Thursday, October 07, 2004

Thursday Night This and That

They call it product placement. Concerned that television-viewers are hitting their mute buttons and channel -grazing while commercials are being broad- and cable-cast and that many Tivo-ers are missing ads altogether, advertisers are trying to get their messages to viewers in a different way. Characters are shown using or talking about products whose manufacturers pay for the "placement" of the product in the show.

There's actually a history behind this practice. In the days of classic radio and early television, advertisers often produced network programming, their product's names featured prominently throughout. At least one old radio comedy incorporated creative mentions of sponsors' products in the dialog of the show. As time passed, advertising became more sophisticated and producers of programming insisted on a sort of separation of art and commerce. (All the while accepting the checks that commercial interests cut for the artists.)

The past few episodes of the excellent NBC series, American Dreams, set in the 1960s, has taken product placement to new heights. (Or, new depths, depending on your perspective.) One of the show's characters is working on an essay sponsored by Campbell's Soup. On this past Sunday's episode, she enlisted the help of her mother's colleague at work in the crafting of her entry. After one scene, during the commercial break, an ad for Campbell's was shown. Later, still more talk about the fictional Campbell's contest and a brief view of a 60s-vintage ad came in the actual show. That was followed by a real Campbell's ad for a real-life 2004 Campbell's essay contest, exactly like the one in the show.

It was wall-to-wall Campbell's. Surprisingly, though we noticed it as we watched, this product placement saturation didn't seem to detract from the episode and its many plot lines for my family and me.

(By the way, I'm open to any offers advertisers might want to make for product placements on this blog site...I'm kidding...Sort of. Be warned though, that you'll have to make a really great offer. That's because my exclusive deal with Google AdSense has proved to be incredibly lucrative. Since installing it two weeks ago, I've made a whopping 79-cents for those little ads at the bottoms of this blog's pages!)

For what it's worth, the Saint Louis Cardinals have been, as far as I'm concerned, the best major league baseball team this year. (I was going to say, "for my money," but I only have 79-cents!) I don't see how anybody, not even the New York Yankees, can stop them this post-season. Of course, if I turn out to be wrong, I will expunge this post from living memory.


On the night of the Cheney-Edwards debate, Northern Kentucky University, here in metropolitan Cincinnati, held a lecture/debate involving 1992 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. The two, both heroes of World War Two who served in the US Senate, have worked with one another for years on hunger and agriculture issues. Each had some interesting things to say about this year's presidential election.

An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted McGovern, a former pastor and historian and World War Two bomber pilot, as saying:

"This campaign did not invent the bitter attack," McGovern said at Tuesday's press conference. "That's been going on since the days of George Washington.

"In my campaign it was done, but it was done more cleverly with a little more sophistication," he said. "But I think frankly it wasn't the kind of slugfest we seem to be getting now."
And from Dole:

"You got more cable, more radio, more written press, you got the Internet, you got - I don't know what they are - something called bloggers," Dole said. "The ads are negative, and it's almost gotten to the point where if I can destroy my opponent before he destroys me, I win.

"That's sort of a sad commentary, but I don't know how we change it," he said.
Of course, nostalgia is dangerous history and McGovern is right that Washington was the object of onerous personal assaults (usually orchestrated from behind the scenes by the cowardly Thomas Jefferson) and even Dole and McGovern launched some nasty words their opponents' ways in past campaigns, but the barbs and negative ads have also been particularly vicious this year. I can hardly wait for November 3 to get here so we can get this garbage behind us for now!

Worth Clicking On

Mark D. Roberts' short essays on Christian inclusiveness and exclusiveness are lucid discussions of what it means for followers of Jesus to hate the sin (even in themselves) while loving the sinner. I think that they would make wonderful resources for adult study groups.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Welcome to Diverse City: A Review

In a fifteen year career that has had few "glitches," I've come to expect several things from rapper Toby McKeehan, the visionary leader of the now-dormant dcTalk. Among them: insightful lyrics, clever rhymes, vivid metaphors, superior musicianship, exciting arrangements, and a passionate commitment to Jesus Christ that also leads him to commend racial justice and wholesome family living.

Welcome to Diverse City, released on October 5, is TobyMac's second solo release. Sequels, whether in literature, films, or music, can be like the second seasons of rookie sensations in major league baseball. Sophomore players may exert pressure on themselves to replicate their rookie feats and so, play "outside themselves." Or, they may feel so overconfident and lazy that they lose their edge.

