Friday, February 04, 2005

It's a Matter of Principle, I Won't Cave In To Weblogicus Sycophanticus

Weblogicus sycophanticus is a newly-diagnosed mental disturbance which, a cursory perusal of the blogging world demonstrates, is growing. The malady, the subject of a major article in the latest edition of The Journal of Sopping Up Research Funding for Even the Flimsiest Reasons, afflicts ambitious web log writers who incorporate massive, gratuitous links to the web sites of more prominent "bloggers," hoping to catch the attention of the former and perhaps be mentioned on their sites.

This, of course, is disgraceful behavior.

It appears that the most widely-quoted blogger is Glenn Reynolds, author of the web's most popular blog site, Instapundit.

"If your blog site gets linked on Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit," explained one anonymous blogger, "it's worth a few thousand hits."

A hit happens every time a visitor comes to a blog site. Bloggers crave hits because that means more people are reading their writings.

Please be advised that I never engage in gratuitous linking to Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site. Even when the Instapundit site has interesting items on it, I refrain from linking, because I don't want to be a sycophant. After all, I have my dignity. I would never suck up to Glen Reynolds and his Instapundit site.

Having my blog mentioned on Instapundit could bring several thousand people to Better Living, but frankly, that isn't that important to me.

So, please join me in praying for the gratuitous linkers who suffer from this horrible disease. But whatever you do, don't let Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit know about it.

What is a 'Positive Attitude' for a Christ-Follower?

A few posts ago, I discussed something called priming, mentioned in the best-selling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. by Malcolm Gladwell. Basically, priming is the phenomenon by which attitudes are fostered, whether through conversations or other experiences. I suggested that it might be a good goal for all of us to be positive primers in others' lives, in turn helping them to meet life with positive attitudes.

It strikes me that, in light of the popularity of some preachers who claim to be Christian and clearly are not, it might be a good idea for me to define exactly what I mean by a positive attitude. I firmly believe that a positive attitude flows from faith in Jesus Christ. But, I feel compelled to explain what that doesn't mean and what it does mean, as I see it.

It doesn't mean that Jesus is a cosmic ATM. You may "name it," but that doesn't necessarily mean you get to "claim it." First and foremost, the follower of Jesus Christ makes his or her prayer, "Your will be done!" Jesus wanted the cup of suffering to pass Him by, but He went to a cross. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, preferred not being stoned to death, but it happened. Instead of naming it and claiming it, the Christian's highest ambition is to live lives of gratitude to God for making them His children.

It doesn't mean that you'll be wealthy. Many of Jesus' followers were poor, just as Jesus was and Jesus never promises money to those who believe in Him. He does promise us "daily bread." The fact that many go without their basic needs isn't an indictment of God for failing to provide or of those who don't have, but of those of us who do have who fail to find ways to share what God has given to us with others.

It doesn't mean that life will be all smiles and good times. Jesus was acquainted with griefs and sorrows and went to a cross. Following the Savior that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah described as the suffering servant may at times, bring more difficulties. Jesus once said, "In the world you face persecution." (He adds, "But take courage; I have conquered the world.") [John 16:33-34]

But here's what it does mean, from my vantage point.

It does mean that the God Who made us has forgiven our sins and given us new lives, ones in which He is committed to helping us live as we were designed to live and to live with God forever. (Second Corinthians 5:17)

It does mean that when we make God our highest priority, God gives us the desires of our transformed hearts. (Psalm 37:4)

It does mean that in a world that groans under the burden of sin, God gives us the power to suffer, when suffering comes, for the right reasons and with the right attitudes. (First Peter 3:17)

It does mean that God shows us our particular gifts, helping us to experience the fulfillment that goes with living in sync with our unique designs. And God helps us to find those gifts in the context of a caring community called the Church. (First Corinthians 12:4-31)

It does mean that God enables to both cope and hope, realizing that through Jesus Christ, we have a life with God that never ends. (Romans 8:31-39)

Some so-called Christian preachers, like Joel Osteen, preach a sugar-coated, non-Christian version of Christian faith. In their pseudo-gospel, they totally ignore the reality of sin that earns all humanity a death sentence. (Romans 6:23) They ignore our need to repent, that is, turn from sin, and humbly receive forgiveness from Jesus. They ignore our need to surrender to God through Christ and to make "Your will be done" our daily prayer. They forget too, that this world--and its successes that must end at the grave--cannot be the ultimate object of our concerns. The New Testament reminds Jesus-Followers:

