The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Does God Love...........Paul Zindel?

Zindel was born in 1936 in Staten Island but into a rough home life. When his father ran off with another woman when Paul was two, his mother began a long series of hard jobs and bouts of depression. Her regular threats of suicide led Paul to say he lived in a “house of fear”, from which he longed to escape. He wrote his first play during an eighteen month hospital stay where he was fighting tuberculosis.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Zindel studied chemistry, earned his Master's Degree and became a technical writer and teacher. After school, Paul wrote plays. In the 1960s, his semi-autobiographical work, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the Moon Marigolds was a big hit. He was encouraged to write young adult fiction, and succeeded with The Pigman in 1968. Pigman became a series and for 30years Paul Zindel has been writing young adult fiction and even children's books.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Paul Zindel?

PERSEVERENCE comes to mind. All of his childhood and teen aged years were filled with some sort of strife or other, but Paul proved himself to be an OVERCOMER, going through school to earn his Master's degree. He could have settled into a career as a chemistry teacher, but FOLLOWED an inner calling to write. It seems that his young adult works have been used to ENCOURAGE thousands of young men and women in their comon struggle with important life issues.

Why Does God Love ….........William Butler Yeats?

Emergency Abridgment Services Present.....

This is rough. I thought I would write a quick summary about Yeats, but in reading about his life, I became surprisingly disillusioned. To summarize:

Yeats was born in Ireland in 1865. He went to art school to study painting and became a poet. He did not believe in God, but believed that art and beauty could fix everything (aestheticism). Maud Gonne was Yeats' first and deepest love interest. When she married another man, he used her image in his poetry as a tragic figure.

When Gonne was later widowed, she again turned Yeats' proposal down, so he proposed to her daughter, who also declined. He married another woman that same year and had two children with her. When she began to utter strange phrases in her sleep (akin to the 'automatic writing' she claimed to have) Yeats thought that his personal occult aesthetic system of philosophy was confirmed.

Yeats' work was considered to be some of the best around the turn of the century. His poems and plays were filled with references to Irish folklore, the occult and “half-forgotten things”. He believed that the arts, more than politics, should lead man “to a harmonious ordering of chaos”.

It seems his personal beliefs were a fresh combination of strange and orthodox ideas. Yeats thought the key was to find one's “antiself” so as to produce art from the synthesis of opposing natures (?). He drew from Jewish and Christian mystic books, and Buddhism, to predict that the 2000 year cycle of life would soon be coming complete with the revelation of an “opposite” to Christ who would be “slouching towards Bethlehem to be born”. (This line was used as a take off for Robert Bork's 1996 look at modern liberalism; Slouching Towards Gomorah)

After he died in 1929, and was buried in France, this ironic line from one of his poems was engraved on his tombstone, "Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman, pass by!”, as if The Horseman (death) had not already made his pickup.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in William Butler Yeats?

Back to the basics: God loves HUMANITY. God loves those who SEEK, ASK and KNOCK.

Why Does God Love....................?

X-cuse me while I cop out for a moment, but there are no names starting with X in my resource!  Therefore, I get a break, and so do you.  Here is my chance, however, for me to wax as I want to, on the issue I mentioned way back on day "I".  If you look back you will see that I would be looking for a chance to elaborate on the one question that is more vital by far than "Why does God love me?"

After looking at the lives of 22 more or less random individuals from past and present, I have not found any one that God would not or could not love.  He made us.  We are the pinnacle of His creation (actually, you women are the very pinnacle of His work!), and He would hate to not love us!  So the real question that matters the most is this:  "Do I love God?"

Some people would say that since they do not believe in God, loving Him is not an issue.  True enough.  (One sincere mistake leads to another.)  Some say believing in God is enough, but then we are told that demons believe in God--and tremble (James 2:9).  More is required.  The really good news is that the "more" required is not a pile of good works, the living a perfect life of charity and smiles, or the absolute avoidance of every listed "thou shall not". 

Instead, the "more" is the once and for all surrender of spirit.  It is the admission of sinfulness, with a request and acceptance of forgiveness.  Acknowledging the need for help, and accepting the help.  If a person reaches this point in life, a relief and joy follow closely, then a growing understanding of God's nature, and a heightened desire to serve and obey Him.  His love for us is not earned by ours for Him; rather, it is the thankfulness for His free gift of salvation, given us only by grace, that creates in us a response of love.  .  "We love Him, because He first loved us!"  1 John 4:19

Why Does God Love ….......Booker T. Washington?

Heroes come in two types. There's the amazing and spontaneous one time action hero; The man or woman who suddenly risks all to save the life of a stranger is highly regarded by the rest of us because we all know the difficulty of being so unselfish. Then there's the hero who quietly and faithfully plods away through his or her entire lifetime at a series of obscure tasks. Ultimately a great benefit to humanity emerges from the office or the laboratory or the basement, and a national hero comes to light.