Similarly, artists and conoisseurs alike can bring unrealistic expectations to second projects. Success can cower artists into aping themselves, playing it safe and losing their creative edges. Or, they can decide to follow some ill-advised creative muse that turns their previously accessible artistic endeavors into self-indulgent schlock.

McKeehan knows that this follow-up to his 2001 release, Momentum, a popular and artistic triumph, will inevitably be regarded as a sequel. He acknowledges as much with the CD's opening sounds. A vocal riff from the earlier release is recast and soon, Toby raps, "Right now it's been a long time comin' but I'm serving up the sequel."

What follows is a CD which is not as auditorally-stunning as the dcTalk Jesus Freak CD or Toby's Momentum were, but a strong second solo release. Musically, McKeehan plows some old territory, but not enough to make you say, Ronald Reagan-style, "There you go again."

And, in what has become characteristic of a TobyMac record, there are lots of intriguing sound hooks and good humor to keep you listening.

McKeehan has always loved to collaborate with other musicians. One of the reasons I was so won over to dcTalk in the 1990s (and I suspect others will identify with this) is that Kevin Max Smith, Michael Tait, and McKeehan represented not only an uncompromising commitment to Jesus Christ, but also such a strange and satisfying mix of sounds and influences. McKeehan was clearly the most gifted and musically ambitious of the trio; but he was willing to share the stage. Even after the towering success of Jesus Freak, a release that pretty much emanated from McKeehan's fertile imagination alone and that received the overwhelming approval of critics and public alike, he consented to allowing Tait and Smith to write much more of the follow-up disc, Supernatural, a good, but far from great CD. So, it comes as no surprise that here, TobyMac collaborates with a number of artists. This penchant for collaboration says wonderful things about an artist who could easily get lost on his own ego trip.

Hey Now, the CD's somewhat non-descript opening cut, had me wondering whether what followed would be satisfying or not. But the second cut, Catchafire (Whoopsi-Daisy), is outstanding in spite of the dumb parenthetical title, a silly phrase repeated throughout the song. It's a call for getting passionate about the God Who is passionate for us.

The Slam is TobyMac at his best, at least as far as I'm concerned. I've always felt that McKeehan is most compelling when over petal-to-the-metal, wall-of-sound guitars, he raps with all the passion he can muster. The Slam is great rock-n-rap song! It's McKeehan's declaration that he's on a full-tilt mission to share Christ with the world. Crank it up and sing along with the hook!

Atmosphere is a more subdued cut--and a good one. It deals with the consolation and comfort we all need when life brings us pain, a theme to which the CD will return.

Gone is probably McKeehan's bid for a crossover single on this, an EMI release. (He was formerly the exclusive property of Christian label, ForeFront Records.) Lyrically, this is sort of a She Loves You-revisited, a guy telling another guy how important it is for him to treat his woman right. But it also tells the tale of a woman empowered by God to forgive and expecting respect from her man, willing to revive a relationship gone sour.

No one is a more passionate or eloquent advocate of racial justice and the acceptance of diversity than McKeehan. A product of the white middle class, he and dcTalk-mate Tait, an African-American, have been incessant spokespeople for these values, all from a Christian perspective. The next cut on the CD, Diverse City, finds McKeehan returning to this theme.

Stories (Down to the Bottom) talks about how, on reaching the end of ourselves and our personal resources during our times of grief and pain, we can be reached by the God Who has gone through grief and pain on the cross of Jesus Christ. In the hook, McKeehan's song says, "We've been down to the bottom/ Stories we got 'em, when we hit rock bottom/ If you been there put your hands in the air/ To let the lost know that someone cares..." Good stuff!

Getaway Car is an imaginative casting of what happens when God frees us from slavery to selfish sin. We're in a "getaway car" as God delivers us from temptation and helps us to become our truest, best selves...our God-selves, the people we were made to be! The getaway car motif may have been suggested by the twenty-year-old semi-rap song of rocker Steve Taylor, Drive, He Said.

Burn for You is a passionate love song to God. I believe that all love songs are really cries for God, because nobody but God can possibly deliver the passion, forgiveness, and hope usually associated with lovers in love songs. That's why I love this love song, a cry to only One worthy of being the love of our lives.

There are three more major cuts on the CD. I like them all.

My grade for Welcome to Diverse City: a solid A.

