Monday, November 23, 2009

Dancing with the Stars

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” Philippians 2: 14-16

I love watching the television program “Dancing with the Stars.” When the “stars” are announced every season, I choose my favorites and those who I believe will make it to the finale and those who will get the boot early.

The transformation of some of the celebrities is truly amazing. Sometimes celebrities who I thought would be utter failures turn out to be fantastic dancers. (Sorry, I ever doubted you Warren Sapp. Who would have known that a 300-something pound defensive tackle would be so light on his feet?) Some of the celebrities perform as expected. (Tom DeLay, why did you stay so long?)

But it’s really wonderful to see celebrities who really weren’t dancers transformed into professional ballroom dancers. (Gilles, you were robbed last season). This season, Kelly Osbourne has had a metamorphosis. Before the show, she said she was miserable, depressed and wore a size 10. During the weeks of training and dancing, her life and body have been transformed. Now she says that she is happy, confident and wears a size 2.

The key to success is to trust the professional partner. They know what they’re doing. They are the pros.

It takes a lot of hard work and pain sometimes. They have to practice for hours. Sometimes the dancers are injured. Sometimes it seems as if the pros are asking the celebrities to do the impossible. They have to face sometimes brutal criticism from the judges. But if they trust in their professional partner, learn the dances, practice and stop complaining and arguing with the pro, they usually get a very good result.

God is the perfect partner. If we follow His lead, we will make it to the finals and win the prize (Philippians 3:14). We can’t go at our own pace or do our own choreography and expect to win in this life. Sometimes we have to press pass the pain and the injuries that life deals us. We have to practice what we preach and perfect our steps in His Word. We need to be in step with the One who knows what He’s doing. We have to trust God.

As Paul writes in Philippians, if we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” God will work in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2: 12-13). God has a purpose for us. He wants us all to be stars. He wants us all to reflect his glorious light. He wants our light to shine so bright that men will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. But if we are always complaining and arguing and sin is in our lives, our lights become dim.

We need to shine like stars in this dark, depraved world. People will see the transformation in us from the time we have spent dancing with the perfect partner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ugly Side of Anonymity

When my father was growing up in Louisiana in the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan would harass and hang black men. They wore their Klan cloaks to hide their faces and came in the night to do their damage. My grandfather told my father, “Real men sleep on sheets. They don’t wear them.”

Now in our technologically advanced days, people are still wearing sheets of anonymity to do damage. Only their cloak is anonymity on the Internet. They use this anonymity to spew hate-filled, nasty comments.

They are not interested in engaging in a meaningful, intellectual discussion. They just want to spout their often racist or hateful perspectives for the world to see, but they don’t want the world to see who they are. They are like a person who throws a brick through and window and then runs away or the Klansman who hides behind a mask and does his dirt in the dark. They are only interested in exercising their power to inflict damage.

I have stopped reading the comments at the end of many stories, especially if it’s about President Obama or the First Lady. One web site allowed a comment to be posted in which the person called the president’s daughter a whore. Others allow commenters to call the First Lady a gorilla. During the campaign, some media sites had to take down the comment sections because they were so filled with racist, nasty, negative comments about Obama.

When my husband wrote an essay that was published in the Chicago Tribune about the homeless this summer, I was disappointed by all the mean-spirited comments directed at the homeless. People were not interested in dealing with the issue, but just wanted to put people down.

But it’s even worse when it becomes a matter of life and death. There have been online bullying cases where young people have committed suicide because of the abuse. Reputations have been ruined because of what some anonymous person posted for the world to see.

When you do not put your name on something you do not take ownership of the remarks and feel like you can say whatever you want to say with no repercussions. They say things they wouldn’t have the nerve to say in person because they have the cloak of anonymity. But there are repercussions, even if it is poisoning the atmosphere with your hate or negativity.

Anonymity has its place.

It’s important sometimes for people to be able to tell what’s going on with the assurance of anonymity in some situations. Whistleblowers have made a positive difference by coming forward. People who have something relevant to share but because of the delicate or embarrassing nature don’t want to use their names should have some anonymity. If someone witnesses a crime or knows of misconduct in a corporation or institution, they should have anonymity in some cases so that a greater good can happen or an evil can be stopped.

