Yeah, Legos Are Pretty Much Awesome

A Bible And A Shovel

As you probably already know, a major snow storm hit the East Coast this past week which brought loads of snow and shut down roads and airports for a few days. Many people are still feeling the effects of the several feet of snow that left them stranded, like the people of Newark, New Jersey. But what you may not have heard about is Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, and a man that appears to be leading his town by example.

I first heard about Mr. Booker when he and Conan O’Brien were “feuding” over YouTube. During his short-lived run on the Tonight show Conan made a joke about Newark that didn’t go over too well with the mayor. So Booker took to YouTube to settle the matter, thus placing Conan on the Newark, New Jersey’s “no fly list”. The feud went back and forth for a while via YouTube and Conan’s show but ended on a high note when Conan invited Booker to the show and donated $100,000 to a charity in Newark.

But this week, Cory Booker was at it again — this time he wasn’t battling Conan, but the snow. According to Twitter’s blog, Cory was out in the streets of Newark with his shovel and a team of people literally digging people out of the snow. He was using his Blackberry phone and his Twitter account to let people know that he could come to them and clear their driveways or sidewalks and get them to where they needed to be. Some people had to work, others had doctor’s appointments, and the mayor wanted to make sure his people could get their safely.

As I read over his Twitter timeline and saw all the tweets and people he was helping I actually started to cry. Really, this man is leading by example and being an inspiration to others to do the same. It’s people helping people and that’s something anyone can get behind, especially those who are Christians, like myself. This challenges my own heart to remember that we all need to take care of each other, not just in snow storms, but in the storms of life. Mayor Booker might be literally digging people out of the weight of snow, but what about the weight of trials and hardship in life? I heard a pastor say once in regards to helping each other “… that’s what Christians do right, we help each other out!” I think he was right. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone, but in a community of people and at times that is going to include getting our shovels out and doing some hard work to dig each other out. Another pastor I know said this during a men’s retreat which I think is appropriate, “There two things a man needs to be successful in this life: a Bible and a shovel.” He needs a Bible so he can understand God’s Word and follow what it says, and he needs a shovel to work hard and provide for his family and serve the church. Well, Mayor Booker is an example of how to use a shovel, and I am reminded that I can’t just read my Bible and expect things to happen — I need to pick up my shovel once in a while.

Input

Literally every book I got for Christmas (2010). 2011 is shaping up to be the year of “input” (and if you don’t get that reference, go watch Short Circuit). I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to try and read all of them this year. That would basically be one book a month and a few them are in the 500 page range. If I can resolve to read twenty minutes a day, I think I could it — the real question is do I want to? The verdict is still out on that. Either way you can expect reviews on everything I read.

All the books listed from the top of the stack to the bottom (in the above photo):

1. Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney
2. Whatever Happened to Worship by A.W. Tozer
3. Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde
4. Letters From a Father to His Sons in College by Samuel Miller
5. The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein
6. Why We Love The Church by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck
7. How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
8. Gospel-Powered Parenting by William P. Farley
9. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
10. Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
11. The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton
*12. Style and the Man by Alan Flusser

*not pictured

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1864, by Abraham Lincoln

Just a little reading from our 16th President about Thanksgiving, 1864:

Date: October 20, 1864
By: Abraham Lincoln

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with his guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their campus, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards
. Moreover, he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid, that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony where of, I have here unto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this twentieth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

The Medal of Honor And A Confused Culture

[U.S. Army Medal of Honor with neck band] (LOC)

If you Google “medal of honor” you’re confronted with some very interesting results. The first two (three if you count the “sponsored link”) are links to a popular video game with the same name, and the third result is for the “Congressional Medal of Honor Society” which was created by the U.S. Congress to remember the recipients of the highest award given to U.S. military personnel — that is, the literal Medal of Honor. This might be confusing to some, but not to Google. Google is just returning back what it thinks are the best results of what people are searching for. But Google’s results illustrate this reality: we live in a confused culture. Confused over what? The simple answer: everything. We are a culture that doesn’t understand parenting, gender, race, sex, death, development, God, religion, and many others. But in the case of the medal of honor, we are confused over reality, or said another way, we’re confused over what’s real and what isn’t.

Staff Sargent Sal Guinta is the first living person since Vietnam to awarded the Nation’s highest medal, the medal of honor (you can watch his personal account of the story in this video). Three years ago he bravely fought off the enemy in Afghanistan and his story, though heart-breaking, will give encouragement and hope to many Americans. It’s the story of a real young man, with real strength and valor, doing something that few would ever do. He stared down certain death and risked his own life for his fellow soldiers and his country. Even in his own words, he believed he didn’t deserve the medal, but wanted it to represent the many other who fought along side him and those who are still fighting today. He sounds like a humble and self-sacrificing man, and I personally want to thank him for his service to the United States. But as I listened and read his story, I couldn’t help but think that so many other young men are out there right now, sitting behind a screen playing a video game that, though entertaining, doesn’t teach them anything about life in the real world, with real pain, and real risks. I like the way one former Marine officer Benjamin Busch put it in his article “Why A Video Game Does Not A Soldier Make”, he says

“Playing and risking your life are different things. In the video war, there may be some manipulation of anxiety, some adrenaline to the heart, but absolutely nothing is at stake…A video game can produce no wounds and take no friends away.”

Some young men probably stood in long lines back in October waiting for the release of the latest “Medal of Honor” video game. Many of them probably didn’t even hear about President Obama awarding the actual Medal of Honor just a month later. But then again, there’s really nothing exciting about an old guy giving some young guy a little necklace, right? Wrong. My concern is that young men today don’t know anything of the bravery, valor, or even honor displayed by Sal Guinta. And what they do know of it is probably highly distorted. While they sit at home in their bedrooms playing video games created by companies that spend millions of dollars to create reality, there are real men and women risking their lives every day, many of whom have left their friends and family here and aren’t guaranteed a return ticket home. Again, officer Busch’s comments are relevant,

“And for those who truly want to play for a Medal of Honor, recruiters are standing by. Only eight have been awarded since we invaded Afghanistan. All but one have been posthumous.”

It’s easy to live in a confused culture and not see the weird dichotomy it creates at times, or the blurred lines of reality and fantasty. As I look forward to training and educating my own son about the world around him I would do well to see the problem here and make the necessary adjustments. I hope and pray that he would grow to understand that there’s more to life than entertainment and that he would always separate what’s real from what isn’t, even when the lines look blurred. More than that, I pray he would be a man of great courage, valor, and honor — not just for his country, but for his God who deserves far greater allegiance.

Watch President Obama reward Sal Giunta with the Medal of Honor:

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