Monday, August 30, 2010

Reporting on the “End” of Combat in Iraq

It’s hard to believe that after seven years of direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq, the loss of millions of lives, the spending of billions of dollars, that it is barely news. I would have thought that it would be right under the masthead in the nation’s premier media outlets, but pictured below are today’s front pages of the on-line versions of the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and Time magazine. The end of combat is not mentioned.image



These images were taken between 0600 and 0615 Central time in Chicago.

I remember September 11, 2001, the visit of George Tenet to the Oval Office, the buildup to this war, the speech of Colin Powel before the United Nations, the countless images of the dead and maimed and displaced. I still think that if my CIA director walked into my oval office and said something like (as I understand what Mr. Tenet said) “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” that I would not have made a different decision than President Bush. I hope history shows that some good comes from this decision, for all involved, but as far as I can see right now it has been mostly tragic.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this reporting, but something is missing this morning…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Great Teams Change Lives

A Facebook post by my high school team mate, Jim Shields, got me thinking about what a difference being part of a good team can be for someone’s life…

I graduated from Frankenmuth High School (Frankenmuth, Michigan) in 1988 and had the honor of playing on two of the finest boys teams in Frankenmuth High School history. Both the football and basketball teams went to the state semifinals after outstanding seasons. For now, I focus on the football team.

Jim Shields (mentioned above) was our all-state punter and kicker. While we were crushed by eventual state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the state semis at Alma College, I will never forgot the busloads of CC kids getting out, coming in to the stands, and gasping as Jim Shields rocked pre-game practice punts into the stratosphere.

Jim was just one of several outstanding athletes on that team. Scott Jacobs was an all-state wide receiver. We had a fine quarterback in Myron Mauer, a great compliment of linemen (One of whom, Troy Reinert, still (I believe) holds as sack record at FHS and another, Steve Heinlein, who went on the Air Force Academy.), and all-conference caliber players all over the field.

One of our running backs, Paul Sica, gave one of great out-of-body athletic performances I have ever seen in that state semifinal. I’m confident he didn’t show the coaches before the game, but Paul opened his mouth in a pre-game huddle and showed us tonsils the size of golf balls. I don’t know how the guy could breath! He was totally miserable and played his guts out. Many of us remember Michael Jordan’s famous “flu game” against Utah (1996?). Respectfully, I’ll put Paul’s effort that day up there with Jordan’s or anyone else’s for that matter. There was no money on the line, no scholarship, just the commitment to us—the team—and to excellence that competition provided us.

If you click here you’ll see a web page with a single game playoff interception record at FHS. It has my name on it. Elsewhere my name appears for a single season total of six. Some historian of FHS football years from now might look at these records and come to a silly conclusion. The fact is that I had little business being on that field.

My “backup” was a superior athlete named Scott Jackson, who went on to start the following year as a senior and set all kinds of records. Scott could dunk at basketball when he was 5’6”. He was a great athlete, and he played sparingly because I was a senior, the student body president, and because I worked hard in practice. (Our head coach, Ralph Munger, tried to reward guys like me with playing time because he believed it was best for the team in the long-run. He’s now become a Michigan high school legend at Rockford High School.)

I got six interceptions that season, in part because nobody wanted to throw anywhere near all-stater Scott Jacobs, who played defensive back next to me, and because we had a tremendous defensive line and linebacker corps who made life miserable for the opposing offenses. At least two of those six interceptions almost literally fell into my lap. One was a tipped ball that was stupidly thrown by the quarterback at the end of the game. I got a touchdown for that one. (Thanks for the block, Jim Frank.) Another was a “Hail Mary” at the end of the first playoff game against Cheboygan that the quarterback just heaved into the air and I ended up being the one in the pile who came up with the ball.

There are many lessons from all this, but the high school football experience, especially, was life-changing for me, giving me confidence and a sense of accomplishment as I ventured off, away from my family, for my tumultuous college years. I had some success in high school football because I was a decent athlete on a team of great athletes that had coaches that expected us to maximize our potential and gave us every opportunity to do so.

Our coaches, knowing the talent we had from the time we were in elementary school, spent years encouraging, cajoling, and developing both the talent and the commitment to one another that would allow us to achieve personal and corporate successes that most of us could not have imagined when we were on the playground as little children. That team did not just “appear.” It was molded and shaped over many years, and it changes all of our lives for the better. 

May God give us who are now in leadership the vision and commitment to personal and corporate excellence, to develop and use our God-given gifts for the good of our neighbor, that we might mold and shape great teams in our families and workplaces, for great teams change lives.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Marriage of Priests

marriage_460x The Roman Catholic church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals in recent years. Sadly, this is nothing new.

The chief confessional document of the Lutheran Reformation, The Augsburg Confession (1530), in Article 23 speaks of complaints about “unchaste” priests and then makes the Biblical case for the marriage thereof.

My own assessment is that many Lutherans tend to overstate the case for marriage in practice. Whereas St. Paul encourages men and women to be single ("I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." –1 Corinthians 7:7, ESV), we often do not properly warn those who would be married of the worldly challenges Paul speaks of for married people.

Article 23 (below) speaks well of the blessings and challenges of marriage for those men who would service in the Office of the Holy Ministry, making the Biblical case therefore, but also upholding the Biblical teaching that some have the “gift of chastity.”

Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests.

1] There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not chaste. 2] For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. 3] Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because 4] Paul says, 1 Cor. 7, 2. 9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly 5] Christ says, Matt. 19, 11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1, 28. 6] Nor is it in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, 7] those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to 8] contract matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons 9] the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.

10] It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men. 11] For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the husband of one wife. 12] And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope’s decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. 13] And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity.]

14] Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man’s nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.

15] Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. 16] The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. 17] And it is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.

18] But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against 19] the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all 20] well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. 21] But now men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than 22] marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4, 3, calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. 23] This may now be readily understood when the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.

24] But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can it be done by any vow. 25] Accordingly, Cyprian also advises that women who do not keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are these (Book I, Epistle XI): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts; they should certainly give no offense to their brethren and sisters.

26] And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the case.

Concordia Triglotta - English : The Symbolic Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church,  (Milwaukee WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1997), 65.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Buying wood for dinner

Our first night camping as a family of six...

Cooked steaks over the wood fire. Exquisite! I can't think of a steak that tasted better since my honeymoon in St. Maarten 14 years ago, and that was an $150 meal.

Good to have a getaway with the family!

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Monday, August 2, 2010

Confessing with Courage

paul_before_agrippa I love to hear the accounts of St. Paul’s witness. Today’s New Testament reading in the highly recommended Treasury of Daily Prayer is Acts 26.24-27.8, where Paul, a prisoner for the sake of the Gospel, makes his confession and missionary appeal to Kings Agrippa and Festus. Also included in the reading is the beginning account of Paul’s famous journey to Rome:

And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad.” But Paul said, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian!” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them; and when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea." (Acts 26:24-27:8, RSV)

Here is the Treasury’s great prayer for the day:

Lord Jesus Christ, before whom all in heaven and earth shall bow, grant courage that Your children may confess Your saving name in the face of any opposition from a world hostile to the Gospel. Help them to remember Your faithful people who sacrificed much and even faced death rather than dishonor You when called upon to deny the faith. By Your Spirit, strengthen them to be faithful and to confess You boldly, knowing that You will confess Your own before the Father in heaven, with whom You and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, now and forever.