Who Should Have Gotten More Ink: Gordo or the Actress?

Two prominent seventy-seven year old Americans died on Monday.

One was an actor who appeared in movie and television productions.

The other one acted on the great stages of discovery and was a pioneer who helped open outer space to humanity, an activist who challenged himself and us to achieve great things.

Both actress Janet Leigh and former astronaut L. Gordon Cooper died on October 4. But I was a little disappointed that, whether on the network evening news or the pages of my local newspaper, Leigh's death received more mention than that of Cooper.

I take nothing away from Leigh. I've never seen Psycho and so, haven't seen her perfomance there, apparently her greatest. I have seen the original screen presentation of The Manchurian Candidate, but frankly, until I saw and heard the obituaries for her, hadn't remembered Leigh was a cast member. (I could only remember Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, and Angela Lansbury as major players in that.)

I primarily knew Janet Leigh as the former wife of Tony Curtis and mother of Jamie Leigh Curtis. But nobody should hold the lapses in my cinematic knowledge against a film star who has passed from the scene. No doubt her career deserved prominent play in the media and of course, her death is a source of sorrow and grief for her family. They need and deserve prayers.

Nonetheless, if I were the managing editor of a news broadcast or a newspaper editor, I would have given more prominence to Gordon Cooper's obit. Cooper was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts. He flew the final Mercury flight, orbiting the earth 22 times. (Remember that John Glenn, in the third Mercury flight in 1962, only logged three orbits.) He flew on one other space mission, in the Gemini program.

But even beyond his achievements as an astronaut, Cooper is notable for spending a lifetime exploring. A wonderful obituary piece about him appears on the NASA web site. It points out that Cooper, in a full life, also was involved in, among other things, test piloting, archeology, and automobile racing. For several years, starting in 1975, he headed the research and development arm of the Disney organization.

While I love the movie, The Right Stuff, the screen adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book about the Mercury program, its seven astronauts are portrayed there as being more like cartoon caricatures than real people. Dennis Quaid turns in a good performance as Cooper. But it's far from the real astronaut with the right stuff.

I would have liked it if news outlets had talked about the real Cooper and the lessons of his extraordinary life on a day when they kept showing Leigh's shower scene from Psycho.

I suppose that the "play" given to each story reflects contemporary values and interests. People tend to be more interested in Hollywood than in the serious pursuits of science or in hardy adventuring. Again, I'm not denigrating Leigh or the entertainment industry. I like to be entertained as much as anybody else.

But if they'd had the media capabilities back in the 15th. and 16th. centuries that we have today, what would we say to editors who chose to barely mention the deaths of explorers like Christopher Columbus or Ferdinand Magellan? I think we'd see it as a colossal oversight.

Just a few thoughts which are nothing more than my opinion...and I might very well be wrong or be overreacting. What do you think? Use the comment button below to tell me your views.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Clermont County's Boys and Girls Club, Part Two

[Presently, I'm enjoying serving on several boards with the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County (Ohio). Below is the second of two columns I've written for a local chain of suburban Cincinnati newspapers about the Club. If you don't live in Clermont County, perhaps it will spur you to get involved in the Boys and Girls Club in your area. Go to this link to learn more about this important movement and to search for the Club in your area.]

In my last column, I talked about the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County.

I also talked about the eight-year record for changing young people’s lives for the better the Club already has in New Richmond, about the fantastic start it has made in the west Clermont area, and about the future vision of having a Boys and Girls Club unit in every township of our county.

The Club, in each of its two units, provides young people in our community with safe places to gather, learn, and have fun in supervised environments daily during the critical after-school hours. This is important because nationally, weekdays 3:00 to 7:00 P.M. find the highest incidents of juvenile crime. These are also the hours when young people are most likely to get into trouble sexually.

The Boys and Girls Club units in New Richmond and West Clermont are giving young people wholesome alternatives to listlessness, boredom, and trouble.

Today, I want to address two issues: How is the Boys and Girls Club funded? How can you get involved?

Because the Boys and Girls Club wants young people of every socioeconomic background to take advantage of its services, children are charged just $5.00 per year to join. But of course, the fees can’t cover the expenses involved in hiring professional staff and running a quality program.

The Boys and Girls Club is highly dependent on foundation grants. Funders who back the club include the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and United Way, among others.

Community donations from an annual mail campaign provides some of the funding, as do an annual 5K run and a golf outing.

