Monthly Archives: January 2014

If I Had a Hammer

 

seegerLast week in China, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 4 years in prison for “disturbing the peace.” His crime was “organizing a grass-roots New Citizens Movement, which sought to give voice to public discontent over official corruption and social injustice” (NY TIMES, 1-26-14). In his closing statement at trial, on January 22, 2014, Zhiyong spoke of the core values of the movement: “freedom, justice and love.”

It is hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that our own country struggled to find the line between freedom of speech and public disorder /disintegration of societal rules. For many baby-boomers, one figure stands out as a spokesman for the same ideals of which Zhiyong spoke. Sometimes in the shadows, other times at the forefront, and quite often writing or singing the soundtrack, Pete Seeger invited audiences to sing along to the theme of Justice, Love, and Freedom.

By now, you have probably heard of the passing of Pete Seeger at age 94. He will be remembered for songs such as, “We Shall Overcome,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” But Seeger’s, “If I Had A Hammer” probably encapsulates his message the best.

The closing verses promise to hammer, ring, and sing Justice, Freedom, and Love between my brothers and my sisters and all over this land.

Justice, Freedom, and Love are desirable qualities. But they did not originate with Seeger. Songs like Seeger’s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” come straight from the pages of scripture. So do the very concepts of Justice, Freedom, and Love. We would not know justice, freedom, or love if not for God’s great wisdom, grace, and mercy.

The prophet Amos said, “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; …Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:14-15)! May we continue to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God (Micah 6:8). May we continue to pray that the justice, freedom, and love of God will continue to make progress in China, in America, and in the hearts of all people everywhere.

Say Nothing At All

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If you have ever wondered why the NFL has a 10-minute “cool-down” rule in which reporters aren’t allowed to enter the locker room, comments after the NFC Championship game by Seahawk Cornerback Richard Sherman might be the answer. But how do you protect players from interviews on the field when the exuberance of having just won a spot in the Super Bowl is sinking in and the adrenaline is flowing?

In case you missed Sherman’s rant:

“When you try me with a sorry receiver like (the 49ers Michael) Crabtree, that’s the result you are going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

Egotistical? Yes. Unkind? Absolutely. But does Sherman deserve the hateful bile that is being spewed at him? Sherman has been barraged with tweets and message boards filled with comments calling him a gorilla, an ape and a thug from the ghetto.

Of course, there is never an excuse for racial slurs. The hypocrisy is that his detractors are saying worse things about him than he said that night. The irony is that Sherman is not the stereotype they think. He was a straight “A” student in high school, he went to Stanford, and he writes an article for Sports Illustrated. He certainly isn’t a “gorilla, ape, or thug,” and in his calmer moments is known for his good nature and attitude.

We have all said things “in the heat of the moment” that we later regretted. We hope that people don’t judge us by those words, but in truth, those moments are sadly the ones we are probably remembered by the most.

Scripture repeatedly reminds us of the wisdom of watching our words. We know that “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23). The Christian knows that “no corrupting talk” should come from our mouths, “but only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Sherman apologized for his rash remarks. And I hope he learned a lesson and that fans will offer him a little grace. For us, it is a great reminder of what Mom told us anyway… “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” Turns out, that was pretty good advice.

 

Send the Light

If darkness surrounded you, what lengths would you go to in order to see the light? How glad would you be when you finally saw it? One small town in Norway recently got to experience that joy.

Rjukan is a small town in Norway that, due to the surrounding mountains and long winters, is without direct sunlight for nearly six months. Until now, if the townspeople wanted to feel the sunlight on their faces from late September to mid-March, they had to ride a cable car up a mountain! They could see the sun hitting the mountain, and they could see the blue sky above, but they were covered in darkness.

Sam Eyde, the engineer who invented techniques for harnessing hydroelectricity that are still in use today, built Rjukan 100 years ago to harness the power of the Rjukanfossen waterfall. But Eyde had to scrap plans for diverting sunlight into the town due to cost and lack of technology. 100 years later, that dream has come true.

Three massive mirrors (or heliostats), powered by solar panels and computer programmed to track the sun, direct the light into the town square for all the residents to enjoy. And they are enjoying! Residents are coming out to enjoy the sun, improving their health and their attitudes, basking in the light.

Even former detractors are now enjoying the light. Many townspeople were against the project initially, but have had a change of mind. One woman, Anette Oien, was “deeply sceptical.” But now, she says she has found “the light I long for.”

Psalm 43:3, “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me.”

There is another light that people long for that doesn’t come from mirrors on a hill. In 1890, a few years before Eyde built his town in Norway, Charles Gabriel wrote the great hymn, “Send the Light.”

“Send the light, the blessed Gospel light; Let it shine from shore to shore! Send the light, the blessed Gospel light; Let it shine forevermore!”

Many long to bask in the blessed light of the truth of the gospel. There is no greater warmth. There is no greater joy than to finally hear about God’s love and His plan for our eternal salvation. Let the light shine in…shine forevermore.

Blue Monday, Velveeta, and the Vortex, Oh My!

var, blm,ch,vortIf you are reading this article, then you survived “Blue Monday,” the Velveeta “cheesepocalypse,” and the Vortex. Turns out, 2014 has already thrown a lot at us and we’re just half way into the 1st week! Is there reason to panic? Let’s consider the forces working against us.

Blue Monday, has been dubbed the “most depressing day of the year.” Some say it is like Monday on steroids: slow to go back to work after the holidays, in debt from over spending, over-weight from the average 5-10 pounds of holiday weight, and already failing to keep New Year’s resolutions.

Need more reason to be depressed? Velveeta has announced that due to a cheese production issue, there won’t be enough cheese for all those Super Bowl nachos! Millions of Super Bowl fans, restaurants, and stadiums are panicking and causing shelves to be bare of nacho gold.

Finally, this year, winter cold has a new name…Polar Vortex. We’re talking seriously cold weather! NY has declared a state of emergency. Flights have been cancelled, pipes are bursting, and some places could experience 40 degrees below zero. More time stuck inside means more cabin fever!

Need an encouraging word in these tumultuous days? “Blue Monday” can be turned into an encouraging reminder of our blessings: a job, loved ones to buy gifts for, and plenty of food to eat. Cheesepocalypse may help us shed some of that 5-10 pounds of holiday weight! And the Polar Vortex, though a serious storm, is already passing and bringing better forecasts.

The point? There is nothing new, as Solomon said, “under the sun.” We have faced weather before, “the wind continues swirling along;” we have dealt with the blues before, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing;” and we have experienced the effect of gluttony before, “yet the appetite is not satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 1:6,8; 6:7).

All things, though, can be new “under the Son.” God promises to make all things new for those who have become new in Him (Revelation 21:5; 1 Corinthians 5:17). So there is no need to panic, but there are plenty of reasons to rejoice! There is only one who makes things new. Seek Him today!