My last post was about what we need most, so this week it seems natural to talk about who we need most. Obviously, each person needs a family that loves them. In my experience, as a parent of three boys, and as a child myself, the father role is exceedingly important. I could read to my boys, take them to the park, buy them new toys, feed them their favorite foods, and play games with them all day long, but none of this compares to five minutes of football with Daddy. Although it should be noted that Saturday’s football fun resulted in a single stitch for Nate’s chin, and guess who got to take him to the ER? And when my dad was alive his approval was of great importance to me. I wanted to make him proud in way that did not and does not apply to my mom. Maybe that just indicates the security I have of her undying love, I don’t know for sure. I just know there is something special about daddies and all the statistics about the fatherless are heartbreaking.
Earlier this month I had the honor and privilege of speaking at a fundraising dinner. I think there were between three and four hundred people in attendance. Even though my little talk was only about five minutes long, I was very nervous leading up to the event. I wanted to convey the message well, and I didn’t want there to be regrets over choosing me for the task.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the National Prayer Breakfast, which of course is a lot more than just a breakfast. There are so many highlights that I’d like to share that I’m going to list my top ten; otherwise this post would take up too much of my time and yours.
- The breakfast was opened with the Lord’s Prayer in Cherokee, and those humbling words of submission have never sounded more beautiful.
- The sincerity of Tony Blair’s faith paired with his polished British wit made him a VERY hard act to follow. Read his address here.
- Every week many Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House put aside their political differences and pray together on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, respectively. It is not reported in the news. It is not meant to be public. But if you have the opportunity to hear the faithful members talk about how much these weekly prayer breakfasts mean to them, you cannot help but be encouraged. I loved seeing Democratic and Republican members interact and talk about their prayer breakfasts. They may not agree on everything, but they love each other as brothers and sisters. John 13:35 says that disciples of Jesus will be known by their love for one another. Some members of Congress are living this out better than many church communities.
- If you ever, ever have the opportunity to hear Casting Crowns live, seize it. Listen to a sample of their music here.
- There were something like 4000 people in attendance for the event, representing all fifty states and over 170 countries. I thought it was pretty cool to sit in the same room with the President of the United States and the First Lady, but even cooler to think, that in a sense, the world was gathered for prayer and breakfast.
- The National Prayer Breakfast has been a tradition since Eisenhower was President, which makes last week’s event the 57th of its kind. The President of the United States has attended each year, but I would guess never to a warmer reception than President Obama received Thursday.
- The National Prayer Breakfast is not a Christian event, but it is a Jesus Fest. Jesus was proclaimed over and over at all of the meals and events. I heard people from Fiji to Finland to Egypt to Pittsburgh praise the name of Jesus and His message.
- On Wednesday afternoon I was down at the Washington Hilton and had some time to kill before dinner, and since my life is divinely orchestrated, I happened upon a little gathering for Prison Fellowship Ministries. I heard Chuck Colson speak about prisoners in Sudan embracing the gospel message. I heard about the growth of Prison Fellowship in the Middle East, and about PFM’s Centurions Program, a distance learning, in-depth program which aims to help believers authentically live out biblical truth. Learn more about PFM by clicking here.
- William P. Young, author of The Shack, was also at the Prayer Breakfast. I heard him speak about how the first million copies of The Shack were mailed out through his buddy’s garage, and how he spent less than three hundred dollars on marketing. He also touched on some of the criticisms of his book. I have a hard time relating to people who can become enraged over a work of fiction. It’s not that I believe that Mr. Young nailed every single detail, it’s that I don’t think it matters. If people are spurred to think, to talk, to wrestle with some of the very deep theological principles that are addressed in The Shack, then what is the problem? But I love talking about it; and blogged about it last summer. (Click here to read it).
- On Thursday night the event ended. After dinner, speakers, and more Casting Crowns, the Kendrick brothers gave away hundreds of copies of their DVD Fireproof and their book The Love Dare. And then one of the brothers closed in prayer. He asked everyone who was willing and able to kneel, and two thousand people got down on their knees.
