Don’t Touch That Ball!

Claudia Our niece Claudia is in Miami, getting ready for the Orange Bowl. She is a manager for the Jayhawks football team.

The last time the Jawhawks made it to the Orange Bowl was 1969, so this is a big event. Claudias sisters and her mom and dad will be joining her for the game.

Claudia is working her way through school; she plans to become a sports journalist, last I heard. Students have a way of changing majors, but I’m sure she will continue to follow her interests in sports and literature. Coach Mangino caught her sitting in the grass, leaning on the goalpost, and reading a book recently during a lull in practice. He congratulated her on her love for reading.

My only advice to Claudia is “Don’t touch that ball!”

Did you see the Holiday Bowl the other day between Texas and Arizona State? Chris Jessie, stepson of Texas Coach Mack Brown, is a team manager like Claudia. Chris got so caught up in the game that when a ball came bouncing toward him he reached out to catch it–then realizing it was still in play, he jerked his hands back. He swears he didn’t touch it, but from the referee’s vantage point it was interference–and cost his team a touchdown. (more here)

Texas managed to win the game, so he can go home and expect nothing more than a little teasing and unexpected fame. Had the game ended otherwise he might have had to move to another state.

So Claudia, enjoy the game–but please don’t touch the ball!

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A Setback

Benazir Bhutto As far as I can tell, God’s favorite project is the human race.  I’m sure there are plenty of other things in the universe that interest him, but according to the testimonies of people who had an encounter with God, he has a personal investment in what happens on earth.  His project is that trying to save the human race from its own stupidity and meanness.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto must grieve God deeply.  First, because he cares for her as he does for all individuals.  But more than that, she represented hope for her country, for the Muslim world, and maybe for the whole human race.

She might have brought peace and prosperity to her own country.   She might have been able to reconcile feuding factions.  She might have shown other middle eastern cultures what Islam with a human face might look like, a moderate form of Islam compatible with the modern world, a spiritual force for peace.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder cannot be Gods will, because he has expressly presented his opinion on the topic of murder: he is against it.

Covenant is the primary term used in the Bible to describe God’s relationship with  humans.    The covenant is God’s pledge of faithfulness to his creation; and it is expressed in two forms.  The first is the universal covenant God made with all life.  It is his pledge to preserve life on the earth and his demand of humans to respect life.  All people, in fact all life forms, are bound to God by this covenant, whether they recognize it or not.

The second form the covenant takes is a personal relationship.  This is very important, and I will have more to say about it later.  But right now, I want to stress God’s concern for all people regardless of religion or nationality.  God desires freedom, opportunity, human rights, the opportunity to thrive for all people.  For this reason, the murder of Benazir Bhutto was a setback for God.

A Prayer from Bonhoeffer

I have begun posting over at Wellspring Bonhoeffer’s prayers he wrote in prison. The first was composed for Christmas, 1943, his first Christmas in prison. It is a Morning Prayer, one of a series written for himself and his fellow prisoners (at Wellspring, here).

Tomorrow I will write my thoughts about today’s tragic news.

Christmas Letter Concluded

We were snowed in a few days before Christmas, and I wasn’t able to get to my computer to complete the Christmas letter.  The thoughts are still worth reading even a couple days late.  View the second post below.

Christmas Letter continued . . .

I’m going to keep adding a brief paragraph a day to the Bonhoeffer Christmas letter. Each thought makes a good thought for the day, so be patient and enjoy it a little at a time. But keep coming back to the post below this one.

Bonhoeffer Christmas Letter

I have returned to posting excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters on my Theological German blog, so I will share a few translations of the selections. The first is from a Christmas letter to his parents, written December 17, 1943.

Dietrich had been held for several months with no formal charges being made. He assumed he was being held on suspicion of a relatively minor charge and would be released soon. In several earlier letters he had expressed the hope of being free by Christmas to celebrate the holiday with his family and close friends.

By the time he writes this letter, he has given up on the hope of being free for Christmas.

Dear parents,

Above all, you must not think that I will let myself sink into depression during this lonely Christmas. It will take its own special place in a series of very different Christmases that I have celebrated in Spain, in America, in England, and I want in later years to be able to think back on these days not with shame but with a special pride. That is the only thing that no one can take from me.

I don’t need to tell you how great my longing for freedom and for all of you is. But you have for so many decades provided us with Christmases so incomparably beautiful, that the grateful memories of them are strong enough to outshine even a dark Christmas.

From a Christian point of view, a Christmas in a prison cell is no special problem. It will probably be celebrated here in this house more sincerely and with more meaning than outside where the holiday is observed in name only. Misery, poverty, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt mean something entirely different in the eyes of God than in the judgment of men.

That God turns directly toward the place where men are careful to turn away; that Christ was born in a stable because he found no room in the Inn—a prisoner grasps that better than someone else. For him it really is a joyous message, and because he believes it, he knows that he has been placed in the Christian fellowship that breaks all the bounds of time and space; and the months in prison lose their importance.

On Holy Evening (Christmas Eve) I will be thinking of all of you very much, and I would very much like for you to believe that I will have a few beautiful hours and my troubles will certainly not overcome me.

If one thinks of the terrors that have recently come to so many people [with the heavy allied fire bombings] in Berlin, then one first becomes conscious of how much we still have for which to be thankful. Overall, it will surely be a very silent Christmas, and the children will still be thinking back on it for a long time to come. And maybe in this way it becomes clear to many what Christmas really is. . .

Your Dietrich

Your Voice Matters

The worldwide outcry over the barbaric sentence imposed by a Saudi judge on a woman known as “the Qatif Girl” has made a difference. King Abdullah has “pardoned” the victim (whose sentence was more than doubled when she spoke out) as an act of benevolence and good will in preparation for the Haj (more here).

Although the Saudis protested that they resented outside interference, they eventually did cave to the pressure. This is good news for one woman who was twice victimized, and it is reason to celebrate. Your voice matters, small steps can make a difference.

But still, it is a victory for one woman only. King Abdullah also proclaimed that the original sentence was just. The problem is other victims will continue to be abused unless an outcry is made in each individual case:

Fawziya al-Oyouni, a woman’s rights activist, welcomed the Qatif Girl’s pardon, but said more was needed. “We don’t want to rely simply on pardons. We need harsher sentences for the guilty parties and we want to feel safe,” she said, citing another rape case this month (here).

That means we will need to continue to raise our voices and take what small steps we can every time we learn of similar cases.

The woman still is in danger “honor killing” by her brother or some other family member (here).

(See previous post here.)