"If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (First Corinthians 15:19)

Just a few thoughts on a Friday night.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Roberts' Analysis of the Inaugural Address from a Christian Perspective Dovetails with My Own

On his blog, Pastor Mark Roberts has been doing a series of posts evaluating President Bush's January 20 Inaugural Address from a Christian perspective. One passage near the end of today's installment particularly struck me:
From a biblical perspective, what the President actually said about freedom was not correct. If one of my associate pastors, in a sermon preached in my church, were to say that the force of freedom is the only power that can overcome hatred, that pastor would be visiting my supervisory woodshed in a jiffy. I’d send that pastor back to do more biblical homework. I am not doubting the President’s faith or his basic evangelical theology. But I do find his statement about freedom to be inconsistent with biblical theology. It actually sounds a whole lot more like classic theological liberalism.
I agree with Mark. In fact, I wrote about it on the day after the Inaugural. Among the things I said then:
I think one has to conclude that, as is true of the statements of any political figure who represents a pluralistic society and who wants to maintain popular support for his agenda, the Inaugural Address was, spiritually speaking, a mish-mash, reflective as much of Enlightenment notions as Christian ones.

This fact hit me when I heard the President say yesterday:

There is only one force that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and the tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.


From a Christian perspective, this assertion is suspect at many levels.
I went on to identify those levels. I invite you to read both Mark's analysis and mine and give your feedback to us.

(By the way, it makes me feel good when a theologian as good as Mark is on the same wave length as I'm on!)

Say Hello to 'Good Bye Lenin!'

My son and I just finished watching, Good Bye Lenin!, a German film released in 2003. (Originally titled, Die DDR lebt weiter -- auf 79 qm!, meaning, The GDR Lives On--on 79 square meters.)

It's a movie that could have veered into slapstick, with its nearly surreal, broadly hysterical premise. But it manages to be poignant as well as funny. It also packs a surprise near its end, just when it was beginning to wear out its welcome from me.

One of the issues clearly raised by this film is, When might it be acceptable to lie to someone you love in order to protect them?

Another might be, How can we be certain that the commitment to causes we see in people is genuine?

If you haven't seen the movie yet, I won't ruin it by saying more. It's available for rental or purchase these days. I recommend it. It's entertaining and funny, touching and thought-provoking.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I Didn't Even Know 'Simple Minds" Still Existed

Hmmm. I always liked Simple Minds. But I wonder if Jim Kerr had the opportunity to lobby Tony Blair, would he take advantage of it?

Elections in Schleswig-Holstein May Relate to Trend in US

Last year, it was taken for granted that regional elections in the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein would be a rout favoring the Christian Democratic Union over Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats. People were fed up with the weak German economy and would register their discontent by voting down Schröder's partisans on February 20.

Now though, it increasingly appears that the Social Democrats will win. If so, it bodes well for Schröder in upcoming national elections.

All of this defies the earlier conventional wisdom. But we've seen this before, haven't we?

In the run-up to the 2004 US presidential election, President Bush was considered vulnerable and beatable. The economy was not as strong as members of either party would have liked.

But it appears that appreciation for Bush's foreign and military policies by Americans and appreciation for Schröder's policies in the same areas by Germans, trumps other concerns. Both Bush and Schröder, of course, are helped by opposition parties that simply seem unable to figure out what they stand for. But it appears that Schröder is going to be returned to office as comfortably as George W. Bush was. (Which further explains why the two leaders are making nice these days; they have no choice but to work with one another.)

Tony Blair in the United Kingdom appears blessed with analogous circumstances. He too seems unbeatable in upcoming elections. The difference in Blair's case is that while his support for the war in Iraq is unpopular, his domestic policies are popular.

Indeed, in many of the major democracies around the world, aging populations appear to be supporting incumbents and their parties, taking an "in spite of" attitude toward some policies with which they may disagree.

