they have needs out of our personal responsibility to care for one another – this is a responsibility of individuals and community not institution or organization. (Please note: This includes Religious Institutions however… it does not dismiss responsibility to personal faith, belief, and world view which may become expressed through such organizations. I wish I had more time to define this but perhaps another time.) Yes, this may mean we need to change our expectations of personal status and wealth as a social vision but let me ask you… what are you asking of those who are in the minority of the vote? (i.e. – Prison System, Military, Immigration, ect.)

Ultimately, I am concerned we have become a society of “Me First!” mind sets. This must change. Please do not consider this as my vote cast. There is still many policies to be defined and clarified. It is simply just my wonderments for the time being… :)


Principles for Protest

My Protest Sign

Turning on the television just a few weeks ago during the G 20 Summit I was surprised by the images of violence and rioting I saw in downtown Toronto. I suppose I never expected to see this in a Canadian city and thought the Conference would go by with little protest. This being said, I believe in the practice of free speech and feel it is important to exercise this right with the intent of reformation and communicating a publics claim for justice and freedom. But, this claim and voice must be clear in its content and precise in its message; something which I believe violence, smashed windows, looting, and burning public service cars do not accomplish.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.” Yet still protesting before our leaders in non-violent fashion can have a catalytic affect as Martin Luther points out that, “To create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

I must admit that I did not grow up in a particularly political family. We rarely if ever really spoke about elective candidates or social statutes. I guess I predominantly felt as though my opinion didn’t really matter in the long run anyway. Yet in the past few years I’ve felt strangely drawn to pay closer attention to those who are in leadership and addressing public issues and concerns. I may be just one person but, my vote has become a social conscience and collaboration between me and God more so then just simple earthly leadership.

The Apostle Paul said, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) Really?! I mean seriously?! Do you really believe every political leader is appointed by God and has his Kingdom in mind when addressing our national, social, and communal concerns?

To be perfectly honest I struggled with this for years as I did not believe so. But maybe that is the point! We’re not supposed to simply sit in the background letting political leaders in authority do as they see fit; we’re to question, implore, offer our opinions, protest (in non-violent ways), and give voice to the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit in our own community ridings and neighborhoods as it relates to His Word and our daily contexts and situations.

This coming fall the City of Calgary is facing a municipal election along with the voting of a new city Mayor. Our city is facing some major issues including rising homelessness, safety and police services, health services, and infrastructure.

Have you looked into who your wards candidates are for Alderman? Have you looked at what mandates they might have and the priorities they place on them? Have you expressed to them your concerns for our city? Perhaps most important and first on the list is have you asked what God’s desire for your community and city might be? Above all else I pray that God’s will is manifested in the principles and mandates of all of our elected officials lest I protest!

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10


Bad Journalism in CBC’s Fifth Estate with Regards to AARC

aarclogoMy friends Steve and Dawn have recently been affected by some of the bad journalism presented by CBC’s The Fifth Estate. It has no doubt affected them both personally and in their community supports. In those regards here is their response which I would like to share.

Dear friends,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the CBC’s Fifth Estate recently presented a very disturbing report about the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC), entitled “Powerlessness”. I have taken great exception to what I firmly believe to be inaccurate comments and unethical journalism. Without AARC, I do not know where my family would be today.

As such I have written a letter to the CBC, a copy of which is on my face book account, if you care to read it. In addition, I have done some searching and have found the following video and news clips that I feel will shed some true light on what many trusting CBC viewers might be feeling about AARC at this time.

Included in these is a news report on Jordon Remple who was the only”grateful” AARC graduate shown on the Fifth Estate together with his parents. Unfortunately, the Remple’s were not given much air-time despite what I understand to have been quite a lengthly interview.

Many of you spent an hour watching the Fifth Estate, please do our family and many of the other 403 families who have passed through the doors of AARC a service by spending about 13 minutes watching these.

