"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 30, 2011

Who is Ben Breedlove and Why His Story Matters

In the grand scheme of things, Ben Breedlove's story wouldn't seem to matter much. Two weeks ago, he was just another teen who enjoyed music, hanging out with his friends at the lake, and posting youtube videos. And yet, Ben Breedlove matters a great deal. His life, which ended tragically short on Christmas night, is inspiring millions around the world.

As it turns out, he also goes to my church, which has brought a lot of media attention. It's a large church, and I did not know Ben Breedlove or his family personally. I certainly feel I missed out. But I have a friend who is a youth minister who did know him, as well as my pastor. They now find themselves thrust in the spotlight to tell not just Ben's story, but God's story and the significance it holds for each of us.

If you are not familiar with Ben Breedlove, he has become an internet sensation. Ben passed away at the age of 18 from a heart attack due to a genetic condition which he had lived with most of his life. Before his passing, Ben's heart shut down several times, the latest at school on December 6, 2011. He stopped breathing for three minutes before he was revived. During that time, he witnessed what is clinically called a near-death experience and made a video describing what he saw and felt. The video has gone viral and received almost two million hits.

Ben admits in the video that he didn't want to leave that peaceful place, what could be described as his own personal glimpse into heaven. Then he asks on a notecard, "Do you believe in angels or God?" and answers for himself. "I do." While the theme of the video is "cheating death", Ben could not have known God would call him home a few days later, on Christmas no less. I have little doubt that if Ben could describe his final transcendence to heaven with us, it would be in the most peaceful and beautiful imagery imaginable.

It's a cliche to say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and yet I can find no other words to describe this. Because Ben told his story, because of the video he posted on youtube (which was an afterthought encouraged by a friend), because Ben shared his testimony and challenged our perceptions of life after death, he has become famous. But more importantly, he has impacted countless lives by delivering a message of hope and grace.

The powerful message Ben delivered to us will touch people for a long time to come, far longer than the 18 years Ben spent touching lives here on earth. Ben was gracious enough to allow God to use him for a greater purpose than most of us could suspect.

You can imagine if an ordinary teenage kid had kept these visions to himself. You can imagine if Ben had kept quiet, rather than face possible ridicule and skepticism. You can imagine if he had gone on like nothing happened. The whole world would have missed out on a beautiful message. But Ben didn't, because Ben wasn't ordinary. He aspired to reveal the Christ within him, as C.S. Lewis would say, to share God's love and hope for humanity. He shared his story and it mattered. Just like all of our journeys matter to God.

Ben's story has given me comfort. I have a four year old nephew who has spent the last year going through cancer treatment. He has had brain surgery, radiation, and four doses of chemo, along with stem cell therapy. His cancer may be in remission, but it is too early to tell for sure. The whole year has been a struggle, but we have always focused on the positives. God is good, and even when bad things happen, God uses them to do good in the world.

We hope my nephew is cancer-free. We feel blessed that he hasn't had a seizure (after as many as 40 a day) since the tumor was removed from his brain. But rather than stress and worry about it, we choose to thank God for each precious moment.

Someday those precious moments will be gone for each of us with every loved one we know. Thank you, Ben Breedlove, for reminding us that God has a greater purpose for our lives than we could ever imagine. Sometimes the little things, like sharing our personal journey of faith in a video, turn out to be quite big indeed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Underestimating Tim Tebow and God's Magical Season for Each of Us

"The only thing I know is I know nothing." -Socrates

Too much of what passes for expert analysis today is just strongly-worded opinion. Take Tim Tebow's success in the NFL, for example. It wasn't supposed to happen. It's still not supposed to be happening. The Denver Broncos are supposed to go back to playing like the 0-4 team that started the season under Kyle Orton. So say the experts as if its scripture, and the minute Denver loses the talking heads in the media will start a celebration of their own that you can bet won't include Tebowing.

Today could be that day. The Broncos are a heavy underdog against the New England Patriots despite playing at home. Many so-called analysts are vested in the outcome. If the Patriots win, they will double down on Tom Brady and highlight every Tebow flub. The chatter that the Denver Broncos are a quarterback away from being a complete team will increase. If the Patriots lose, they will tell us it's only because of their porous defense, even though Tebow will likely cap the game with another come-from-behind drive. The experts, in other words, are only in the business of verifying their own opinions with utter nonsense.

Despite what happens today, conventional wisdom has failed to account for Tim Tebow's 7-1 record as a starter this year. Thus, we can already say with certainty that the conventional wisdom was wrong.

Character counts. It used to count for more. Forty or fifty years ago, the conventional wisdom would have probably predicted success for Tim Tebow. He would have been the exact kind of quarterback coaches wanted. He doesn't turn the ball over. He's tough to bring down. He can turn a busted play into positive yardage. He's a general on the field with strong intangibles. He makes every player on the team better by bringing out the ultimate effort in each of them. These are qualities that more often than not lead to victories.

However, in today's NFL more emphasis has been placed on a quarterback's arm strength, their throwing mechanics, the tightness of the spiral, and the ability to audible. Leadership is way down the list, something I suppose most coaches and scouts think can be taught so long as the quarterback carries the pedigree of a true passer.

In some cases, conventional wisdom has been right. Aaron Rodgers was valued highly by pro scouts and has turned in close to the perfect NFL season. His team is undefeated. But for every Aaron Rodgers, there's a Jeff George, Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, and David Carr. These guys all had strong arms with good mechanics, they were highly drafted, but none of it translated to success on the football field.

I can't help but think of the talking political heads who make these same type of prognostications when it comes to which candidates can and can't win, which ones will alienate too many voters. Ronald Reagan, we were told, wasn't supposed to win. According to conventional wisdom, Sarah Palin can't either. And yet in the same sentence, these experts tell us the most divisive, partisan, and petty president in our lifetime is the guy with the winnable message. Again, utter nonsense.

