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News That Illustrates for Sunday, May 19th – 26th

The NFL Draft, a First Glimpse of Red, and Spirit Airlines 'Hugs the Haters'

What Off-Season? Pro Football Goes Year-Round
The New York Times reports that the NFL Draft used to be a "sleepy roll call for football insiders that took place in smoke-filled hotel ballrooms." Now the draft is part of the NFL's "marketing machine that feeds the seemingly insatiable desire for information about the nation's most popular sport." Jim Steeg, the guy who used to run the draft, said, "Every time you think it can't get bigger, it gets bigger." Last year, for instance, more than 7.9 million of us watched the draft and another 7.3 million viewed some portion of the scouting combine. I admit that I watched the draft, but at some point someone needs to ask: Is this getting just a tad out of hand? Is this bordering on obsession—or maybe even worship? And as a follower of Christ we can also ask if all of the time and money and energy spent on following football is a distraction to more important things.

PREACHING ANGLES: Distractions; Idolatry; Worship

Colorblind Man is Overwhelmed by First Glimpse of Red
Colorblindness doesn't mean you see things in black and white. But it does mean that there are significant portions of the color spectrum that appear different—or not at all—to those with normal color perception. New corrective lenses can give part of that perception to the colorblind, though—and it's an amazing experience. One article describes "EnChroma CX Receptor colorblind-correcting sunglasses" that come with the following warning: "When first trying on the lens, the unusual appearance of colors may be visually distracting." One amazed user of the new glasses said, "[That warning is] a bit of an understatement. The first time I saw brick red I was so overwhelmed I stopped cold. Purple and lavender, where have you been all my life?" The experience of suddenly seeing something that was invisible before can be so powerful. But what would you say upon first seeing Christ clearly? Perhaps, "Grace and joy, where have you been all my life."

PREACHING ANGLES: Blindness, spiritual; Conversion; Experiencing God

Smuggled Goods Change Minds and Hearts in North Korea
"If you're an average North Korean, it's nearly impossible to even leave the country—and if you are caught trying to escape, you'll probably spend the rest of your life in a political prison camp, where you might be joined by three generations of your family, all arrested for 'guilt by association.'" PBS' show Frontline featured a group of defectors who are willing to risk everything to escape. Most of these defectors got their desire to escape from goods smuggled in from the outside that provided a different perspective on their reality. The goods included smuggled radios, DVDs, and thumb drives with Western shows. (Apparently the new James Bond film Skyfall was a big hit.) That sounds a bit like the Bible—news from outside our system that provides a hunger for a different view of reality and a better life. (Thanks to A.J. Swoboda from Portland, Oregon for this illustration.)

PREACHING ANGLES: Bible; Conformity; Word of God

Life-sized Dolls Illustrate Grief and Loss
We've all experienced the loss of loved ones. Family, friends, neighbors, valuable members of our community taken by death, or perhaps simply having moved away. And we all deal with that loss in different ways. But perhaps none quite as unique or creative as one woman from the tiny Japanese village of Nagoro. Ayano Tsukimi sews life-size dolls of villagers from Nagoro who have died or moved away. She places them (already numbering over 350) in spots in the village that were special to them. You might think this is either creepy or poignant, but it does remind us that the journey of grief is long and hard and there aren't any clear paths. It also raises questins like, How do you engage the losses in your life? Do you long to make it visible—in some tangible way that can help you understand and cope? While you might not fill your community with life-sized dolls of the dead, perhaps grief and remembrance can find a balance in your village, too.

PREACHING ANGLES: Grief; Loss; Mourning; Sadness

The Rubik's Cube Turns 40
Forty years ago, in the spring of 1974, an unknown Hungarian-born architect and professor named Erno Rubik made a cube with 54 colored squares. He thought it would make a fun way to keep his students busy. La Stampa reports, "It wasn't long before this academic gag became the best-selling toy in the world—an estimated 2.5 billion cubes have been made, not including the many counterfeits." There are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible combinations of the cube, but there is only one right solution. As the now 70-year-old Erno Rubik said, "There's only one solution, but there are an infinite amount of ways to get there, and that's the fascination of life." Isn't that also true of spiritual formation, spiritual gifts, or Christian calling? There are many ways to be formed into the image of Christ, there are many ways to serve him and respond to him, but there is only one solution—Christ himself.

PREACHING ANGLES: Calling; Spiritual formation; Spiritual Gifts; Vocation

Spirit Airlines Will Start to "Hug the Haters"
According to U.S. Department of Transportation complaints from 2009 to 2013, one airline stands head and shoulders above the competition as the "most complained about" airline in the U.S. No surprise that it was Spirit Airlines. (I've also heard it dubbed "Spirit of Satan Airlines.") Spirit generated the most complaints per 100,000 passengers, a rate about three times higher than any other airline. Spirit's flight attendants were recently rated "rudest" in a poll by Airfarewatchdog. But you have to give Spirit some credit for wading right into the conflict and misperceptions. Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza said, "We know some people say they hate Spirit. We're going to hug the haters. Spirit offers crazy low fares by providing a completely different product than 'old school' airlines." Hug the haters. That sounds like good advice for the church too.

PREACHING ANGLES: Church; Evangelism; Love for enemies

Why Don't New Yorkers Name their Daughters Brooklyn?
"Brooklyn" is the most popular "B" name for baby girls in America right now. A quick glance at a map shows that the name tops the lists of an overwhelming majority of states—with one notable exception. That exception is New York—home, of course, to the best known Brooklyn of them all. In fact, sifting the numbers reveals that Brooklyn is a comparatively unpopular name in the Empire State and in neighboring New Jersey. Why? We have to speculate, but perhaps it's the same principle that prompted Jesus to say that a "prophet is always without honor in his own country." Or as the old saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt." In other words, when you're too close to something, sometimes it's hard to appreciate it. Or maybe it's easy for people in Montana or Wyoming to only think of the good qualities of Brooklyn.

PREACHING ANGLES: Appreciation; Gratitude; Ingratitude

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