With sincere thanks,
Dawn Driediger


Would Jesus Ride This Bus? I know I Would!

atheist-busSitting outside of my mother in-laws bank the other day I started laughing as I heard a caller phone into our local Christian radio station with blasting comments toward an advertisement campaign taking place in our city. It was obvious he was dramatically impacted by the Atheistic view points as he read the sign aloud, “There is probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy life!” While adding that, “we have a duty as Christians to demand the city removes these ads from the public and silence the Atheist’s lies.”

Don’t get me wrong here and let me say this up front; I am not an atheist and I am not in support of what the ad campaign is proclaiming. I am a follower of Jesus and as a Christian I think we need to fairly ask the question, “Would Jesus ride this bus?” To give the short answer I think he would! Why not?!

If we look at the gospels in the light of where Jesus went and who he spoke with; it seems fair to say that not everyone agreed with what he had to say. Most particularly that he was the Messiah, the Son of Man, and most radically the Son of God. It infuriated much of the religious establishments leading many to judgmental attitudes toward him as they questioned his followers, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11) Jesus was a radicalist, a rebel to institutionalism and exclusivity. Ultimately, it was Jesus’ wildness (if I can borrow the term) that led to the Pharisee’s putting him to death.

All said, what did Jesus’ message of freedom and truth do? It ignited a firestorm of conversations between all sorts of different and diverse people. Some of which gave conflicting and contradicting answers to the beliefs and teachings he shared. I think of when he asked his disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” They didn’t answer him all in unison and they certainly didn’t give him the same response. They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-20)

So again I ask the question, “Would Jesus ride this bus?” And I think he would. He would reach out to these people in simple relationship. He would engage with them in the conversation that they were already a part of. He would be a radicalist and love them for who they are and where their passions, dreams, and hopes exist today. Jesus would bring truth into light by his presence and proximity to those who needed him most (Matthew 9:13; 11:19 Mark 2:17).

Maybe we should then ask the question of ourselves, “Would I ride this bus?” and I think my answer would be the same, “Yes, of course I would. Why not?!” It seems funny but, the next morning Bonnie and I were watching the news and they were interviewing people from both sides of the argument. The one pastor explains “This statement seems more of a call out to uncertainty and desire for dialogue.” After a few more blasting and judgment statements from a few others the atheist supporter comments himself, “We are just looking to start a conversation with people.”

I suppose that is where I sit too. I want to be part of the conversation whether we agree on everything or not. Let’s face it; what is in appearance on the outside is not as important as who is driving the bus!


In Thought of the Social Justice Movement

A few days ago Bonnie and I sat in our living room with our coffee in hand as we watched the Inauguration of Barack Obama into the 44th Presidential office. I must admit that even as a Canadian I may not have always agreed with Obama’s policies but, my heart leapt at the thought of the American people electing an African American into office for the first time. What a huge step of honesty, integrity, and commitment for the social justice movement which started sixty years ago!

In the same breath and moment I felt convicted as a follower of Jesus while listening to Rick Warren’s Invocation and prayer. I have always been inspired by the stories and lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Malcolm X. People who stood for social rights, justice, freedom, and the strength of integrity through social integration and diversity. But, here is where my conviction came. Where is our Social Justice Movement today? What are the oppressive natures which create division and segregation within our nation’s society and communities? Who are our leaders in such movements and why do they not stand out as strongly as they once seemed to back in the 50′s and 60′s?

I’m not trying to say that the Social Justice Movement does not exist today. I still hear echoes from musicians like Lenny Kravitz ‘s “We’re Back in Vietnam” and John Cougar Melloncamp’s “Nooses in Tree’s” as a symbolism to artistic freedoms along with people like Rick Warren and his wife who take the needs of addressing such issues as AIDS, Abortion, Orphans, Religious Persecution, and Human Trafficking through interviews and articles like that as the one in last February’s issue of Reader’s Digest. But, are we as individuals willing to still march the streets for such causes? Are we as holistic beings created with spiritual, psychological, and physical integrity free and willing to accept the possibility of imprisonment, oppression, and even death for such radical needs for social transformation?