Leadership isn't taught and it can't be faked. In their own way, many golden armed quarterbacks who fizzled out in the NFL have shown us that much. Leadership is built on a strong foundation, and it takes a lifetime. When discerning leadership, we would be wise to look at the virtues men have always valued as a strong foundation for success - faith, honesty, perseverance, accountability, humility, and grace under fire. More likely than not, this comes from a believe in something far greater and more meaningful than ourselves. It comes from God.

I can't help but think in discounting the qualities that make Tim Tebow so outstanding, many of us are really underestimating God's glory. Sadly, that means we are underestimating ourselves and the great purpose God has for each of us. Even if its only for one season.

Prediction: Broncos 24, Patriots 23 (but does it really matter?... I'm no expert)

Monday, December 12, 2011

10 Things I Learned This Week (12/12/11)

I have decided to introduce a new and recurring blog feature: 10 Things I Learned This Week. Hopefully, it will allow me to summarize a few of my tweets into something for my blog readers, assuming some of you may not follow me on twitter. Speaking of, why don't you? Go there now and add me.

What I Learned Over the Past 7 Days:

1. Osawatomie is a Native American word meaning "stumping for votes with class warfare." (in a total coincidence, it also rhymes with Obama's a Commie)
2. $10,000  > $900 billion, at least according to liberals. The former was wagered by Mitt Romney, the latter by the Obama Administration on a failed stimulus (including $530 million of bad bets on Solyndra).
3. Unemployment benefits create more jobs than building a transcontinental pipeline. Based on this lefty logic, more people need to lose their jobs so the economy will rebound.
4. The Cowboys should burn their timeouts early so they don't risk icing their kicker.
5. Unless you are winning the Heisman or under the age of five, you really can't get away with wearing Superman socks.
6. GOP Debates are more boring without Herman Cain. Also, fewer pizzas sold.
7. Obama told 60 Minutes that he's the Captain. I guess that makes the mainstream media Tennille. Love will keep them together.
8. Texas A&M probably should have hired Gary Kubiak when they had the chance 8 years and 3 coaches ago. Congrats to the Houston Texans.
9. Rick Perry has the same barn jacket as Brokeback Mountain. Come to think of it, so do millions of ruggedly handsome American men. Okay, now I'm questioning my sexuality.
10. Pretty sure Dr. Pepper 10 is just regular Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper mixed together in the same can.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Obama Can't Create Jobs (or Money: It's Not Just for Democratic Fundraisers)

Sometimes clarity comes at the strangest hours. Tonight it happened when I fell asleep after enjoying a few libations while watching Anthony Bourdain's entertaining travel + food + booze show on the Travel Channel. If you've ever watched Anthony Bourdain's show before, you know he has a way of speaking plainly and saying exactly what's on his mind. Abrasive? Sure. But that's how the truth rolls sometimes.

Taking a cue from Mr. Bourdain's style of breaking down basic absurdities, I began to dissect President Obama's speech in Kansas the other day, you know the one where he said the economy has gotten too efficient to employ human beings and blamed the internet, ATMs, and technology in general for his three year reign over the worst streak of unemployment since the Great Depression, pining instead for the days of elevator operators, full service gas stations, and switchboards.

The president delivered his words where Teddy Roosevelt gave a famous (and often misunderstood) speech over 100 years ago, but I don't think we were expecting Mr. Obama to also champion the technology from that era. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn Osawatomie was Native American for "Soviet style economic planning." So much for winning the future.

As Pundette eloquently pointed out, Obama basically spent 30 minutes "lamenting that unions aren't strong enough to force buggy whip manufacturers to give raises to their employees." And who doesn't wonder what happened to all those great buggy driving jobs? They must have gone overseas to cheap labor.

If his speech clarified one thing, it's the president's complete failure to understand job creation. Having never worked in the private sector, he has no idea why jobs exist in the first place. Seriously. Someone should ask him - what is the point of employment?

If you listen to Mr. Obama, you are likely to think the purpose of a job is to provide someone with work. It's not. Nor is it to provide someone with benefits or to ensure every family gets to own a house. The point of a job is to make money, usually for someone else, and unless you are self-employed, that usually means a corporation. If the employer can't make a profit as a result of your labor, they won't hire you. If your labor loses them money, you aren't worth employing. And if government regulations make hiring more expensive, fewer jobs are created. It's really that simple.

But when the leader of the free world demonizes profits, when successful businesses are called greedy, when corporations that do most of the hiring are told they are not paying their fair share, when the private sector is told there will be a time to profit later, you end up with a business environment that stinks. Obamanomics discourages job growth and encourages stink. Period. Unless the government is doing all the hiring (and that's called Communism), you need profitable companies to hire productive workers who will increase profitability, allowing for the creation of even more corporations.

Computers, technology, ATMs, machinery, and the internet all increase productivity. They make businesses more productive and hence, more profitable. Therefore, "greedy corporations" can grow and keep hiring. I know, how dare they. Today's progressive, not too far removed from Marxism, will tell you corporations should only exist to serve at the government's whim.

Jobs aren't just for keeping people busy. The fact President Obama fails to grasp this simple economic reality is why we have a failing economy with such an anemic recovery. Mr. Obama can't create jobs, because like most leftists, he's never understood the purpose of work in the first place. He thinks hiring 10,000 people to dig a ditch and handing them all a spoon is the key to full employment. That's how we got a trillion dollars of wasted stimulus.

A president who values employment has to value profit, and Mr. Obama has proven himself incapable. There will be no job recovery until he is out of the White House.