But the needs for supervised afterschool programs that help change children’s lives for the better are enormous. Local law enforcement and township officials and community leaders from across the county contact the Boys and Girls Club regularly about when a new unit can be started in their locales.

A sizable increase over current funding levels will have to happen if that needed expansion is to come about. Even now, membership is frozen at the West Clermont unit of the club because the $468 per year price tag can’t be covered for any more children at present.

That’s why community volunteers and Boys and Girls Club volunteers are hard at work with executive director Nancy Beck on a major community event scheduled for March, 2005. Included will be a black tie dinner and silent auction aimed at raising enough money to put the club on a firm financial footing while setting it on a course for future growth and years of providing a truly positive place for kids. The event will become an annual feature of our community’s life, a way of expressing our commitment to our children.

So, how can you help? Don’t wait for March, 2005 to make a contribution. I urge you, your family, your company, or your church to make major donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County right now. Sufficient giving right now just might allow the kids currently on waiting lists to join and start reaping the benefits of the club’s program sooner than would otherwise be possible.

We also need adult volunteers to help our program staff. Of course, there is a stringent screening process. But you don’t need to be an expert on childhood psychological development, just a person who wants what’s best for kids and a willingness to give a few hours of your time each week.

For detailed information, feel free to contact Nancy Beck, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County, at 553-0188.

[Mark Daniels is pastor of Friendship Church. He’s also vice president of the corporate board of the Boys and Girls Club of Clermont County, a volunteer position.]

Senator Kerry, May I Have a Word with You?

Dear Sir:
Throughout this presidential election cycle, I've expressed my displeasure with the ways in which President Bush's campaign has used the church for political purposes and the manner in which it has attempted to sell the notion that Republican-ness is close to godliness. (Please see here, here, and an open letter I sent to the President which can be found on this page.)

Now I see that you and your campaign are attempting to do similar things for your cause. This morning's Cincinnati Enquirer carried an account of your appearance at an Ohio congregation's Sunday morning worship service.

Although I know that such appearances by candidates have become common practice, I believe that they're inappropriate.

I don't believe that the pastor and congregation in question should have allowed your appearance to happen during a time set aside to worship God, hear His Word, and perhaps, share in Holy Communion. The New Testament says that the Church is to "proclaim Christ crucified." Worship is a time when, except for announcements necessary for the functioning of congregation and parish, whatever is spoken should point us to the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. A partisan political speech has no place in a worship celebration! Allowing it to happen finds the congregational leaders and pastor effectively saying that God is voting for John Kerry this year. I don't believe that anybody has the authority to say that.

I also think it's inappropriate for a presidential candidate--or any political candidate--to ply his or her platforms and credentials, in essence glorifying themselves and their parties when God alone is to be glorified. Again, I know that this has become common practice and that you may have been invited by the church and pastor in question. But as a Christian, I believe that you should have refused the invitation, choosing to honor God instead.

You're not alone in misusing Christian faith or in attempting to subordinate Jesus Christ to your political ambitions, of course. The President's campaign has been repeatedly guilty of this throughout the 2004 election process. But it is still disturbing.

I'm a pastor and I ran for the Ohio House of Representatives earlier this year; but I refused to do anything that even appeared like campaigning during worship at the congregation where I serve and forbade anyone else from doing the same. I can't say for certain that my political views are the ones favored by heaven and I donn't dare create the impression that I think they are.

To me, it's fine if you want to speak to the role your faith in Christ plays in your daily living and in your political decision-making. Furthermore, churches may decide to open their buildings up to political parties and campaigns wishing to use their facilities. They may even appropriately decide to house candidate fora to which representatives of various political parties might be invited.

But I hope that both you and the President will refrain from using the church for partisan political ends as you did yesterday.

One of my favorite books is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. In it, children from our world magically enter an alternative universe and encounter a Christ-figure, a lion named Aslan. When the children are first told about Aslan, they seek assurances that he is tame. "Of course, he isn't tame," they're told, "but he is good." So it is with Jesus Christ. He is, as the Bible describes Him, "the lion of Judah," greater than us all, in susceptible to capture by our intellects or our humanly-derived philosophies, and worthy of our respect, honor, and glory. He's God-in-the-flesh. He isn't to be trifled with or whittled down to the size of some petty ward-heeler looking for votes for his particular -ism or partisan political advantage.