I end up asking myself the question, “As a follower of Jesus; what bus am I willing to sit on in the hopes of Jesus showing up?” In part, I think I began trying to answer this question while sitting in an office last Wednesday afternoon with my friends Tim Schmidt and Ron Fraser. Tim who lives with Cerebral Palsy; myself who lives with a spinal cord injury; and Ron who with his brother has been involved with the disabled community for several years began to ask the question of, “What are the ways in which the city of Calgary has reached out to the individuals who face disabilities with the hopes of offering a sense of belonging and support?” Perhaps in a secondary sense we were also asking as individuals who follow Jesus; “In what ways does the Church offer support and belonging to those who face challenges in life?”

AdventureWe spent the next hour and a half mapping out just how we might approach these issues and what our major focuses might be over the coming few months. I’m not sure where this might take us and in truth I am continuing to push myself as to how committed I am and if Jesus might be calling us to something more within this movement. That said I realize that sometimes God takes the momentum of such journeys and catapults them into the stratosphere. Who am I to deny my creator a Lord? Perhaps we just might find ourselves saying, “I have a Dream…”

“When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, ‘Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.’ But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”

Henri Nouwen

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”

Isaiah 56:1-8


Wisdom (Video)

What is wisdom to you?


Why Israel Can’t Survive

This morning I sat in my doctor’s office with Kleenex in hand as I have been suffering with an intense cough and sinus cold for the last two days. Realizing that there were several people in front of me to see the doctor first, I started shuffling through the piles of magazines sitting in front of me on a lowered coffee table. It was your usual office choices of Chatelaine’s, Canadian Business Men’s, and Martha Stewart’s. Actually, I was looking for the latest Sports Illustrated but it was a Canadian MacLean’s magazine that grabbed my attention. Blazoned on the front cover was the picture of a group of children standing together and waving an Israeli flag with the title saying “Why Israel Can’t Survive’. (For the full article Click Here.)

I’m not a political specialist and in truth I find myself highly removed from engaging in an in-depth reasoning as to the stand points of both the Jewish and Palestinian governments with regards to rights and ownership of the West Bank and Gaza lands. My curiosity was spurred by my Christian roots and faith with how we relate to the history of such cultures and land.

The author Michael Petrou himself acknowledges the difficulties in solving such highly emotionally driven and culturally sensitive issues with regards to the Palestinian’s alliances with Iranian officials along with the Israeli’s parallel alliances with the United States. It seems disturbingly captivating when you consider the ethical arguments and imbalances against the possession of nuclear technology by both Iranian and U.S. nations.

Petrou’s title summary quote is perhaps best articulated in the article by saying,

“Within one or two decades, the number of Muslim and Christian Arabs living under Israeli control (including in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself) will surpass the number of Israeli Jews. When that happens, If there is still no Palestinian state (and in the absence of large scale ethnic cleansing), Israeli’s will be forced to choose between two futures. Their country will either be Jewish, but not democratic – in other words, a Jewish minority will control a land mostly inhabited by Palestinians – or Israel will be democratic, but not Jewish, because Arabs will form the majority in what will become a bi-national state.

Israel will be Jewish, or democratic. It can’t be both. And if it can’t be both, the Zionist dream on which Israel is founded will end. This is the gravest threat Israel faces on the eve of its 60th anniversary. It won’t have another 60 years to address it.”

It wasn’t quit a week ago when my wife and I watched the movie ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. It was a theatrical rendition filled with Hollywood effects story of a common man who was thrust into Knighthood by his estranged father during the Crusades. Once he arrives in the Holy Land he quickly realizes that the promise of faithful redemption does not come so quickly or easily through religious bricks and buildings. It comes through the relational storyline of an unseen kingdom. A kingdom of Conscience inside a man’s own heart, soul, and mind!

