Several months ago, Jeff Shook, a good friend from my Yucca Valley High School days back in California, stopped by for a visit. Seeing him brought back a flood of memories—mostly good. The good times had to do with the countless hours Jeff and I spent playing football, basketball, and baseball for our school. Jeff was one of those natural athletes you just knew had the talent to go on to bigger and better things after graduation.
Many of you are familiar with the excellent work of Michael Farris and the Home School Legal Defense Association [HSLDA]. Back in March of 1983 when Michael and his colleague, Michael Smith, founded the fledgling organization, homeschooling was pretty much a foreign concept to most Americans.
The history books are full of wildly successful people who have received their formal education at home (John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Agatha Christie, to name just a few), nor is it uncommon today to hear about a high-profile individual whose parents have opted to educate them outside of the traditional system, many for religious reasons.
Boomers and fans of the classic 1970’s television family sitcom, The Brady Bunch, might still laugh at memories of the show’s corny but wholesome themes. In one particular episode, a pig-tailed Cindy, lisping because of a lost tooth, is mercilessly lampooned by the school bully, tough guy Buddy Hinton. “Baby talk, baby talk,” he croons, “it’s a wonder you can walk.” In a shining example of sweet and ironic fictional justice, Cindy’s good-natured brother, Peter, winds up slugging old Buddy.
The Art of War is considered by many to be the seminal work on war tactics and strategies. Attributed to Sun Tzu, a sixth century BC military commander, this ancient Chinese military treatise divides the various aspects of warfare into thirteen chapters: Laying Plans, Waging War, Tactical Dispositions, The Nine Battlegrounds, and the Use of Spies among others.
Beyond the obvious military applications of Sun Tzu’s wisdom, his principles have implications for other disciplines. I don’t think it’s a stretch, for example, to apply his lectures on how to win at war to the Christian who desires to overcome his battles in the spiritual realm with the devil.
The other day a friend—I’ll call him Bill—was telling me about the car he almost bought. Bill’s current ride is twelve years old. To put that into perspective, Bill pointed out he purchased the car three presidents ago—he’s owned it that long. In spite of its age, the 120,000+ miles, the crack in the windshield, and flaking leather seats which were peeling like weathered paint, he loved that car.
I can understand that sentiment. I’ve gotten attached to a few of my cars along the way.
What would life be like today if Jesus never lived?
For a moment, let’s set aside the implications of eternity and consider the impact that the life of Jesus has had—and continues to have—here on Earth. Several obvious things come to mind: without Jesus there would be no New Testament in our Bibles, no Christmas festivities with the associated tradition of gift-giving, no celebration of Easter, no Catholic or Protestant churches dotting the landscape, and I think it’s safe to say that gold, silver, wooden, or diamond-studded crosses wouldn’t be sold as popular jewelry accessories.
Comedian and illusionist Penn Jillette amazes audiences with his slight of hand tricks and such routines as the “Magic Bullet.” For more than a decade, he’s worked his magic six nights a week in Las Vegas with fellow magician Teller. Both members of the Penn & Teller duo are gifted performers who also happen to be advocates of atheism—the belief that there is no God.
For his part, Penn would be the first to admit that he can be crass, vulgar, and unapologetically opinionated about his lack of belief in God.
Everyone I meet has a story to tell. Each of us has an unique background; no two journeys are alike. Some of our stories rival a fairytale. If that’s your experience, rejoice. If your story involves a closely-knit extended family, the kind which, like a scene out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, gets together and has a great time over the holidays, you are indeed blessed.
If you’ve read my memoir, FINDING HOME, you know about the disappointments and hardships which defined my childhood—from a murder outside of my bedroom window when I was eight, to the death of my mother when I was nine, only to be orphaned a few years later—not to mention much of my family tree remains shrouded in mystery.
Back in July I became a regular contributing panelist for The Washington Post/Newsweek blog “On Faith.” Yesterday I was asked to weigh in the need for more civility in our public discourse. Far too often I’ve observed what resembles a verbal “smackdown” between those who hold opposing points of view.
While exchanging heavy blows with an opponent might be expected in the land of World Wrestling Entertainment, my view is that something is desperately wrong when we resort to throwing verbal jabs.
Clergy Appreciation Month is just around the corner!
In fact, October marks the 17th year we’ve been encouraging our friends to cherish and nurture their pastors. Why is this so important? Not long ago we conducted a survey of 2,000 pastors and found the majority are working more than 50 hours a week serving the body of Christ. It’s an invaluable and often thankless role, one that often puts an enormous strain on them and their family.