Monday, June 30, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection.

~ Red Smith

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Road Trip: National Museum of the Marine Corps

Yesterday we were taking a lengthy road trip along the Interstate 95 corridor south of Washington, D. C. and on a whim decided to drop in on the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Virginia. Although we had only a short time to tour the museum, we decided very quickly that it would be worth a longer return visit.

The purpose of the museum is to honor the long history of the Marines. To really do it justice, you have to plan to spend several hours. There are numerous artifacts from the past 200 years of history of the Corps. A timeline allows visitors to see the important events of the Marines alongside important historical events from different eras. Separate galleries have been set aside for the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam War.

The most striking and moving portion of the museum that we saw was the Iwo Jima exhibit. Visitors step into a simulated shipboard briefing room where they are given a simulated briefing of the Iwo Jima invasion. Then you step onto a mock up of a landing craft and watch a five minute film on a 180 degree screen of actual footage shot during the invasion. After the film ends, you step out into the remainder of the exhibit. On the wall is a display of a Marine Corps or Navy insignia for each of the 5,391 soldiers that lost their lives during the battle. This simple exhibit was by far the most moving of any that we saw during our brief visit.

It's fair to say that this is a museum that is not for the faint of heart. Some of the exhibits feature very graphic displays of combat footage. The museum doesn't pull any punches as far as what it takes to be a Marine or the unique role they play as part of the United States Armed Forces. It's also unique in that this is the only museum where I've actually seen profanity engraved on granite. I won't display it here but if you really want to satisfy your curiousity just let the flash introduction play through from the museum website. The quotes they display are the same quotes on the walls of the rotunda of the museum. As a result, this is a museum that you don't necessarily want to take younger children to visit.

All in all, they have done a terrific job of capturing the history and spirit of the Marine Corps. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Museum. It's a terrific reminder of sacrifices that have been made for the sake of freedom.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Living Loud For Liberty

Jane Hampton Cook, author of the excellent book Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War, has posted this terrific video as an Independence Day tribute for those who sacrificed so much so that we could enjoy the blessings of liberty.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can't get you off.

~ Bill Veeck

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on the Great Commission

Author's note: I am recycling this post from 2004. As opportunities have been presented this week to meet people's needs where they are the truths contained in this post came to mind.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
If there is a single passage of Scripture that would serve as a "mission statement" for Christians then the case could be made that Matthew 28:16-20 is it. It is the passage that most Christians would cite as the passage that explains our primary purpose here on earth. It is also a passage that is probably one of the most easily misunderstood. I've observed many churches that focus their ministry on reaching non-Christians. The predominant theme running through most of the sermons is the Gospel. In other words, the focus is on salvation instead of discipleship.
Mark D. Roberts, a pastor and blogger, has posted a sermon entitled "Sent to a People Beyond Ourselves" that analyzed this passage and presented some applications for the church today. A couple of points he makes really stood out as I read it. He focuses on the phrase "Go and make disciples" in verse 19. He asks whether we need to "get up and go somewhere"? His answer:
"Thus, not only do we not have to go elsewhere to fulfill the Great Commission, but in fact our primary mission is here, right on our doorstep, right across the street, right in our schools, neighborhoods, and offices. "
Opportunities to share Christ are all around us: co-workers, neighbors, friends, family members, and anyone else we encounter through the course of daily living. That is not to say that going out is not important and there certainly is a place for sending out missions workers into the world. But we should not be focused on ministering to the world at large that we miss opportunities much closer to home.
Roberts then turns his attention to another key part of verse 19: make disciples.
Notice, Jesus didn't say, "Make believers," though believing in him is an essential part of discipleship. Nor did Jesus say, "Get people to clean up their lives," though genuine disciples become more holy as they grow in Christ. Jesus didn't say, "Get people to go to church," though faithful participation in the community of Jesus is absolutely crucial to discipleship. Rather, Jesus said, "Make disciples." To paraphrase, this means, "Make people who enter into an intentional, intimate relationship with me and with my other disciples, in which they put their trust in me as Savior, in which they submit their life to me as Lord, in which they allow me to teach them both how to live and how to serve me in the world."
So our mission in this community is not merely to make converts, but to make genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.
I am persuaded that this is what is missing from most of what passes for evangelism in the church today. We have become too focused on salvation and have not focused on discipleship.
I was discussing this topic with my former pastor this weekend who observed that when you have a church that is focused primarily on salvation (and often on increasing the number of people coming to church) that the believers in the congregation tire of hearing a salvation message over and over again. As a result, they become frustrated because they are not growing deeper in their relationship with Christ.
Roberts then moves on to this application for the church:
We cannot make disciples in this community unless we are living as a community of disciples, loving one another, bearing one another's burdens, teaching each other, forgiving each other, worshipping together. There is no discipleship without genuine community. And, in our day, there's no effective evangelism without genuine community. Our neighbors, those to whom we have been sent, won't believe the good news about Jesus unless they see this good news fleshed out in our fellowship together. Then, if they accept this good news and become believers, they won't live as disciples unless they can join a community of disciples.
This reflects what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
The power of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in how we live our lives. If we are truly living our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, perfect strangers should be able to see a difference in us. My wife often tells me of the story of the kid who said that if Jesus was living in him He would be "sticking out all over". I remember once in college sitting in one the main areas of campus talking with a friend of mine when someone I did not know came up to me and asked if I was a Christian. I said that I was. He said "I could see it in your eyes". The church should be all about developing a community of disciples who will have Jesus "sticking out all over".
Too often the church falls into the trap of believing that there is a need for more ministries or programs to draw people into the church. What we really need to focus on building the community of disciples, intentionally being involved in each others lives, to hold others accountable so that we can "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