It seems throughout the history and culture of both Israel and Palestine, ideology at its foremost has driven both sides to the brink of madness. A madness which is recognized even within the fictional and non-fictional stories which shape and catalyze each of there claims to righteousness, freedom, and political rule. When will Israel and Palestine embrace each other as brothers free from the desire of religious idolatrous buildings and statues? When can they recognize the true need to fight for the people against the demonic elements of fanatical religious oppression whether Islamic, Jewish, or otherwise? When will the welfare of a 7 year old child suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder take greater value over the possession of a nationalistic title?

Perhaps, in the search and journey for my own Kingdom of Conscience and relationship with a living truth as that in Jesus; I can hold to a promise of greater sustainability and directional foci. The promise of the Kingdom of God being near. Near not in the sense of timeline but, near to my heart in thoughts, desire, and actions. Such a Kingdom seems far more valuable then the possession of any building, land, or title. My hope, my prayer is that Israel and Palestine might also embrace that same vision and truth.

“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

John 2:13-22


One Day of the Iraq War =


Shake Hands with the Devil: Movie Night

Expressions of Courage

“How many lives can be saved in a fight against indifference when your only weapon is the courage to stand alone.”

Shake HandsYou are not alone in the search for global justice! Tonight is a time to gather and find inspiration as we watch the film ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’; a true story about the Canadian Lieutenant General Romeo A. Dallaire and his experiences in Rwanda, Africa. Following the film will be a short presentation from Ricot Leon regarding his ‘Heart for Home’ and the dream he has to bring hope to the nation of Haiti. Popcorn and refreshments will be provided.

There is no official cost however; we ask that you might make a donation of any amount to ‘Heart for Home’ in the effort of supporting there work in building the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people.  Together we can all find courage, strength, hope, and the ability to take a stand and make a difference in the world today!

Place: Oak Park Church – #11263 Oakfield Drive S.W. Calgary, Alberta

Day & Time: Saturday, March 8th, 2008 @ 6:30 pm – 10 pm

For more about the film visit: www.shakehandswiththedevilthemovie.com/.

For more about Ricot Leon and ‘Heart for Home’ visit: www.heartforhome.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your interest and support. If you would like any more information please email erik@ecfcommunity.org.


The Million Dollar Message

Recently I was reading a post on my friend  Alan Hirsch’s blog ‘The Forgotten Ways’ titled ‘Consumption as Spirituality’. A fellow reader named Penny made a moving comment with regards to her friend in the hospital. I won’t share much of the comment however, I feel the pain that I think we humans all feel with the perplexities and paradoxical understandings we have with regards to the issue of death.

I must admit to being reminded of a sermon I did in regards to the practices of euthanasia several years ago called ‘The Million Dollar Message’. It was a sermon I wrote after Bonnie and I had blindly rented and watched Clint Eastwood’s film ‘The Million Dollar Baby’. For those of you that know me… this was deeply a personal attack and I felt overly compelled to respond. That said, I realize that the doorway we see as “death” is shrouded in things we don’t necessarily understand. Things that I don’t understand. Looking back… maybe… I was wrong. Then again… maybe not.

The Million Dollar Message!

Introduction

How many of you have seen the movie “Million Dollar Baby”?

Well that’s great because today I want to share with you the “Million Dollar Message”! And to begin I am going to use a quote that Eddy “Scrap Iron” Dupris said in the film.

He said “If there is any magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retina’s. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”

What battles do you face in life? What struggle is it that you find that keeps getting right up there in front of your face and seems to make life just impossible? And after you’ve got it there, what are you supposed to do with it?

Jesus too faced these questions and he addresses them in the passage that I want to explore with you. Turn back to today’s reading in Mark 8:31.

“GET BEHIND ME…”

This is a passage where Jesus is spending some time with his disciples, probably in the evening while sitting around the fire, and Jesus is telling them about the coming events that would be happening soon.

As he explains that these events will be a hard time and he himself would be facing great suffering and pain, Peter quickly pipes up saying “No Lord, don’t say that.” “Don’t say that you will have to suffer in anguish!”

