MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS – NOW NORWAY, COLLEGE FOOTBALL IN TROUBLE, PIRATES RISING, TSAILE

Norway is hardly a society synonymous with violence or a place identified with terrorist activity. Yet horrendously, this sturdy and heroic Scandinavian nation experienced an unspeakable tragedy.  94 persons were killed in two separate attacks–one targeted at a youth camp, another at a government building.  The suspect Anders Behring Brievik, is a self-professed Christian fundamentalist and is connected with the Progress Party, a far-right party in Norway.  Like similar parties in Europe, it is anti-immigration and focused around racial issues.  For the past five decades, much of Western Europe had become increasingly secularized, particularly rejecting authentic Christianity. The moral ambiguity it has produced has encouraged the rise particularly of far-right extremism that often claims a Christian foundation, but whose bigotry bears no resemblance to the Body of Christ and the faith once delivered unto the saints.  Mere humanity ultimately does not make moral progress without an anchor in Christ.  Only a genuine commitment as a nation to being the living representatives of the Prince of Peace can combat the latent evil that resides in the hearts of humankind, especially when it is unfettered by a secular world-view.

Tennesee and LSU joined the growing ranks under self-imposed or NCAA-imposed sanctions this week for athletic programs out of control, coaches who have stepped across the line, players who have forgotten that there is no “I” in team.  I have long been a proud and faithful fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes.  And one of my heroes was Jim Tressel, who even wrote a book on leadership and integrity.  Sadly, he has proven in the pressures to win and win in college football–to be a fraud.  In part, I understand the pressure to cheat or cut corners.  When I listen to the almost obnoxious pride that some of my Penn State fan friends who believe that a college football team proves their own moral superiority (or intelligence?) in rooting for the, or hear about boosters gone wild; I realize it takes incredible character and strength to keep your head in these situations.  Yet college football MUST clean up its act.  It is one of the last places in society where the value of team work and character are still valued and taught.  It is one of the last places where the young men who will be our nation’s leaders are taught discipline, dedication, and aspiring to their best efforts.  It is one place where there needs to be a “death penalty” (i.e, firings or expulsions when someone clearly cheats) that needs to be enforced.

The Pittsburgh Pirates five games over .500 and one and a half games out of first.  It’s one of the best stories in baseball this year. Clint Hurdle has brought a new positive spirit to the club. He also has assembled what has been a phenomenal pitching staff.  Fans are streaming again back into Three Rivers.  Now is those stingy Pirate owners will make some moves to give their team (and their fans) a chance at post-season play.  Hopefully they don’t come from the Florida Marlins School of Baseball Management.

Spent an awesome and memorable week helping our Navajo sister church in Tsaile AZ conduct Bible School. 26 of my people had their lives changed and a whole lot of Navajo children were blessed by the love of God. The setting of Tsaile is a place of great beauty, but even more beautiful are the faces of the Navajos themselves and the joy that comes when people are simply trying to bless one another in name of Jesus Christ. Here are a few of the memorable scenes from that week.

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