It used to be that people didn’t talk openly about sex or how much money people make or how much a woman weighs, but now sex is a primary topic of conversation, and many people’s salary and measurements can be found online or even in line at the grocery store. Since I did some last-minute Super Bowl shopping yesterday, I stood at the checkout counter long enough to learn that Jessica Simpson’s weight gain is the most important thing going on in the world.
Don’t you think Christmas brings out the best in people? And I’m not talking about people in the mall, or even people in mall traffic, I’m talking about people who take seriously the wisdom that it is better to give, than to receive. It’s refreshing, especially after studying the seven deadly sins for the past six weeks, to witness such widespread generosity. It seems like everywhere I go I see Angel Trees, Toys for Tots boxes, and efforts to support our troops. And you read about professional athletes, like Kurt Warner, who invest not just their money but their time to serve the less fortunate. I am so thankful that there’s something good left in us, despite all the pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, and sloth.
Life is full of irony and paradoxes. My dictionary defines paradox as something that “seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth,” and suggests that an “essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which is occurs.”
So I admit it I’m a Coldplay fan. Worldwide there must be about a half billion of us, but unlike a lot of bands that command such a fanatical following, this British sensation really does make great music. Their rhythms are original and catchy, and I guess maybe their lyrics are good too. I’m just not much of a lyrics person–unless it’s a lyrical disaster akin to Phil Collins’ Groovy Kind of Love, which is too painful to ignore–mostly I don’t even listen to the words. I just hum along or make up my own lyrics, which are sometimes quite similar to the original and sometimes, to the irritation of those around me, rather dissimilar. I know, I know. Poor Will, and he’s such a lyrical purist.
But sometimes I wonder what subliminal messages I’m picking up with all my nonlistening. For example in Coldplay’s recent number one, Viva La Vida, I know they are saying something about Saint Peter, but what? As you may know, the album’s full title is Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends. Evidently, the members of the band were going for a sort of bipolar mood, attempting to reflect the ups and downs of life. The upside is the song Viva La Vida, Spanish for long live life, the downside is…well, obviously Death and All His Friends, a ballad about ill-fated love. Life and Death. You can’t be more polarized than that. And even in the life song, the words belie hope: “For some reason I can not explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.”
Wow. I guess if one knew Saint Peter wasn’t calling their name, they sure would want to “long live life,” so the album title is certainly apt, but how sad. So much of my purpose, so much of my hope, so much of who I am is derived from this very issue: For many reasons I can explain Saint Peter is calling my name.
Is he calling yours?
This blog is about spurring each other on to greater love and good deeds, but did you know love and good deeds are irrelevant when it comes to eternal life? I mean completely irrelevant. You can no more earn your way to heaven with good deeds, than you can drive there. The only way to heaven is to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” (Romans 10:9 NIV). It is so simple a child can understand, and by God’s grace, I have two that do. Working your way to salvation is impossible, and God in His mercy, has provided such an easy answer. Unfortuately, some people refuse to accept that it really is that easy. But if God loves you, and He does, why would He want it to be hard?
John 3:16 says whoever believes in Jesus “shall not perish.” Now that’s my kind of Viva La Vida!
A few weeks ago a babysitter put my children to bed while my husband and I enjoyed a picnic dinner and concert at Wolf Trap. A DC summer is incomplete without at least one visit to this amazing venue (check it out at www.wolf-trap.org). But when I got in bed, The Black Crowes still ringing in my ear, my most beloved pillow appeared to be missing. It is important to know that this pillow has been a part of my life for more than thirty years. Originally a fluffy down pillow, it is now flat as a pancake and easily folded into my suitcase wherever I go. I’ve wondered whether any pillow, save one of the airlines’ sorry little numbers, has ever logged more miles than mine. It has been to Europe twice, Canada, and Mexico. It has cruised to the Bahamas, once in 1985 and again twenty-one years later. And that’s only its international travels. Goodness, I sure hope this post doesn’t prompt the CDC to confiscate it, because although I admit it is a little peculiar, maybe even a teeny bit unsanitary, I love this pillow.