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Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2001: Let Us Never Forget

                               September 11, 2001: Let Us Never Forget

September 11, 2001 no matter where you where or what you were doing when you heard of the horrific events of that morning, I am certain that your world, like my world stopped turning for at least a few minutes.

This was the day that thousands of American lives were lost on our own soil by a terrorist attack. 

I was in the United States District Court House in Baltimore with a client for a hearing. The Judge was called from the bench, when he returned he announced all cases would be continued and told us to leave the courthouse with no further explanation.

As I left the courthouse I saw armed U.S. Marshals surrounding the building.  It was then I heard of the attack on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.  My first thoughts went to my brother who is a firefighter on Long Island.  I tried to reach him on my cell phone and all lines were busy.  I kept trying while I walked back to my office. 

When I arrived at my office, my secretary informed me the Pentagon had been hit.  I responded with a very solemn "we're at war" and walked quietly to my office. 

I closed my doors and prayed the most sincere prayer of my life to let me get through and speak to my brother. I picked up my phone and tried one more time.  Miraculously he picked up on the first ring.  He was on an engine responding to Ground Zero. When he arrived at the scene his company was assigned to work as a rescue and recovery team.  He was one of the lucky ones, he survived without physical injury.  Many others were not so lucky on that day.  God blessed me and my family.  He kept a hedge of angels around us and I am forever grateful for that protection.

I remember leaving my office going to be with my daughter and former wife, whose husband worked for the airlines and was flying that day.  He was safe.  I remember speaking to my son who was in college.  All of a sudden I realized how important family was.  How blessed my family was and how thankful I was that God answered my prayer and let me speak to my brother while he was responding to this tragedy. 

What I also remember is what happened in the hours, days, weeks and months following the attacks.  Neighbors were helping neighbors, many families were proudly flying their flags, people flocked to churches to pray together.   

I remember many of the people I worked with going to church together on the National Day of Prayer.  No matter our faith we all went together in solidarity to the Basilica in Baltimore.  The events of September 11, 2001 brought out a unity and love I have never seen before or since.  An attack that was meant to divide us, united us.

Sadly, a mere thirteen years later many have forgotten that day.  It saddened me to read of a Fire Chief suspending firefighters for refusing to remove American flag decals from their lockers; to read of a Lt. Colonel who was not allowed in his daughter’s High School because his uniform might offend students.  Both of these situations have been corrected but how, just 13 years after our country was so united could they have occurred in the first place.   It’s not only our flag and our military that is being that are no longer being respected but efforts are being made to remove God from every component of our society.  Just 13 years after most Americans flocked to churches in unity.  Please today join me in prayer to remember those touched by 9/11 and for the restoration of faith and patriotism in our country.  For me there is nothing more important than God, Family and Country.  May God Bless America and all of our families.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Life's Challenges: Ray Rice

Life’s Challenges:  Ray Rice

The Difference between Consequences and Redemption/Forgiveness

First, let me say that every decision, both good and bad, has consequences.  We cannot confuse just consequences with redemption and forgiveness.

In 2 Samuel 12 we see a perfect example of that when King David and Bathsheba decided to have an extra marital affair. I will be writing about more this story next week in my series on adultery but real world event now cause me to pull the curtain back just a little and so we can see how God allowed earthly consequences while permitting redemption and forgiveness to take place.

In 2 Samuel 11 we learn that David had an affair with his friend, Uriah’s wife, while Uriah was gone at war.  As a result of the affair Bethsheba became pregnant.  David first called Uriah home, hoping he would sleep with Bathsheba, when Uriah did not sleep with his wife, David had to think of another plan.  He ordered Uriah sent to the front lines of the war and for the men to retreat from him.  This meant certain death.  Yes, David committed two very grave sins, adultery and murder. 

After Uriah was killed and a suitable period of mourning took place David married Bathsheba and she gave birth to the son conceived during the affair.  David loved his son very much.  But, David had committed two very grave sins and our God is a just God and could not let the sins be overlooked.

The LORD afflicted the child and he became sick.  David sought God on behalf of the child.  David fasted, went in and lay all night on the ground.  All the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.  On the seventh day the child died.  David was greatly grieved, but this was the consequence that had to be paid before redemption and forgiveness could take place.  As we know another son was born and David went on to do great things.  He was redeemed.

Yesterday social media, the news and the country was abuzz with the release of a graphic video showing Ray Rice beating his then fiancĂ©.  It was not a pretty sight and most people were justifiably upset.  The Raven’s released Rice and the NFL placed him on an indefinite suspension. This was a just and appropriate reaction.  There had to be consequences.  The previously announced two day suspension was not only an inadequate consequence but it was not fair to Ray Rice or his family.

I am sure my last statement is getting a second glance by many and wondering what I mean.  Well I don’t that a slap on the wrist for a serious sin would be helpful to Ray Rice for two reasons.  First, and frankly the least important is that the public would not believe that Rice had been punished and it will be hard for him to ever be redeemed and forgiven after such a minor punishment.  Rice would have been thought to have “gotten away” with it.

