Some light reading on personal holiness, racism, education, social justice, gender issues and college athletics…
- ROSA PARKS: Small woman. Courageous heart. Changed our country by doing the unexpected. She sat instead of standing to give up her seat. When people act in unexpected ways, it makes us pause and think. It's exactly what Jesus did in Mark 11 as he entered the temple courts on the Monday before His death. We expect a gentle and kind Jesus, a Jesus who is meek and loving, but not one who would get upset and shout at people, yet that's exactly what He does. God will not be mocked. In the vast temple courts, Jesus stands against what had become culturally acceptable and He calls people back to righteousness. He turns over tables and declares before thousands "My house will be a house of prayer for all nations." Sweet, gentle Jesus turns into a whirling dervish of righteous anger and it challenges how we think about the nature of God. Here's the deal: if we have not yet obtained perfect holiness, should we not expect God to occasionally turn over some tables and "drive out" of our lives what ought not be there? We should - unless we have crafted a God in our image - one who always agrees with us and never acts in unexpected ways. Think about it: if our relationship with God is truly personal, and He wants to shape us into the image of Christ, then He is always going to tell us things we don't want to hear - things that convict us and challenge us. So, what is He trying to "drive out" of your life? How is He challenging what YOU think?
- Jesus' declaration in the temple also gives us a new understanding of equality in the Kingdom of God. Unknown to many, the temple courts were segregated by race and gender. If you think of concentric circles, the inner circle near the "holy of holies" – the presence of God – was ONLY entered by the holiest and most righteous – the religious leaders. Moving out to the edges, the next to last circle was where they held the women, and at the very edge were non-Jews or people of other ethnicities. We tend to focus on Jesus saying "My house will be a house of prayer" and forget the ending "for all nations." He's quoting Isaiah 56 that says "foreigners (other ethnic groups) who bind themselves to the Lord, I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house." Jesus gives us a biblical understanding of the Kingdom: ALL are welcome to enter HIs presence. Thus, we in His Church must learn to embrace and appreciate what EVERY ethnicity contributes to the Kingdom as we understand our place in the global Christian Church. #everytonguetribepeopleandnation
- SOCIAL JUSTICE and EDUCATION: Remember, a Christian understanding of social justice is defined as "the restoration of the right order" based on God's original creation. Where we see things out of order, we are compelled to move towards restoring that order – one of which was the equality Jesus declared in #2. One such issue that I am passionate about is education. We can't put a dent in generational poverty until we start restoring opportunity for those who are receiving an education that is clearly inferior. (Statistical fact). For that reason, our church is on Mercy Drive doing K–12 education ministry in partnership with Orange County Public Schools and the City of Orlando. It's also why I am encouraged that our state adopted the Florida Tax Credit scholarship. Since 2002, 98,000 low-income students have been able to attend private schools or religious ones, giving families options and choices that are sorely needed while also putting marketplace pressure on underperforming public schools. I also love what Cornerstone Charter Academy has done in the Pine Castle (kudos to William Brooks) area with many of our church families involved. I don't understand the protester who said, "I don't like school choice. We don't need it." OK, then what is a better option for those kids? Let's not be forced into one camp or another, but keep working for creative options that actually help kids.
- GENDER ISSUES: As our culture moves towards greater inclusion for transgendered individuals, it creates some challenging polarities. Who determines whether the right of the transgendered student to use their bathroom of choice supersedes the right of the student who would be uncomfortable with someone of their opposite biological gender being in their bathroom? Am I missing something or is that not a push? Also, a girl transitioning to a boy and thus taking heavy doses of male hormones wins the Texas High School Girls Wrestling Championship in her class. In a normal situation, a girl would be quickly disqualified for taking a known performance enhancing drug, but here, it was allowed. Wasn't that unfair to all the other girls competing and not taking male hormones? I'm not taking a side here. I know it's complex, but I truly don't get how one supersedes the rights of another.
- I'll let you amateur psychologists have a field day on this one: I have a recurring dream about three times a year. I am playing high school basketball with my old teammates. Yes, Robert R. Martin, you are there. The problem is we are playing a road game and I have forgotten my road uniform, so Coach Snowden (Juliana Snowden) won't let me play. I'm crushed I have let him down. I get having it once, but why repeatedly? Ready, go!
- College athletics, as much as I love them, have gotten stupidly out of hand. Honestly, it's related to #3. The money being spent on college football athletic facilities is ridiculous, including the news over the weekend that part of UCF's new football facility will include a lazy river. Yes. A lazy river like they have at water parks. Huh? We spend millions on college football, but can't come up with the dollars to pay teachers and improve public education? Then I read about Baker Mayfield, University of Oklahoma (OU) quarterback, arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He ran when officers confronted him, and yes, he had to be tackled. Oh, the irony. And like most other colleges, he gets a slap on the wrist. (Sorry Kim Newsom Ray) I'm not singling out OU, but the way we treat college athletes is also out of hand. There are currently 108 players who were convicted of rape or armed robbery still playing in lower tier Division I or II – kicked out of their original school – but because they can play, allowed in at another.
- What's the fastest car to ever go zero to 60? The new Tesla. 2.28 seconds. Blew my mind, but it's all about the weight. Lighter cars go faster.
- I was pleased to see Dan Grilo, former Clinton staffer, fired from his job as a consultant after tweeting that Carryn Owens, the widow of a fallen Navy Seal, was an "idiot" for accepting President Trump's invitation to last week's address. I am still flummoxed that some Democrats would not rise to applaud her. Do politics even have to enter how we honor the dead?
- SPORTS, PART 2: Great day yesterday seeing Orlando City open the new soccer stadium with a win. A fabulous day for our region! And what in the world did Michael Jordan mean at halftime of the UNC/Duke game? "The ceiling is the roof." Huh?