ADDENDUM: I was discussing this idea with a friend of mine this morning who believes that the majority of churches overemphasize discipleship and do not emphasize evangelism enough. I believe that each church is going to have different needs and be at a different place. We both agreed that the important thing is for churches to be able to strike the right balance between discipleship and evangelism, and like seeking balance in our own lives, it's a constant process.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Quick Takes 6-13-08

A roundup of random links for your weekend enjoyment......

A look at the 2008 election by the numbers.

According to Marvin Olasky, if Obama wins and the Democrats make big gains in Congress it could be 1933 all over again. That's a very scary prospect.

Jim Geraghty on the character of Barack Obama:

But there’s a pattern emerging here: The Iowa ABC reporter was wrong in presuming Obama had forgotten his flag pin. Voters were at first wrong to think
Obama had seen Wright’s controversial sermons, and then they wrongly and
unfairly judged Wright. Then even if they were proven correct in their assessment of Wright, the press was wrong in “caricaturing” the tone of services at Trinity United. Stephanopoulos was wrong to presume that Obama’s relationship with Ayers was of concern to the voters. Vieira was wrong to accuse Obama of mischaracterizing McCain’s remarks.

No candidate enjoys admitting when he or she is wrong. But one of the ways Obama stood out as more than just a freshman senator when he came to Washington
was his warm humanity, his humility, his willingness to express that “pang of

The pang, it seems, is long gone.

If Obama fails to win this election it will not be because of one major issue but all of these minor things added together will be enough for voters to decide that he does not represent the change that they really want.

Meanwhile, LaShawn Barber takes a rare break from her self-imposed moratorium on political blogging to weigh in on the Obama nomination:

I feel no “racial pride” that he’s the first black major party nominee or that he’ll be the first black president of the United States, because values trump race in my world. Anyone who believes it’s OK for “doctors” to crush the heads of infants in the birth canal isn’t getting my vote. If you’re black and pro-life but feel “torn” between racial pride about his nomination and disgust for his pro-death stance, shame on you. Get your priorities straight. (Emphasis original)
I couldn't agree more.

A lot of noise has been made about Senator Jim Webb as a possible running mate for Obama but here are some reasons why that would be an awful pick. Personally, I think former Virginia governor Mark Warner would have been a much better pick. However, since he's almost certain to win the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Republican John Warner it's not likely he would take the VP nod.

How to combine homeschooling and business travel. We're fortunate that we've been able to do a lot of this as a family. As a result, we have lots of great memories to treasure.