But second and more important is that Rice needs time to deal with the issues that caused him to be so violent to someone he says he loves.  He need time to work on himself and his family needs time to heal.  This cannot happen playing in the National Football League.  The practices, media attention, games, out of town trips will all divert Rice’s attention from his healing and most importantly his family’s healing.  He is now a husband and a father.  It is important that Rice be allowed to heal so he can move forward in a positive direction and give his daughter a better life than he had when he was growing up.

I am going to share some of Rice’s story.  Not for sympathy, not to excuse what he did.  What he did was wrong, unacceptable and there is no excuse for it.  But his story is important in understanding why redemption and forgiveness is important.

Rice was raised by single mother.  When Rice was only 1, his dad was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was gunned down in a drive by shooting. His only memories of his dad are a picture and stories.  Ten years later his cousin, who was a father figure to him was killed in a car accident.

At the age of 8 he swept floors in a local barber shop, then washed dishes and at 15 took a job as a summer camp counselor to help his mother, who sometimes worked multiple jobs, make ends meet.  He did excel in football and that was his ticket out.

However, Rice was cast into the role of a “man”, working to support the family at a tender age and without guidance.  Rice has been blessed with football talent that puts his family on a more stable footing financially but his daughter needs more than money, she needs a father.  Not a father that has issues and resorts to violence but a father who can teach her how a man should respect and treat his wife and daughter.  He needs to be able to model of what she should look for in a man.  Before this incident Rice has shown that he has a kind and compassionate side.  The world was shocked when they heard that he brutally assaulted his then fiancĂ©.  Until that moment Rice was considered a role model.  
What that moment uncovered is that Rice is dealing with some very serious issues, that will interfere with his ability to be that role model his daughter needs and his wife deserves.  He needs time to focus on those issues and healing.  He needs time to make amends to his family and regain their trust and respect. 

Ray Rice’s football career maybe over--- that is his consequence.  Now he must begin to rebuild.  He must work to redeem himself. 

To do that he must learn to love and trust God, then himself, then others, then what he does and finally put it all together and do it for God.  We need to pray for Ray Rice’s redemption, pray for his family’s healing and forgiveness.  We should also pray that we can find it in our hearts to allow Rice to have a second chance, to allow him to share his story with other young men to help them grow.  Most of all we have to pray that he can be the type of father that his daughter needs and deserves.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Tribute: S. Truett Cathy

A Tribute: S. Truett Cathy
March 14, 1921 – September 8, 2014

At 1:35 a.m. on Monday September 8, 2014 the world lost a special man, S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A.  He was married to his wife Jeannette for 66 years and was the proud father of three.  He was a member of and Sunday school teacher at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia for over 50 years. 

Whether you agreed with his beliefs or not you have to admire Truett Cathy for being a man of integrity and principles. As you will read Truett was truly a man who lived his beliefs in everything that he did.

He was a self made billionaire, who was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for the LORD. 

He successfully incorporated his faith in every aspect of his life including his business.  Chick-Fil-A is well known for closing all of its restaurants on Sundays.  This allows employees to attend church and have time with their families.  This is not surprising for a man who called the Bible “his guide book for life”.

In 1982, Chick-Fil-A adopted the following as its corporate purpose:

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is trusted to us.  To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A”

Now let’s examine how Truett lived his life.

At the age of 8 Truett was busy selling soft drinks and by age 12 delivering newspapers.  Immediately after graduating high school he answered his countries call and served in the Army until 1945. 

In 1946, he and his brother Ben founded the Dwarf Grill, a restaurant which earned its name because of its small size, 10 stools and 4 tables.  Sadly his brother Ben was killed in a plane crash just two years later.  Truett continued the business and eventually developed the recipe which led to the founding of Chick-Fil-A in 1964.

Truett’s true passion were children and family.  He was a man who took every opportunity to speak into the lives of young people.  It has been widely reported that he welcomed homeless children into his home.  Many of his philanthropic gifts went to improve the welfare of needy children. 

He founded the WinShape Foundation named for its mission to shape winners. In 2010 alone the foundation provided 18 million dollars for the development of foster homes and a summer camp.  Each of the homes can accommodate up to 12 children and 2 full time foster parents.  Today these homes serve more than 150 children in need.  Truett made it a habit not only to make sure these homes were funded but he also paid frequent visits to the homes and the children.  When he visited the foster homes, the children would come running out saying “Grandpa’s here”.

 Other projects of the WinShape Foundation have included college scholarships and marriage counseling programs.

Truett also initiated a Leadership Scholarship program which has provided 23 million dollars in $1,000 scholarships over the last 35 years.

Many people are able to talk a good game but Truett Cathy was a man who lived out his principals and his faith in everything he did.  I am confident that Truett Cathy is now enjoying his reward in the presence of God our Heavenly Father.  Thank you, Truett, for a life well lived.