But anonymity should not be used for ugliness.

As a journalism student, I was taught to be very careful and wary of using anonymous sources. Are they reliable? Why do they need to be anonymous? Are they credible?

I had my own recent brush with the ugliness of anonymity.

I wrote a blog about reading baggie books to my son’s first grade class and mentioned that I was Time Magazine College Student of the Year. I received a response that there was no such award and the anonymous invective, “That’s a lie.”

Well, dear anonymous reader, should you happen to be reading this, in 1989 I was one of about 20 (not sure the exact number so don’t call me a lie) college students from around the country to receive the Time College Achievement Award. I shortened it to College Student of the Year in the blog because the point wasn’t about my accomplishments.

The point of the column was that if it had not been for my mother sitting at the table and taking time with me in first grade, all those later accomplishments would not have been possible. The point was that if we take the time to read and spend time with our children, we can make a difference.

If the person had cared to leave their name I could have clarified the matter personally. I could have even sent them a picture of the award or the full-page ad with my photo that ran in Time Magazine. But from the tone of their response they weren’t about that anyway.

It’s the same with the health care debate this summer. People aren’t really interested in clarification or having a civil conversation. Like Congressman Joe Wilson, they just throw rocks and say, “You lie.” Even though, they are the ones who don’t have all of their facts straight.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24, 25

When I was a child I had some little toys called weebles. Do you remember weebles? If you don’t remember the toy maybe you remember the commercial with the little song, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

I used to love playing with the little characters that were shaped like eggs. You could push them down but they would wobble and come right back up. They never completely fell over.

The origin of these toys was the Romper Room punching clown. The little weebles were fashioned after the large punching bag clown on Romper Room, a show for preschoolers. The toddlers would punch and push the inflatable clown and it would always come back up with a smile on its face. I had one of those clowns too that I loved to punch around.

I also used to wait with anticipation for the end of Romper Room show when the lady would look through her “magic mirror” (actually an open hoop with a handle) and name all of the children that she saw in television land. “I see Mary and Scott and Julie and Johnny.”

I was always disappointed because she never said my name.

Sometimes we feel like a weeble. Sometimes our faith is a little wobbly. We doubt. We are full of fear. The circumstances of life knock us down. Disappointments, fear and failure punch us in the face and it’s hard to get up. We feel like we are down for the count.

I’m not sure about the science of it all, but I think that what makes the weeble able to spring back upright is its shape and that it’s heavier on the bottom than the top. All of its weight is at the bottom.

If we believe in Jesus Christ, we ought to have something down deep in us that’s heavier than the world around us.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

We have the weight of glory—God’s glory. We have God’s presence and power. And we have this treasure in earthen weebly wobbly vessels so that the power is not from us but from God when we get back up.

Just like the weebles were patterned after the Romper Room clown, we were made in God’s image. And if you really want to know what God looks like, all you have to do is look at Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” Colossians 1:15.

Jesus was harassed and ridiculed. He was mocked and scorned. He was berated and hated. But he kept getting back up. He was rejected by family and abandoned by his closest friends. He felt pain, but he didn't let it keep him down. He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. But he didn’t fall over. He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. But he didn’t stay down.

And then they nailed him to a cross. It looked like Satan had finally delivered the knock-out punch. It was finished. Over. Done. They laid him in a tomb. And he was down Friday night. He was down all day Saturday. It looked like he was down for the count Saturday night.

But early Sunday morning, he got up.

And because he got up, I can get up. Even when life throws us a sucker punch, we can get up. We just have to remember the weight that is within us, the power that God has given us and the pattern that Jesus set before us.

I was always disappointed because the Romper Room lady never said my name or saw me, a little black girl in Kankakee, through her magic mirror. I would be standing in front of the t.v. saying, “Say, Monica. Say, Monica.” But she never did.

But I’m so glad, He knows my name and He sees me. He calls me by my name. When I wobble, He lets me know He is able to keep me from falling.
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