This is long overdue but at the same time it saddens me that it's necessary.

Congratulations to friend of this blog, Tim Ellsworth, whose book God In The Whirlwind about the tornadoes that ripped through the Union University campus has just been published.

Mike Huckabee didn't make the cut as a presidential candidate in 2008 but he does have a new job: political commentator for Fox News.

A plea to save fatherhood.

Hope everyone (especially my fellow Dads) has a terrific Father's Day Weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Federal Education Programs Fail

The answer lies in the concluding paragraphs of this column by Joel Belz on recent proposals to extend federal education oversight into preschool and daycare programs from the current issue of World Magazine (subscription required):

I've said before in this space, and it needs to be said during just about every presidential campaign, that there is something much more potentially terrifying than to watch the government continue to fail in its efforts to prop up education in this country. Much worse than such a continuing failure would be to watch the government succeed.

Shaping the minds and the value system of our children is simply not the proper function of government—almost certainly not at any level, but especially at the distant federal level. (Emphasis added)

If your child's school chooses never to mention what Jesus calls "the first and great commandment of life"—to love the Lord our God with all we have—all the rest of that school's education will be as hollow as it is shallow. And even worse will be the effort, so often attempted (and sincerely so), to address some expression of the second great commandment—"loving your neighbor as yourself"—without having dealt seriously with the first one. The first provides both skeleton and heart for the second; the second is impossible without the first.

Society needs to understand, and so do evangelical Christians, that the real problem with state education today (and even with much private education) has nothing to do with teachers' salaries or funding levels or phonics or curriculum or how many months of the year or hours of the day children go to school. All those things have their significance and are worth discussing at the right time.

But the right time for that is always after settling what education is really about. Until educators get that straight, they're not going to get anywhere with "education reform." And they have no business talking about stretching the federal government's reach into preschool and daycare—where the best they will ever do is to compound their present clumsiness.

Well said.

Friday, June 06, 2008

TV Preview: When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

In the past hundred years, the single greatest achievement of mankind is without a doubt our conquest of space. In less than 10 years, the American space program would go from knowing next to nothing about putting a man in space to landing atwo men on the moon and returning them to Earth.

Discovery Channel chronicles the first 50 years of NASA's successes and failures in a brand new documnetary entitled When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions which premieres on June 8 at 9PM EDT/PDT. The series is narrated by award-winning actor Gary Sinise. Over three consecutive Sunday nights, this series will take the viewer on a journey through the history of the space program like no other documentary ever has before.

"This project started out as a preservation endeavor," said executive producer Bill Howard in a recent interview. "We sat down with NASA and explained to them that we wanted to go back through their archives and preserve and remaster all of their original film source material, the film that had been to the moon and had been in space, the real treasures of the NASA archives."

Click here to listen to an interview with executive producer Bill Howard.

What followed was a painstaking process in which the producers viewed more than 500 hours of footage and converting over 100 hours into HD to be used in this series. HD copies were then donated back to NASA.

But they didn't stop there. The producers also went through the process of digitizing the audio archives which also proved to be a monumental task.

"At the time of Mercury and Gemini, they didn't record the audio on the same medium as the picture," explained Mr. Howard. "Film would be shot in space and the audio would be recorded back in Houston on some custom government magnetic reel to reel tape and you go back and you try to access those magnetic tape sources. Some of them are completely degraded and can't be played. Others are fragile and have to be handled with such care that you only get one chance to digitize it."

The result of all this work is a visually stunning series that puts the viewer right in the middle of what the astronauts experienced on these missions. You feel as if you're in the spacecraft alongside these astronauts as they embark on these magnificent adventures. For the first time, mission footage has been synchronized with the audio so that viewers will get to not only see but hear the astronauts during these missions.

Interspersed with the archival footage are present day interviews with both the astronauts and some of the flight directors. Viewers will get a greater understanding of the character of the men and women who undertake the challenge to explore space.