It's true that n the US, Democrat Bill Clinton was elected in two consecutive elections without achieving majorities in either one. But since Jimmy Carter won the White House following the Watergate scandal, Republican candidates have won with majorities in 1980, 1984, 1988, and 2004. George Bush won his first term with a minority of the popular vote, but a majority in the Electoral College. We now have had one or both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans since 1994, almost unimaginable in bygone days when Democratic ascendancy on Capitol Hill was seen as a given.

The only nation in which the incumbent leader and his party appear to be in trouble is France, where it's reported that voters can't wait to get rid of President Chirac. But even that could be a passing fancy. If there are any sure lessons to be learned about democratic politics in the early twenty-first century, it's this: If you bet on the incumbents, you'll be right more often than not.

UPDATE: German unemployment rose to the 5-million mark, highest since the end of World War Two. Only time will tell if this figure and the painful realities which underlay it, will cause the Germans, first in Schleswig-Holstein and then in the rest of the country, to throw Schröder and his party out of office, breaking with the pro-incumbent trend that seems to have taken hold in major democracies.

Nominate, Vote for Best Evangelical Blogs

Awards are soon to be given to the best evangelical Christian blogs in fourteen different categories. I know for certain that I am nominating Rob Asghar, Craig Williams, and others for recognition. If you'd like to nominate someone's blog (that is not a hint...well, not really), you can do so as well. You can read all about them over at

Of Taster's Choice, the Quarrymen, and Success

Russell Christoff had been a struggling actor and model for twenty years. He worked, but never attained much success.

Then one day in 2002, while at a store looking for Bloody Mary mix, a jar of Taster's Choice coffee caught his eye. Christoff instantly recognized the mostly-concealed face of the man on the jar's label, savoring a cup of freeze-dried java. He saw himself!

You've probably read Christoff's story in the past day or so.

In 1986, he spent two hours posing for an advertising photo shoot. He was told that his image might be used in some ads and he was paid modestly for his work. That was that...until his 2002 grocery store discovery.

Yesterday, a jury awarded Christoff $15.6-million, to be paid to him by Nestle, makers of the coffee brand, "for using his photograph without his permission and profiting from it."

Russell Christoff isn't a struggling actor or model any longer.

But for all that money and in spite of our societal values, Christoff didn't suddenly become a better actor or model. Apart from the Taster's Choice label, I'm unfamiliar with his body of work and I'll wager that you are too. But I can say with some certainty that Christoff is pretty much the same guy on the day after his big payoff as he was the day before.

This story is in the news at the same time I've been thinking about success and when, or if, it arrives in people's lives. Just yesterday morning, I was reflecting on the talented athletes, executives, artists, writers, and others I've known or read about who were every bit as good as those who attained what our society calls success, yet spent the bulk of their lives in underappreciated obscurity. They haven't lacked in talent, work ethic, diligence, or even, contacts. What they have lacked is opportunity.

Some talented people have extraordinary opportunity just slip past them. Sometimes more than once.

Eric Griffiths, age 64, died yesterday. As a teenager, the Scotsman, who spent a good deal of his life in the north English city of Liverpool, was in a band called the Quarrymen. Among the other members of the band, two of whom Griffiths played with, were three guys named John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison.

There is no way of knowing whether Griffiths would have become part of the reconstituted Quarrymen destined to be known as the Beatles. But when that transformation happened, he had already left Liverpool to join the Merchant Navy.

In 1997, it was Griffiths who instigated some of his Quarrymen bandmates to get together again. They became a staple of Beatles-fan events around the world. Last year, the Quarrymen recorded a CD. This past November, Griffiths learned that he had pancreatic cancer. He died two weeks after the Quarrymen CD was released, some fifty years after the band first formed.

It might appear that success never came to Eric Griffiths. But I'm not sure that conclusion is warranted. A profile of him, appearing in a Liverpool publication, has this:
Mr Griffiths's youngest son, Danny, 31, said: "The whole family are
devastated by the loss of my father, but we take great comfort that he enjoyed
life to the full.

"My dad took great pleasure getting together once again with the
Quarrymen and travelling the world playing their music."

That sounds like a successful person to me, a person who'd found his niche in life, prominent or not, wealthy or not, and enjoyed doing his best.