I mean think about it! Jesus isn’t just saying poor me, he’s saying every person of worldly leadership, the government, the religious leaders, and educator’s of his country and culture will despise him and murder him. Probably on a cross. And Peter who has seen the horrific anguish and torture of people dieing on the cross is saying to his friend “Please Jesus, there has to be another way?”

Jesus responds “Get away from me Satan!” That’s pretty powerful words to use. So why would Jesus say this?

If we look back at Matthew 4:1-11 we can see that earlier Satan also tempted Jesus three times. One of which where he offers Jesus all the nations of the world if he would just bow down and worship him. He was offering Jesus a way to gain the whole world without having to suffer on the cross.

In the same way Peter, although motivated by a different purpose (the purpose of love for his master and not wanting to see him in pain), was still asking Jesus to avoid the cross. He was asking for another way in which Jesus could be King without having to suffer. Whether Peter knew it or not, the temptation was directed by the works of Satan.

By saying that Peter was looking at things from a human perspective, Jesus was pointing to the fact that Peter was quick to see the promise of glory and worship that come at the end of the road but he was blind to the path that Jesus had to walk in order to reach the end of the road.

Likewise, Satan is more then willing to let us see the promises that Jesus has for us but his illusion is to blind us from seeing the road in which we need to travel in order to receive those promises. We stumble around asking ourselves why must I go through this, why do “I” have to suffer.

With God’s vision though Jesus recognizes the fact that power and glory comes after hard work, persecution, deprivation, and suffering.

Jesus gives us to results for Peter in these first few verses.

First is the command “Get away from me Satan!” “Get out of my sight!” Recognize that his temptation is a lie. Recognize that it is a feeble attempt to cloud our focus from the truth that we have to first travel the road of hardship before we can receive the riches of heaven.

Secondly he says in the same words to Peter as we see in other translations “Get behind me…” Jesus is placing Peter back into the proper position of authority to which he belongs. Jesus is the master, he is our leader, the one who is holding the white towel, and Peter is the disciple. Plain and simple, we can’t follow what we can’t see!

Jesus is reminding us of the same thing. He is the one with the vision, the one who sees the invisible dream, and if we are going to be able to follow him we have to see him in front of us!

THREE STEPS OF TRAINING

Do you remember the scene in the movie were Frankie Dunn is taking Maggie Fitzgerald as his next fighter. Maggie is spilling guts out about all the hard work she’s doing and all the suffering and persecution she’s had to endure and wondering what it’s all for. Frankie finally concedes to training her under some specific conditions. He say’s “If I take you on you don’t say anything, you don’t question me, you don’t ask why, you don’t say anything except maybe yes Frankie.”

That’s exactly what Jesus does in the next few verses. Now that Peter is in the proper position to which he should be, Jesus gives three quick points, three conditions as to how we can follow him as his disciples.

First he says “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”

Jesus was aware of the persecution that the church would later face and he also knew the purposes the Romans had for there acts in crucifying people. See the Romans would not only whip the people they were crucifying to dull the pain of the crucifixion itself but they would also tie the cross beam of the cross to the shoulders of there victims and make them carry it to the site of execution. This cross beam which would weigh in excess of 60 pounds or more would cut and scrap the raw backs of their victims and was meant to be a representation to the people of their submission to Roman authority.

Jesus is asking for that same allegiance. That we would submit inspite of pain and anguish all our authority to him right down to the place and time of our death. He was saying that the promises he has for us are greater then even death itself and they were worth sacrificing every part of our self desire for. We begin living our lives with an attitude that says “What I want is irrelevant!”

Maltbie Babdcock once wrote that “Present suffering is not enjoyable, but life would be worth little without it. The difference between iron and steel is fire, but steel is worth all it costs. Iron ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace, but when the watch-spring looks back, it knows better. David enjoyed pain and trouble no more than we do, but the time came when he admitted that they had been good for him. Though the aspect of suffering is hard, the prospect is hopeful, and the retrospect will start a song, if we are “the called according to his purpose,” in suffering.”