The first episode, entitled "Ordinary Supermen", begins with the earliest days of NASA. The Soviets have already launched Sputnik to begin the Space Race. NASA is working feverishly to try to catch up. They recruit the best pilots they can find to become the first astronauts. Out of 110 who qualify, only seven will become Mercury astronauts. Interviews with the two surviving Mercury astronauts, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, are included to provide insight and personal recollections from their missions. In order to make it into space, NASA has to invent completely new technology. As flight director Gene Kranz puts it, learning to fly into space was like "learning to drink from a fire hose".

Episode two, "Gemini-Friends and Rivals", provides rare footage of the recruiting and training process and focuses on the steps that must be achieved to make it to the moon. Ed White's inaugural space walk on Gemini 4 is stunning to watch in HD. Another highlight is Gene Cernan's space walk on a later Gemini mission. For the first time, we get to hear Cernan's struggle to work in space with the mission audio synchronized to the film. Cernan also provides present-day recollections that add to the drama.

The third episode, "Apollo-Landing the Eagle", opens with the first major tragedy of the space program: the Apollo 1 launchpad fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. NASA bounces back to a few months later launching Apollo 8 which was the first mission to achieve lunar orbit. The footage from this mission (including shots of the stages of the Saturn V rocket separating) is absolutely incredible. The episode concludes with the Apollo 11 landing and NASA's greatest achievement to date.

Episode 4, "A Home in Space", begins with Apollo missions 12-17 and the near-disaster of Apollo 13. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise and flight director Gene Kranz put us right in the middle of the drama with their recollections of the ill-fated mission. As the Apollo program winds down, NASA decides to take the leftover hardware to create Skylab, the first attempt to put a space station into orbit.

Episode 5, "The Shuttle", brings us to the next great chapter of NASA's history. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen share their memories of the first shuttle launch which holds the distinction of being the first time that NASA will test a new vehicle with astronauts aboard. Both Young and Crippen tell us what it's like to ride a thoroughly untested spaceship. Another highlight is the footage from astronaut Bruce McCandless' untethered spacewalk which was the first time it was ever attempted. The episode concludes with the Challenger explosion and includes some specially declassified material of the solid rocket boosters being destroyed following the explosion of the Challenger.

As episode 6, "A New Space Age", opens, NASA is reeling from the Challenger disaster and scrambles to get the shuttle flying again. Their next great endeavor is the Hubble Space Telescope. But after deployment, they discover huge problems with it that require a daring repair mission that is documented here. After the successful repair of Hubble comes the Columbia disaster which, as the mission footage shows, might have been avoided. The onboard footage of the crew as they begin re-entry is eerie to watch. As with the other missions, the film is remarkable to watch. The series concludes with the construction of the International Space Station and the next great chapter of space exploration.

Unlike other documentaries about space, this series focuses more on the men and women of NASA than the technical achievements.

"What we tried to do is look at it as an adventure story: real heroes, real stakes, and relal jeopardy," said Mr. Howard. We gave it a theatrical score and built it as we would build an adventure movie and I think that's our effort any way to make it relevant to people now by putting it in a medium they understand: high definition television with a full theatrical score."

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions certainly accomplishes that objective. It is our greatest adventure.

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions will air on the Discovery Channel at 9PM EDT/PDT on June 8, 15 and 22.

This article was originally published at Blogcritics.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Missing: Bold Leadership

This week I've had the privilege to preview a new series that will debut on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, June 8th entitled When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (click here to read my review). The six part series traces the first fifty years of NASA's missions to explore outer space.

While watching the series I was struck by how we no longer consider the exploration of space as something that is important for our country to invest in. It does not seem to hold the same interest for us as a nation as it did when I was a kid growing up in the late 60's and early 70's. Perhaps that is because we don't have bold leadership any longer in Washington.

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space by piloting his Mercury spacecraft on a twenty minute sub-orbital flight. A little less than three weeks later, President John F. Kennedy declares before a joint session of Congress that the United States will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. At the time, many in the space program thought Kennedy was crazy to make such a suggestion. But as audacious as his boast may have been, he inspired thousands of individuals associated with the program to work harder to ensure that his goal was met.

President Kennedy said it best in another famous speech that he made about why we must explore space:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

We need a leader who is willing to challenge us to do hard things.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer.

- Tommy Lasorda

Now that's what I call a great work ethic.