I wish Russell Christoff well and I'm happy that Taster's Choice is giving him his due. But I hope that he enjoyed acting and modeling even when he was struggling. I hope too, that he will continue enjoying his profession even with all that money.

In one of his songs, Paul Simon wrote of the joy he derived from doing what his soul led him to do, make music:
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
for my fingers
For my fingers

Easy for a multimillionairre to sing that way, you might think. True. And perhaps Simon wouldn't derive so much joy from his music without the worldly success it has brought. If that's the case, I feel sorry for him.

I know lots of people who are successful without being wealthy, prominent, or powerful. They're people doing what the God Who made their souls has led them to do. They're followers of Jesus. One of their tribe, another man named Paul, who lived two-thousand years ago, wrote once:
...I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to
have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances,
I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having
plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him [the God revealed
in Jesus Christ] Who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:11-13]

If you and I can learn to surrender to Jesus Christ like that, God will free us to be and do our best and we will be successful, no matter how the world measures us.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Can We Positively Prime Our World?

[The following is the most recent installment of a column I write for the Community Press newspapers here in the Cincinnati area.]

"Attitudes," the eminent psychiatrist Karl Menninger once said, "are more important than facts."

Is that true?

Through the years, I've known people who have gone through one terrible experience piled on top of another who nonetheless retained their joy, sense of humor, and love of life. I've known others who have degenerated into bitterness and emotional paralysis after the slightest adversities. Their varied attitudes seem to explain their varied reactions to life.

Observing people who seemed always to fail, the newspaper publisher and diplomat Richard G. Capen wrote, "If you believe it is going to be a lousy day, it will be. If you think you are going to fail, you will. If you are convinced you can’t handle your job, you are likely to lose it. If you are certain you cannot repair a relationship, you won’t. It’s all a matter of the standards you set for yourself. Most people accept far less than they deserve.”

Henry Ford put it more succinctly. "Whether you believe you can or you can't, you're right," he said.

Attitudes are chosen, of course. But is it possible for parents, teachers, managers, youth workers, business executives, politicians, pastors, and other leaders to foster positive attitudes of hopefulness and possibility in people? In other words, can we help people to choose an attitude of positive anticipation?

In his intriguing new book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell speaks of something called, priming. Priming is a set of experiences that, usually randomly, "sets the table" for our expectations of success or failure, enjoyment or boredom, and so on.

Gladwell recounts an experiment conducted by two Dutch researchers. Two groups of students were each given forty-two difficult questions from an edition of the board game, Trivial Pursuit. Gladwell says that before being asked the questions, one group was told to spend five minutes imagining what their lives would be like were they college professors and then, jot down every thought they had along those lines. The other group was told to do a similar exercise, only they were to imagine themselves as soccer hooligans. The college professor group got 55.6% of the Trivial Pursuit questions right. The soccer hooligan group were correct 42.6% of the time.

One of the joys of my life these days is my service on the board of directors for our county's Boys and Girls Club. Not long ago, our executive director, Nancy Beck, shared the story of Chris with us. As Nancy tells it, our West Clermont Unit, housed at Amelia Elementary School, recently had a long waiting list of children who wanted to join the club but couldn't because our funding didn't allow for adequate staffing. Chris was one of the children on the waiting list.

When the club members had playground activities, the staff allowed Chris to join in. But when it came time for 'Power Hour,' the club's homework help period, or other indoor activities, Chris at times literally peered in through windows longingly.

Finally, he was able to become a Boys and Girls Club member. Until that point, Chris hadn't passed a spelling test the entire school year. But at the club, he was helped with his homework and maybe more importantly, told that he could do well. After being primed in this way, Chris showed up one afternoon at the club, proudly displaying the 96% he'd gotten on his most recent spelling test!

What would happen to our communities, companies, schools, families, businesses, churches, and countries if each of us made it our business to prime others for success in life?

The evidence seems to indicate that it would set off a kind of revolution of good feelings and achievement.

Wouldn't it be fun to test that hypothesis?

[More on a positive attitude--where to find it and how to cultivate it--in a later post.]

Good Start to Black History Month

Today kicks off Black History Month in the US. The inspirational piece for today in Our Daily Bread is a great way to begin the month!

