Living toward Legacy: Creating the Gift You Leave Behind

You and I stand on the threshold of a new year—whether it’s a calendar year, a fiscal year, or simply the next 365 days from today. You may be looking ahead: making resolutions, dreaming bigger dreams, or hoping for the best.

I want to challenge you to do something different.

Your legacy--how you will be remembered--is being built today. Will you leave the legacy you want? Continue reading

Christmas and the Art of Gift Giving

Giving gifts is an art. Some of us whip out masterpieces every holiday.

And some of us . . . are still finger-painting.

At Christmas and all year, a master gift-giver knows the art of giving freely, without strings attached.

We can all conjure up mental images of gifts gone wrong—or right. The Perfect Gift. The Ugliest Gift. The Unintentional White Elephant Gift. The Generic Gift. The Are-You-Sure-the Nametags-Aren’t-Switched Gift.

What is it about gift-giving that some people seem to do so well, while others of us (raising my hand here) struggle to figure it out?

Here are some lessons I’m learning about the art of gift-giving. Continue reading

You Have a Place at the Table

Picture my church’s Thanksgiving potluck. Long tables covered with platters of steaming turkey, slow cookers brimming with dressing and green beans and potatoes, bowls of fruit salads and vegetable salads and Snickers “salads” (one Midwestern oxymoron I can’t quite accept), and pies of every kind.

You have so much to give. Come to the table where every contribution is welcome.

The cooks step back and survey the table, satisfied. Kids sidle closer as the last dishes get nudged in among earlier ones.

Someone wedges a tub of store-bought broccoli salad in behind the homemade offerings, looking apologetic.

And off to the side fidgets someone who arrived empty-handed, wondering if they’re really welcome at this table.

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Gifts from a Hiatus

Ever had one of those times when life feels fast and furious—and you have to let something go? (And you hope it’s not your sanity.) You have to pick something to set aside. Isn’t that a tough call to make?

Juggling too many balls? Need a hiatus? A break may be a gift in disguise.

If you’re a perfectionist like me, you may think letting something go is akin to failure. All you can see is that you’ve dropped one of the balls you’re juggling.

Or maybe you suffer from FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. You lie awake at night wondering what you’re losing by not staying on top of that one responsibility.

Well, I am here to testify: you can survive a hiatus. And before it’s over, you may receive some pretty sweet gifts. Continue reading

God’s Story: His Glory

This is a guest post by Marit Rheinheimer.

When you finish a book, do you think about how the author created and ordered events to tell his story?

I love finishing a good book. When I close that back cover, I take a breath and pause, wandering backwards through it in my thoughts, appreciating in hindsight how each piece of the story came together. As I meander back over the pages, unraveling it, I am amazed. The author, a master weaver, took all of these different threads (personal characters, situations, dialogue, emotion, language) and artfully wove them into a story that captured me, entertained me, challenged me, or brought me to tears. It is an incredibly satisfying experience, one that prompts in me a humble respect, admiration, and even awe for the skill of that writer.

Recently, I have experienced this same feeling–only this time, the story didn’t come from the shelf at the library. I realized that I am the story. We are the story. God is the Author. And the book is  Continue reading

4 Powerful Life Lessons from My Dad

Fatherhood is almost a lost art. But not in the house where I grew up.

One of the world’s best dads raised me. So for those who celebrate their own fine fathers, as well as for those seeking role models to emulate, I am passing on today some of the important lessons I learned from my dad.

Fatherhood is an art my Dad perfected. It involves endurance, learning, growth, and loving encouragement.

Endurance is the Name of the Game

I don’t think I ever saw my dad quit anything. He has amazing stick-to-it-iveness. Whether he was working away on his 1915 Model T or teaching me to drive a stick-shift (no, that neck brace he wore was not my fault), he always persevered until he reached his goal.

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Globalizing Injustice: Blasphemy Laws for Social Media?

For almost eight years, the case of Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, has captured world attention.

That same world is now being asked to use Pakistan’s criteria for blasphemy to squelch free speech on social media.

Pakistan, with support from 26 other Muslim-majority nations, wants the world to help it crack down on internet blasphemers. And according to this report from Barnabas Aid and this Reuters news article, Facebook has already agreed to help.

Barnabas Aid reports, “The aim is not simply to remove anything posted on the internet deemed offensive to Islam, but to find out who posted it and prosecute them.” Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar said, “Facebook and other service providers should share all information about the people behind this blasphemous content with us.”

Apparently, Barnabas Aid says, this offensiveness could even include the reporting of cases of persecution of Christians under Islam.

(So if my Facebook and Twitter posts vanish from your feed, you’ll know why.)

But perhaps there are those who feel “preventing offense” Pakistan-style should be exported across the world wide web. (Because we know how easy it is to make everybody happy…) Those people may not be aware of exactly how egregious are the injustices inflicted by blasphemy laws. Let’s study Asia Bibi’s case for a little enlightenment.