Let me hasten to add that I'm an imperfect sinner. I have a full complement of faults and shortcomings. My hope in this life and for the next one have nothing to do with any goodness I possess. I am completely dependent on Jesus Christ and my faith in Him (John 3:16-18; Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Unlike you, I don't live my life in a glaring spotlight where everyone can count my warts. I couldn't stand up to such scrutiny, I'm sure. So, I'm not throwing stones in this letter.

I believe that both you and the President are fundamentally decent men. But ambition and competition sometimes warps judgment. If you and the President are going to dishonor God by invoking him as your own personal possession, it would be best for you not to mention God at all.

I pray for you, Mr. Kerry, asking God to give you safety, wisdom, and guidance. You may very well become our next President. If you do, you will need all these assets to function effectively and well. I promise that should you be elected, you will continue to be the subject of my prayers, just as the President has been the past four years.

Blessings in Christ,
Mark Daniels

Sunday, October 03, 2004

A Magnetic Fellowship

Rabbi and author Harold Kushner tells about something that happened one day when he was lounging on an ocean beach. Two children--a brother and a sister--worked hard to build a sand castle. As they did so, the tide kept coming closer and closer to their elaborate little construction project. But they kept at it.

Then, the inevitable happened. The surf washed the castle away right where the two kids were squatting over it. Kushner expected the kids to get upset, maybe even to cry. Instead, they took hands, ran further inland on the beach, and started in on another castle.

So many of the events in our lives--good, bad, indifferent, are like the tides on an ocean beach. When they arrive and what they do are beyond our control. But our reactions to the events of our lives are within our control.

Those kids were able to react to what may have seemed a terribly unfair event because they knew they had one another. They could grab each other’s hand and move on. Our difficulties are made more bearable and our joys are made more complete when we can share them with others.

A priest loved to play golf. The fall was fading fast and he wanted to get in as many rounds before winter came. So, he pretended to be sick and got another priest to fill in for him one Sunday while he drove to one of his favorite courses about a hundred miles from his parish. One of the angels observed this and asked God, “How can you let this priest get away with this? Not only is he neglecting his responsibilities, he lied about being sick!” God smiled and said, “Just watch.” The priest had the best round of his entire life. The coup-de-grace came when he got a hole-in-one on the eighteenth hole. This was more than the angel could take. “God,” he said, “First, You let this guy lie. Then You let him have a great game on a beautiful day! All that was bad enough. But now, You let him shoot a hole in one!” God smiled again and asked, “Who’s he going to tell about it?” Our difficulties really are made more bearable and our joys truly are made more complete when we can share them with others!

God, in fact, has built us for fellowship with Him and with other people. That’s why Jesus says that the greatest commandment is twofold: to love God completely and to love others as we love ourselves.

October 31 will be Friend Day at Friendship Church. It’s a day set aside for us to give practical expression to our love for God and for others by inviting our non-churchgoing friends to be with us for worship.

The message and the whole worship service on that day will be aimed at helping newcomers and Friendship folks alike to remember that through Jesus Christ, God can be our very best Friend.

On Friend Day, we’ll be showing our friends that they can face the uncontrollable events of life and they can face eternity when, as the motto of our congregation reminds us, they join hands with God and neighbor.

Our Bible lesson today reminds us of just what our friends must see in us in order to want to join hands with God and neighbor.

It comes from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Psalms really is a song book. Each of the psalms was used in worship in Old Testament times. Psalm 133, our Bible lesson, is one of a group of psalms known as the songs of ascent. These songs were used during the three major Jewish festivals that saw Jewish people and Jewish converts from all over the known world come to Jerusalem for worship in the temple there. The temple sat on top of a large hill known as Mount Zion. Even before arriving for worship, these religious travelers (the proper word for a religious traveler is pilgrim, by the way) began to sing God’s praises as they ascended the temple mount. (A bit like the gathering songs we sing as we prepare for worship on some Sunday mornings.) Psalm 133 is one of the songs of ascent sung by the pilgrims.

Picture the scene. People are gathering from diverse places, people who have never seen each other before and probably will never see one another again. A diverse group of believers ascend the hill to the temple at the same time, people from Greece and Ethiopia and Egypt and elsewhere. And they sing about the blessings of being one in their faith in God. “How very good and pleasant it is,” they sing, “when kindred live together in unity!”

In the remaining two lines of the song, they used two metaphors to describe what their unity was like.

First, they sang, “[Our unity] is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.”