Jesus’ second condition is that “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”

In the early parts of the movie do you remember the scene where the character Big Willie Little is in the fight of his life and he gets a shot to the side of the head where he gets cut under the eye. Stopping the fight and sending the fighters to their corners, the ref tells Frankie (Eastwood) that he had to stop the bleeding or he would stop the fight. Not wanting to loose, Willie asks his trainer “What should I do?” And Frankie responds “You got to let him hit you?”

Although a little perplexed Willie follows his advice and just like those old Rocky movies we can see the slow motion of Willie dropping his guard as the fighter gives him a shot to the head and then those cool CSI special effects when we see the close up of all the blood vessels in his check seizing up and stopping the bleeding. It was after that when Willie could go in and give the knock out blow and claim victory.

Willie is the picture of what Jesus is asking of us. That if we persist of guarding our own lives with our own wisdom we will loose it and be unable to continue the fight. But, if we just place our faith in him, allow ourselves to drop our guard and endure the shots of suffering we receive in this world, we will begin to experience the path to victory and rejoice with the final knock out blow. That is what “real life is about”.

The third condition Jesus gives us is a series of rhetorical questions. “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?

I’ll add to these questions; “What is your life worth?” “Can you truly understand the value of your life and how it affects everyone around you?” These are very personal questions that I have asked myself and to be truthful with myself, I cannot answer them with any certainty not because I can’t see what has happened in the past but because I cannot see the future! Who am I to judge and determine the people I may speak to, hear, comfort, or come in contact with in future? I cannot judge! I have no authority to do so!

There is a very clear point at which the movie Million Dollar Baby changes direction and for those of you who have seen it you know what I am referring too! It is at the point where Maggie after having broke her neck and becoming paralyzed, asks Frankie to help her commit suicide. I want you to think about it for a moment and the power of her statement. She says “I can’t be like this Frankie, not after what I’ve done, I’ve seen the world, People chanted my name, not some damn name you gave me, they were chanting for me. I was in magazines. You think I ever dreamed that would happen. I was born 2 pounds 1 and a half ounces, Daddy use to tell me I fought to get into this world. You know if I had my way out, that’s all I want to do Frankie. I just don’t want to fight you to do it. I got what I needed. I got it all. Don’t keep letting them take it away from me. Don’t let me lie here till I can’t hear those people chanting no more.”

Compare it again to Jesus’ words “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

At what point did Maggie become disillusioned to the fact that here soul was measured by the fight for life, the fight of celebrating 33 years of life and still punching that speed bag and not just for the simple chants of a crowd.

Titles are won and titles are lost, champions come and champions go, but in the eternity of life there is only one Maggie Fitzgerald. There is only one Erik Freiburger. There is only one you.

With this in mind I give you a quote from G.K. Chesterton. “In everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon.”

It is true that some of us endure suffering here on earth whether it be physical or not however in the face of eternity this lifetime is a mere moment before the riches of heaven.

Likewise, our soul is not set to the riches of this world but through Christ it is intently focused on the Kingdom of God making the value of this life a journey of preparation planned out by our heavenly Father for the coming of the next life. It’s value immeasurable in the hands of God!

Conclusion

If you can’t tell I am very emotionally attached to this message and moving into the conclusion I want to share with you why.

Bonnie and I watched this movie a few weeks ago. Sitting down we thought we where going to watch a movie about boxing, about over coming adversity. Instead we were flooded with images of fear, worry, doubt, self-pity, and ultimately the glorification of murder. It hurt and it cut deeply as it attacked us personally in our lifestyle.

The producer called it a work of genius and the general public would seem to agree giving it 4 Academy Awards out of 7 one of which being Best Picture. It floors me that, that same public would earlier have just rejected ‘The Passion of Christ’ film from any possibility of award for its implied message content of hatred and instead embraces the message content of a film comparing human life being worth that of putting a dog down.