Asia Bibi’s Story Illustrates Flaws in the Laws

In June 2009 Asia Bibi, also known as Asia Noreen, was arrested, according to Amnesty International, “after Muslim women labourers refused to drink from a bowl of water she was asked to fetch while out working in the fields. Days later, the women complained that she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Bibi was set upon by a mob, arrested by police and sentenced on 8 November 2010.”

This now-45-year-old Christian farm worker with responsibility for five young children from the village of Ittan Wali, near the Punjabi city of Sheikhupura is the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her case has been appealed all the way to the highest court in Pakistan. In October 2016 her Supreme Court hearing was “adjourned indefinitely.” Her death sentence has been suspended pending a decision there.

Asia’s story is only one of many cited in an Amnesty International (AI) report to illustrate its findings on the gross abuses of human rights occurring under the umbrella of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. You can download that report here.

Here are some of the examples of injustice that arose in Asia’s case:

  1. Charges can be pressed by non-eyewitnesses.

Asia’s accuser was a religious cleric who registered the case based on hearsay: two women who worked with Asia told his wife they had heard Asia blaspheme. Reports of what she said that was deemed blasphemous have varied widely.

  1. Evidence standards are lax and inconsistently applied.

AI reports, “Asia Noreen’s case file obtained by Amnesty International shows that the Lahore High Court upheld her conviction despite inconsistent witness testimonies from the prosecution. For example, the prosecution witnesses gave conflicting accounts regarding the date of a public gathering in which Asia Noreen allegedly confessed uttering derogatory words against the Prophet Muhammad. The witnesses also gave inconsistent accounts regarding the number of people present during the public gathering and where the gathering took place.”

Yet, “the high court judgment stated ‘the prosecution has proved the charge against her through direct unimpeachable evidence’ relating to the allegations.”

  1. Threats, courtroom disruptions, and mob violence are used to exert pressure on authorities to prosecute blasphemy cases.

AI stated that “In Asia Noreen’s case, there are media reports that the police came under pressure from clerics and a mob to register the case against her.”

During her trial before the high court a group of eight lawyers supporting the complainant “exerted pressure on the court by chanting prayers to interrupt defence lawyers during their arguments. The court did not attempt to silence or eject them.”

  1. Involvement with a blasphemy case can bring condemnation—or even death.

In court, the judge asked Asia’s lawyer “why he didn’t confront the two main prosecution witnesses about the specific allegations. The lawyer responded by asking the judge how he could repeat the alleged blasphemous words because if he did then he would be seen as committing blasphemy as well.”

(This concern is not unfounded. AI reports that even a TV news station reporting on a different blasphemy case has been charged with blasphemy. Apparently, blasphemy is like leprosy; it’s seen as highly contagious.)

And for those who dare to defend someone accused of blasphemy, the stakes are extremely high. AI says, “On 4 January 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was killed by one of his security guards, Mumtaz Qadri. He said he committed the murder because, ‘this is the punishment for a blasphemer.’ Salmaan Taseer had sought a presidential pardon for Asia Bibi.” (Mumtaz Qadri was later tried and executed, while multitudes called him a hero and named a mosque after him.)

Should Such Injustice Be Propagated?

The above points are only four of the many problems connected with blasphemy cases. According to AI and other sources there are other problems, including:

  • A disproportionate number of blasphemy cases are brought against minorities in Pakistan.
  • An accused person is often assumed to be guilty and bears the burden of proof of his/her own innocence.
  • Even those acquitted of blasphemy live in danger; many flee their homes when threatened with reprisals.
  • Neighbors and families of the accused have come under attack.
  • Blasphemy charges are frequently used as a cover for personal vendettas.

Don’t overlook the fact that Pakistan is ignoring its own international treaties on human rights. By signing and ratifying (in 2010) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), says Amnesty International,

Pakistan has voluntarily made a commitment to respect, protect and fulfill these rights and to put in place the necessary legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures, including by making changes to existing national laws and adopting such new laws or other measures as may be necessary to fulfill these obligations and give effect to the rights recognized in that treaty. These include in particular the rights to: freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief; the right to life; equality before the law and freedom from discrimination; to fair trial; and the prohibition on arbitrary detention.

Pakistan has not met the human rights standards it has already agreed to before the international community. How can it now presume to tell the international community to restrict the rights it has promised to uphold?

Six Thirsty Pigs and the Echoes of Easter

We got our six little pigs this week. When I first saw them, my husband had already settled them into their pen. They snorted and grunted, nosing around a pile of straw. Their beady black eyes widened and their floppy ears rose a little higher when I approached their pen.

Approached, I say, because I wasn’t about to go in there with them.

No way. It’s mucky in there. It already smells a little stinky in there. You have to watch your step in there.

When the farmer's pigs won't drink, he gets right in there with them to show them how it's done.

Those pigs didn’t even want my husband in there with them. They’d only met him once, of course, when he culled them from the truckload of pork-on-hoof delivered to our neighbor. Now, his chosen ones trotted nervously away from him. Multiple scratches on their pink sides witnessed to tussles with other pigs. No wonder they were skittish.

“They’re not drinking,” my husband muttered beside me. “They haven’t figured out the waterer yet.”

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