Test Case for United Nations...and for All of Us

If what's going on in the Darfur region of Sudan isn't genocide, then what is?

Genocide is any sustained effort by one group of people to exterminate another population owing to religion, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, nationality, or some other identifying attribute. It's what the Nazis undertook against the Jews. More recently, it's been tried by other groups under the banner of ethnic cleansing.

Today, terrorists with the blessing of the Sudanese government are engaged in genocide in the Darfur region of that country.

But a UN group, charged with looking into what's been going on in Darfur, while describing it as serious, has fallen short of labeling it as genocide, effectively sitting on its hands while thousands and thousands are butchered.

Representative Frank Wolf, is quoted in the above article as saying:
"The United Nations has failed over and over to prevent genocide," said Wolf, who heads the House of Representatives subcommittee that approves US payments to the world body.

"If in the year 2005 the Security Council cannot deal with genocide, ... I believe it's fair to ask what purpose is the United Nations serving in the 21st century," he said.
This definitely is an important test case for the UN and for all of us.

One of the best sites for Darfur/Sudan information can be found here.

God's Existence Seen in Response to Massive Tragedy

In the movie, The Color Purple, a woman victimized in countless ways was at the end of her rope when a new friend came into her life. That friend supported and encouraged her. So much so that the victimized woman was later able to say, "When you walked in the room, I knew there was a God."

Back when I was an atheist, I used the world's tragedies as proof that God didn't exist.

I later became convinced that my revulsion in the face of tragedy was an indicator of the existence of God. After all, if there is no God, then there are no sustainable standards of good and bad. Without God, life would be nothing more than survival of the fittest until we all meet our eventual and final demise.

But, I was forced to wonder, where did this idea of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, come from?

Where had the whole human race gotten its notions that it's a good thing to love others and that tragedy is an unnatural defilement of our lives?

Could it be that there is a God Who planted these ideas in us?

Is it possible that, as the Bible insists, God has written His law onto our hearts?

Eventually though, something else happened to convince me of God's existence.

My wife walked into my life. Friends walked into my life. No matter how cynical I became, how certain the world was just a bad job and I needed to look out for number one and eat, drink, and be merry, God kept sending unselfish, kindhearted friends into my life.

I know that they came from God because they were all His unabashed followers.

When they walked into my life, I simply knew that there was a God.

This is the way God works. The Bible says that believers in Jesus are His body--hands and feet and mouths and ears--in this world. And in Jesus' famous parable (or story) about the end of the world (Matthew 25:31-46), He says that whenever we reach out to others in love, we're seeing Him, God in the flesh, in them.

The International Red Cross has announced that through the generosity of people from throughout the world, they have sufficient funds for their short- and l0ng-term relief and rehabilitation program in the Indian Ocean region hit by the December 26 tsunami.

This is a God-moment!

We in the rest of the world saw the plight of the tsunami victims and our consciences were pricked. We looked at their tragedy and intrinsically knew that we couldn't simply stand by with a "survival of the fittest" mentality. In our guts, hearts, and wills, we knew that we needed and wanted to help, at least with our money.

Many would have loved to have helped in other ways. Several people told me, "I wish that I could go over there and help out." So strong was the impulse to provide personal assistance that several international organizations had to say, in effect, "We appreciate your desire to provide hands-on aid. But please stay home and send money for now. That's the best way you can help."

Who created that compassion?

Was it the result of a media blitz? The media certainly covered the story. But the media give intense coverage to all sorts of stories. The response to the tsunami wasn't a manipulated reaction.

The world unaffected by the tsunami reacted as it did because, I believe, of God's existence. And that's true whether those whose hearts were stirred are believers in God or not. God plants compassion in us. When the tsunami happened, that compassion blossomed.

For those whose lives are being slowly healed and transformed by the compassion of strangers thousands of miles away, there is an experience of God. They experience kindness and concern. God has walked into their lives.

There are millions of other tragedies that happen in our world each day. If we're attentive to the lives of others, each of these tragedies present us with opportunities to be the hands and feet of God. Not with syrupy, condescending help and certainly not with "Praise the Lord" platitudes or obnoxious four-point witnessing programs.

Instead, we can simply walk into others' lives with listening ears, open hearts, and relevant help and give them hope when all seems lost.

