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Memorial Day 2015: Remembering the Sacrifices Others Have Made

Remember the lives people have given to maintain the freedom we have to worship in this country.

Although I am in Brazil, I think that patriotic days like this are important—and as a dual citizen, of the United States and the Kingdom of God, I celebrate these days even when I am far away.

So, today, my family and I will take a moment, thank God for the freedom we have in the nation we lived, and pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones in the service of our nation.

In memory of this United States Memorial Day, I am posting a speech was given over fifteen years ago by Reverend J. Thomas Shelley of Zion (Shaffer's) United Lutheran Church in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania.

I've posted it below for your reading and consideration about how we might consider memorials.

On Memorial Day of last year I found myself doing something which I had never done before; indeed, something which at one time I could not even have conceived of doing: conducting a service of worship. Memorial Day has been largely abandoned to Veteran's groups conducting military services in a few larger cemeteries. The response of the Church has been either to ignore the day altogether, or to so drape it in red, white, and blue that the nation—and not the Triune God—becomes the object of devotion and worship. It was probably because of the excesses of the latter that I found myself among the former—among those who ignored the day. But years of passing by a cemetery on the way to worship time and again have had a profound effect upon me. "I believe in... the communion of saints," always (to use Luther's phrase) "most certainly true" has become more than just words in a Creed; but a constant, discernible presence of the faithful departed of every age. So also have ...

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Mon, 25 May 2015 05:00:00 PDT
Professional Soccer Was My God

My sense of well-being depended entirely on my on-field performance.

Exactly ten years ago, I was preparing to go to Berlin and broadcast the World Cup. The World Cup final is the most-watched sporting event on the planet—in 2014, the final game drew 1 billion viewers. I was in Germany as an ex-professional soccer player pursuing a career as a broadcaster/analyst. I never could have predicted that two years after that, I would give it all up and move to the Canadian Rockies with my wife and children.

After the move, my phone rang off the hook with media outlets wanting to know how anyone could trade a dream career with the BBC for anonymity in Alberta. The answer is a story of God’s grace and a tale of two turning points.

The Art of Turning

One skill my dad taught me as a child was the art of turning with a soccer ball. I was never going to be tall, so he would take me into our backyard in Southeast London and teach me how to quickly switch directions with the ball at my feet. “The big guys won’t be able to catch you!” he said. For hours I would practice turning to the left and right, dribbling in and out of cones, spinning this way and that. My dad was right: the art of turning served me well. Many of the goals I scored in the years to come were a result of that lesson.

I grew up around the smell of the dressing room, the sweat of the training ground, and the stadium on a Saturday. My father was a professional soccer player for Charlton Athletic (1962–78). Being the son of a local soccer star, I had inspiration all around me as well as a wonderful teacher and role model. Naturally my childhood was filled with dreams of following in my dad’s footsteps.

I was not brought up in a Christian home and never heard the gospel preached. Sunday school gave way ...

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Mon, 25 May 2015 05:00:00 PDT
Im a Woman Who Got Kicked Out of Womens Bathrooms

Our zealous policing of gender norms can have unintended and hurtful consequences.

The first time I was kicked out of a women’s restroom, I was ten years old.

At halftime of a high school basketball game, I walked into the restroom with several girlfriends and faced a trio of teenagers who blocked my entrance to a stall and told me to leave. A girl in a cheerleader outfit said boys who wanted to venture into women’s restrooms were clearly perverts and that I should get out. I backed out of the door and stood in the hallway, waiting for my friends to emerge, my facing burning with shame.

The high school girls had decided that, because of my short curly hair, my Toughskins jeans, and my Converse shoes, I was definitely a boy. I was also apparently a pervert, slyly slipping in to women’s restrooms to, I suppose, watch girls relieve themselves. This was the first but definitely not the last time my right to use a woman’s restroom was challenged by folks who decided I was not welcomed—and, that I had nefarious intentions.

The “bathroom wars” are now all over the news. The Target Corporation has issued a formal policy allowing LGBT persons to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, North Carolina has passed a law (known as HB2) requiring people to use the restroom that corresponds to their birth gender, and several states are now suing the Obama administration over its directive stating that public schools must allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice. Stories of men policing restrooms and a grocery store security guard assaulting a transgender woman trying to use a women’s restroom have only fueled the debate about whether public restrooms will ever be safe.

Yet lost in the polarizing arguments about gender identity and ...

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Mon, 25 May 2015 05:00:00 PDT
Ken Starr Resigns from Baylor Leadership; Football Coach Art Briles To Be Fired

(UPDATED) Starr: 'The captain goes down with the ship.'

Update (June 1): Former Baylor University president Ken Starr resigned this morning, shortly after his demotion to just chancellor following the Baptist school’s sexual assault shakeup.

The decision came “as a matter of conscience,” he said on ESPN. “The captain goes down with the ship.”

Baylor’s Board of Regents accepted Starr’s resignation and thanked him for his service. In a press release, the board stated:

The comprehensive investigation by Pepper Hamilton and the subsequent Findings of Fact fully and openly outlined systemic failures across the University regarding Title IX policies, procedures, and University personnel. As we move forward, we will continue to take the actions that progress the university and its leadership toward an environment of resolute accountability and responsibility as we relentlessly pursue the mission of Baylor University.

We recognize this is a tumultuous time for Baylor, most importantly for our current and former students and victims of sexual assault. We were horrified by what we learned from the investigation and again express our public acknowledgment and deepest apologies. The decisions made, and the actions we have taken, will ensure there is no room for deflection of responsibility or diminishing the experiences of the victims. We will continue to protect any details that may compromise the privacy of these individuals.

Starr will remain a tenured professor at Baylor’s law school.

Baylor’s athletics director has also resigned.

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Update (May 26): Head football coach Art Briles, not president Ken Starr, will be fired in the wake of the football scandal that has rocked Baylor University for the past few months.

“The Board of Regents ...

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Tue, 24 May 2016 12:40:00 PDT
Being a Pro-Life Church Is Messier Than You Think

Author and advocate Shannon Dingle on serving adoptive, foster, and special needs families.

Shannon Dingle is one of the voices at the forefront of the evangelical adoption movement. An advocate for adoption, foster care, and children with special needs, Dingle and her husband Lee have six children, four of whom were adopted and five of whom have medical, physical, psychological, or neurological diagnoses. Her writing and speaking has been featured on the Today Show, NPR, and in the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry, and she maintains a blog called Dinglefest, where she writes about her family and ministry. This week, she answers a few of our questions about how churches can better embody Christ’s call to care for “the least of these.”

Many churches have embraced adoption and foster care, but smaller churches might be intimidated by the scale of the need and their lack of resources. What encouragement would you give leaders of such churches?

In the programmatic culture of so many churches, the idea of inclusive ministry seems scary. Many leaders are intimidated because they simply don't have the resources for yet another program. That concern is valid.

But including foster and adoptive families isn't about a program; it's about a mindset. Your mission and vision for serving any family still applies to families like mine. An extra layer of knowledge or support about childhood trauma or specific disabilities might be needed, but we're a family first and foremost, and our kids are kids first and foremost. Instead of getting overwhelmed by what you don't know (yet), rest in what you already know about loving family well and pointing them to Christ.

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Tue, 24 May 2016 12:40:00 PDT
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