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News That Illustrates: February 27, 2012

After Whitney Houston: Soul-Searching Musicians
Whitney Houston was only 48 when she died. Sadly, she joined the ranks of other famous musicians who died far too young—Michael Jackson, Nate Dogg, and Amy Winehouse (to name just a few) all died under the age of 50. The drummer and music producer known as Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) recently said, "I'm obsessed with why our heroes are not making it past 50." The article suggested that musicians live under too much stress and pressure. Questlove said, "To make it [as a musician], you have to desensitize yourself and be a robot. I'm 60 percent human and 40 percent machine." And then in an especially telling quote, he confessed, "We gotta live different …. I wanna be old. This is a wake-up call like no other." This is a powerful way to set up a Lenten sermon about self-examination and conversion.

PREACHING ANGLES: Confession of Sin; Repentance; Self-Examination

ESPN and the Racist Headline
Last week ESPN fired an editor for a headline about the rising basketball star Jeremy Lin. The headline referred to Lin, who is Taiwanese, as the "chink in the armor." But there was an interesting update to this story. The editor, a 28-year-old professed Christian named Anthony Fredrico, said the racial slur never crossed his mind, and that he was devastated when he realized his mistake. Fredrico said, "This had nothing to do with being cute or punny. I'm so sorry I offended people. I'm so sorry I offended Jeremy." Fredrico understands why ESPN fired him, but he also added, "My [Christian] faith is my life. I'd love to tell Jeremy what happened and explain that this was an honest mistake." Meanwhile, a gracious Jeremy Lin responded by saying, "They've apologized, and so from my end, I don't care anymore. You have to learn to forgive, and I don't even think that was intentional."

PREACHING ANGLES: Apology; Conflict; Forgiveness

Big Brother (i.e. Target) Is Watching You
Here's a frightening article about just how much marketing companies know about you. The New York Times article "How Companies Learn Your Secrets" said that companies like Target know "your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you've moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you've ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own." It's getting harder and harder to keep secrets from people. Of course it's always been hard to keep secrets from God.

PREACHING ANGLES: Confession; Secrets; Sin

A Boy and His Dog—A Simple Love Story
You better get some Kleenex before you read this story. The New York Times Magazine ran this love story about a boy and his dog. But there's an interesting twist to the plot: the boy was adopted from Russia and was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The loving Jewish couple (a rabbi and his wife) who adopted Iyal couldn't handle his fits of rage, isolation, nightmares, and intellectual impairment. But doctors warned that medication or therapy wouldn't help. Then Chancer entered his life. Chancer is a Golden Retriever who's specially trained to love kids like Iyal. So when Iyal starts raging, Chancer just snuggles up to him and starts licking his face and slobbering all over Iyal until he bursts into laughter. After a few weeks, Iyal started sleeping through the night and putting together sentences. Why was Chancer able to break through and change Iyal's heart? The author summarizes, "Chancer doesn't know that Iyal is cognitively impaired. What he knows is that Iyal is his boy. Chancer loves Iyal in a perfect way, with an unconditional love beyond what even the family can offer." "But God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." See a summary of the story at Mockingbird.com.

PREACHING ANGLES: Justification by Faith; Grace; God's Love; Unconditional Love

The Agony of the Poor
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, here's an utterly gut-wrenching story about one woman from Sudan. In July of 2011, South Sudan broke from Sudan and formed its own nation. Most Southern Sudanese were ecstatic. Unfortunately, this didn't help Mary Kyekueh Ley, a Southern Sudanese woman trapped in Sudan. Apparently, Mary is a follower of Jesus. (The article reports that "She lives in a mud-walled house with pictures of Jesus taped above the bed.") But this isn't a happy story about an easy, triumphant faith. Her first husband was wounded in battle and died in her arms. Her second husband beat her. Two of her children died from diarrhea. She can only survive by cooking up homebrewed and illegal alcohol. "It's all I know how to do," she said. This article doesn't give any answers, but it does provide one clear, compelling, and heartrending example of the plight of the poor around the globe.

PREACHING ANGLES: Compassion; Evangelism; Missions; Poverty; Social Justice

How NOT to Fix a Mistake
Finally, here's a humorous story about an anonymous Petco dog groomer who tried to fix a mistake. Gladys Kapuwi, a grandmother and doting dog owner, took her Pomerian-Maltese mix to Petco for grooming. But when she got her puppy home, she noticed that something was missing—part of her dog's ear. Apparently the Petco groomer had tried to glue the ear part back on to the dog. For some reason Gladys objected to this attempt to fix a mistake. It made me wonder if our self-repair projects look about the same way to God.

PREACHING ANGLES: Confession; Repentance; Sin

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