That's how God works. That's how God is working now. Just open your eyes and your mind and you'll see it. Just open your will and you can be part of it!

Monday, January 31, 2005

'Stones Cry Out' a Blog That Cries Out for Your Daily Clicks

My cyber-buddy Mark Sides and four colleagues have launched the newly-constituted blog, Stones Cry Out. It's certainly a site worth putting on your daily blogging diet!

Blink: First Impression

One of the books I've been reading today is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. This new book, by the author of The Tipping Point is a well-written journalist's view of the phenomenon psychologists call thin slicing.

Says Gladwell:
"Thin-slicing" refers to the ability of our unconscious mind to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.
Thin slicing is, if you will, a small sampling which, when quickly measured against our previous experiences and knowledge, yields a snap decision.

While so far, Gladwell appears intent on commending a greater confidence in our subconscious decision-making powers, he also is aware that there is "dark side" to thin-slicing. To my mind, this is exhibited when people with insufficient experience or unfair prejudices make snap judgments. According to Gladwell, snap judgments are those made by informed people for reasons they may not be able to empirically explain, but which are later supported by empirical inquiry.

As I continue to make my way through this fascinating book, I'll present other ideas it contains and the ideas it spawns in me. Meanwhile, read the book!

Former US President Vindicated By Iraqi Vote?

The conservative law professor and pundit Glenn Reynolds offers this intriguing interpretation of which US politicians are vindicated by yesterday's election in Iraq. He especially singles out Bill Clinton. (Of course, Glenn uses the ex-President to smack people like John Kerry and other Democrats.) It's interesting.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Matthews Hits It Out of the Park Again!

As usual, the superb Chris Matthews did a fantastic job of covering every aspect of the Iraqi elections. Wow!

Brooks Suggests President Talk About Social Mobility in State of Union

Conservative columnist David Brooks recommends that President Bush deal with the question of social mobility in the US in the State of the Union message. Brooks, looking especially at data gathered by The Economist, claims that the ability move up the social and economic ladder is threatened and says that it's an issue which each generation must address, lest old habits block advancement.

A sampling:
The United States is a country based on the idea that a person's birth does not determine his or her destiny. Our favorite stories involve immigrants climbing from obscurity to success. Our amazing work ethic is predicated on the assumption that enterprise and effort lead to ascent. "I hold the value of life is to improve one's condition," Abraham Lincoln declared.

The problem is that in every generation conditions emerge that threaten to close down opportunity and retard social mobility. Each generation has to reopen the pathways to success.

Today, for example, we may still believe American society is uniquely dynamic, but we're deceiving ourselves. European societies, which seem more class-driven and less open, have just as much social mobility as the United States does.
Economists and sociologists do not all agree, but it does seem there is at least slightly less movement across income quintiles than there was a few decades ago.
It's a column well worth reading.

Big-Time Answer to Prayer

Whatever your politics, you can't help but look at today's elections in Iraq with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Wonder, because Iraqis braved the threats of both insurgents and outside terrorist groups threatening to turn polling places into "rivers of blood."

Gratitude, because God has answered the prayers of many from around the world for a free and, relative to the violence and chaos which has been present in Iraq, bloodless election process.

Continued vigilant prayer is essential. At the end of time, when the real history of this planet is fully seen, it will be clearly seen that it has always been the humble prayers of saints that have invited God's goodness into even the world's darkest places, that lay behind every good thing that has ever happened. It's awesome to consider!

Keeping the Focus on Tsunami Relief Needs to Be Ongoing

Tsunami relief is an ongoing job and will probably will be for the better part of the coming decade. Given the massiveness of the tsunami and the increasing interrelatedness of the world, we all have a stake in the success of the efforts.

So, even though this recent tragedy and the heroic work being done by relief agencies from around the world are fading from the headlines and the evening news, I intend to continue focusing on it here.

Currently, I'm sharing various news items and releases from the four reputable relief agencies I've been recommending almost since the tsunami hit on December 26. Today, a January 26 release from the American Red Cross.

Please consider making donations to one of these four agencies, or other fine relief organizations working in the Indian Ocean basin:

Lutheran World Relief
American Red Cross
Catholic Relief Services
World Vision