Aaron, you’ll remember was brother of the great leader of God’s people, Moses. Aaron was also the first priest, charged with leading God’s people in worship. As a sign of his priesthood, Aaron was anointed with oil by Moses. Every priest after that was anointed in the same way as a sign of what God wanted them to do and be.

The unity of believers who can hold each other’s hands and love each other is a sign of God’s presence with them.

One of the things that visitors to worship at Friendship consistently tell me as that among the people here, as we sing God’s praises and laugh together and cry together and pray together, they sense that God is here, working among us. One visitor told me that in the love she saw among us, she felt as though she was looking at Jesus, God-in-the-flesh Himself. Our unity is a sign of God’s presence at Friendship Church.

The psalm then uses a second metaphor for the unity of believers: “It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained His blessing, life forevermore.”

Mount Hermon is the highest of the mountains in that region. It’s about 9100-feet tall. Through much of the year, its top is covered with snow, which is why Arabs today sometimes refer to it as “the gray-haired mountain.” Apparently, lots of dew gathers at Hermon’s crest and then runs down. You can imagine how precious that moisture from the top of the mountain is in a desert land. That water trickling down is life-giving. Psalm 133 says that when believers are united, God’s blessings sprout. The unity of believers who don’t need to selfishly get their ways, but have instead given their lives over to loving God and loving others, proves that God is alive and giving “life forevermore” to His people.

When our non-churchgoing friends come to be with us on October 31, I believe that they’ll want to join hands with God and with others if they see our unity and our love. They’ll be attracted by what one theologian has called God’s “magnetic fellowship”: that relationship of love that exists between God and His people and among His people. That isn’t always what newcomers see when they worship at a church for the first time.

Back when I was in seminary, I preached and led worship at lots of churches. Each congregation was different. But one thing I noticed is that the members of every single one described their churches as being friendly, or loving, or caring.” I’m not so certain though, that visitors would have found them to be so. Many of them would have seen that church members were friendly to one another, but basically ignored the people they didn’t know.

A few years ago, Ann, the kids, and I attended worship at an area congregation. We sat about seven rows or so from the back. We walked in and nobody but the official greeter acknowledged us. Nobody shared the peace with us at that point in the liturgy. Afterwards, nobody said a word to us. When we gather for worship on Sunday mornings, it’s so easy for us to spend time talking with the people we know and like best, ignoring newcomers, all the while thinking how friendly, loving, and caring our church is.

On Sunday mornings, you and I should have two priorities. First, to worship God. Second, to connect with another person we have never met or spoken with before.

When we’ve linked hands with God and neighbor, and let Jesus Christ into the center of our lives, we lose our self-consciousness. It gets replaced with God-consciousness and neighbor-consciousness that allows us to reach out to others.

There’s a good reason for that. In Decision magazine a few years ago, Clark Cothern told the story of inviting a friend, Gavin, to help his pastor and him guide thirty teenagers through an all-night lock-in at his church’s building. Early on, Gavin challenged Clark to a ping pong game in the fellowship hall. It became pretty intense. With the score tied and only three points to go until the game ended, an eighth grader named Tracy grabbed the ball and played keep-way. Cothern writes that he felt irritation, but then remembered Saint Paul’s words in the New Testament book of First Corinthians: “Love is patient...”

He decided to politely ask Tracy for the ball. He and Gavin joked with her. She eventually tossed the ball back onto the table. They thanked her and finished the game.

A few hours later, they were surprised to hear Tracy say that she wanted to follow Jesus Christ. She explained: “I grew up in a family where nobody goes to church. I’ve learned to get attention by making people mad at me. But earlier this evening I saw something different.” She then pointed to Clark Cothern and his friend Gavin: “When I stole the ball from those guys, they didn’t get mad at me. They didn’t fight back. I saw something different in those guys, and right then that I wanted whatever it was they have.”

Our lives can tell the good news of Jesus Christ. I believe that when our friends and neighbors see that through Jesus, God has made all of us---people of different backgrounds, professions, personality types---friends, they will want what we have. They’ll want Jesus Christ in their lives.

So often, our sandcastles get knocked down by the tides of life. On October 31, let’s help our friends see Jesus Christ working in our lives. Let’s help them to see us as we take each other’s hands and move on in the love, power, and goodness of God---inviting others to do the same with us---and then, with confidence and hope, together face life today and life forevermore with God!