Work of genius? Absolutely! Great direction, superb acting, fantastic screen writing but, orchestrated by an unseen entity to which millions will be affected which geniusely is far greater then anyone man. The film deceivingly does not allow the public to understand the message of euthanasia prior to viewing and instead hides behind the mask of Actors names and a beaming picture of the awards it has received.

At the same time bringing a message of comparing euthanasia to justifiable homicide in a society that struggles with the very question of assisted suicide. We have states like Oregon passing bills making euthanasia legal, husbands denying communion to the wives as they starve to death such as the court ordered murder of Terry Schiavo, and human beings laughing as they crack a joke about Dr. Kavorkian.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the height of the Nazi’s campaign for euthanasia wrote that “In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.”

He was not advocating euthanasia but instead was pointing to the fact that each and every individual is vital to the community of faith despite any physical fight they may have or physiological struggle.

Jesus tells us in verse 38 of Mark 8 that we are not to be ashamed of his message. We’re not to be ashamed of his life because the life he gives us is not a life of shame. It’s a life of power and influence, of love, and compassion, and generosity to all of his creation in the midst of adversity! I know its true because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen it in the life of my wife’s friend Katie and her passion for friendship and sailing. I’ve seen it in my friend Mike Zunic’s life with his love of racing and race cars while expressing his faith through those experiences. I’ve seen it in the lives of Henry and Geraldine Eckert with the joy that they have in sharing stories about there grandson Nathan. And I see it in the life of my wife Bonnie and the inspiration she gives me as we share life together.

I began this message saying I wanted to share with you the million dollar message and shared with you the words of Eddy “Scrap Iron” Dupris. “If there is any magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retina’s. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”

It’s more then the magic of boxing. It’s the magic of life. The power of the Holy Spirit taking us beyond the physical pain and suffering of this world, beyond the psychological struggles of depression and anguish, beyond the spiritual attacks of sin and unseen enemies. It’s the power of each one of us risking everything and submitting to the dream that nobody sees but the Son of God. Jesus Christ. And when we get there we won’t hear the applauses of human hands but the choruses of Angels singing. And we will all raise our arms in victory not with the closed fists of self accomplishment but with open hands of praise and worship to an awesome God!

I’m going to close in prayer but while I do that would you do something with me. I want you to all stand up, grab the wrist of the person next to you and lift their hands in victory. We are all champions in Christ!


Lions for Lambs: Deep Thoughts About Nothing

Last night was a jolt into reality! Bonnie and I watched the film ‘Lions for Lambs’ which despite its American Imperialistic stance, gave into a stroke of genius with regards to the message it held. Simply stated, our future hope lies with good men who are willing to do something rather then nothing. The statement itself seems reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s  address with, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Nothing…nothing…NOTHING! Is a non-violent response considered an act of nothingness today? Can we as a people (spoken in a human context not “American”) take action against the “forces of evil” without having to raise a gun and shot another living being? Blow them up? Stick a knife in them? It pains me to think of the violence we manifest into our beliefs about rights, freedoms, and the emancipation of human souls! It leaves me wondering, “Who and what is terrorism?”

Ephesians 6:12 says, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” War mongering rulership, authority, power, terrorism, evil, the “enemy”; I don’t think was meant to be an element which is visible and categorized within a specific people, person, or place. It exists in and because of a broken humanity and can be found not only in those around us but in ourselves as well. Paul’s battle ground was meant to be seen as internal and not external and it is there that we find our great tribulation. Macarius once said, “The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and also lions. There are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the Kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities, and the treasures of grace – all things are there.”

I gag to think if we give into the rationalization that Tom Cruise’s character, the Senator gave as justifying a “War on Terrorism”; and very much a societal suicide and pathological mandate when he said, “No lasting government power has remained so with a non-violent political stance.” (Paraphrased) I think… I believe… I have seen a Kingdom power greater then this in the acts of a simple carpenter named Jesus and his followers! 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my   account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


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