Booker T. Washington was born in Virginia in 1856 to an African slave woman and a local white man. He was unofficially adopted by another slave when he married Booker's mother. After the Civil War, Booker and his brothers had to work in the salt mines, but Booker worked early in the morning and into the evening; an arrangement he pleaded with his stepfather to make so that he could attend school. Not realizing he already had a last name (Taliaferro), he blurted out the most famous name he knew when asked for his full name: “Washington!”, and so became Booker T. Washington.

Later, Washington worked his way into Hampton college, literally. After being tested by cleaning a room, he was admitted as a student and given work as a janitor. The education at Hampton was thorough, but emphasized manual training. Booker learned to be a bricklayer among other things and graduated in 1876. After teaching for two years, and going to Wayland Seminary in DC, he became convinced that he could most help his race by seeing that the more practical manual skills were learned. He became a teacher at Hampton and successfully implemented an experimental program with 100 Native American students.

The citizens in Tuskegee Alabama set aside $2000 per year for a black college. Washington was recruited to build the school from the ground up (starting with the making of a kiln to make bricks to buld the buildings), including the further raising of money and recruiting staff and students. His Tuskegee Institute quickly transformed the lives and fortunes of hundreds of young blacks. Washington taught better farming methods to his students, and sent them out to spread understanding of new equipment and methods to area farmers. Furthermore, he taught the value of capitalistic enterprise, establishing the National Negro Business League in 1900. George Washington Carver worked at the Tuskegee for 47years.

Politically, Booker T. lobbied blacks to focus on developing their own money-making skills so they could provide well for themselves and their families. "The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house," he said. Other black leaders of the day were agitating for equal treatment of the races through protest strategies, while Washington urged patience. His position pleased most whites, and Washington was given immense power over some of the major institutions effecting the lives of African Americans through the last decade of the 1800s. At the same time he was quelling some of the unrest, he was also secretly subsidizing and encouraging legal efforts to overcome segregation in the south.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Booker T.Washington?

Booker's earliest memory was of YEARNING to read and write. He followed through on his desire by SACRIFICING any free time he might otherwise have had, to be in school (Like a Mom or Dad staying up all night when their prodigal is still out, what does God sacrifice in waiting for us to repent?). Going to school was one thing, but Booker's real achievement was in THINKING about how best he could MEET THE REAL NEEDS of his people, and then in TAKING ACTION. In various ways and according to his own CONVICTIONS, Washington was ALWAYS WORKING to benefit others

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Does God Love........Virgil?

“Virgil.... who?” you say? Just Virgil. Virgil Virgil, if you must have two names, but we're talking about the ancient Roman poet who was born October 15 in 70 BC.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Most likely destined for a life of poverty, Virgil's prospects changed before he was born. The hard work and intelligence of his poor father were noticed by his employer, and appreciated so much that the man allowed Virgil's Dad to marry his daughter. This made it possible for Virgil (after he was born) to receive the education normally given only to those in the higher echelons of Roman civilization.

Virgil worked through the available schools and ended up in Rome where he was exposed to rhetoric, medicine and mathematics. Under Siro the Epicurean, Virgil began to focus on the study of philosophy. After school he returned to the family farm to write and study near his parents. His father died, and his mother remarried, later giving Virgil a half-brother named Valerius.

So attuned to the studious life, Virgil was considered a recluse. He was generally a shy man, and his health was never very good. The original geek, one might say.

Virgil's famous works of poetry are divided into three groups: The eclogues, the Georgics, and his ultimate work, the epic poem of 10,000 lines known as The Aeneid. The Aeneid was commissioned after a victorious battle, to commemorate the military accomplishments of Augustus by giving his victories their “proper literary enhancement”. The battle was done in 31 BC. The Aeneid apparently took a much greater effort; it was not completed until 14 years later, and actually had to be edited by friends of Virgil after he died.

While Virgil was not the first poet to be asked to write the Aeneid, after two others declined he was eager to apply an imaginative approach to the work. He planned to tell the tale of Augustus' victory through the mythological character inspired by Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. It was an incredible mission. When pressed to finish the manuscript and “submit it already!”, Virgil said what perhaps many writers have said in the face of a looming deadline: “I have undertaken a task so difficult that I think I must have been mentally ill to have begun it." Even after spending 11 years on the project, and being terribly overwrought about it, Virgil decided to spend 3 more years on The Aeneid. Unfortunately, he died of a fever he caught on a research trip to Greece.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Virgil?

So many people honor God by SEEKING KNOWLEDGE. To understand a subject, is to know the truth, is to know Jesus Christ who said, “I am the truth”. When the Bible speaks of the most intimate encounters we have, it uses the metaphor of knowledge: “Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived...” To study under a mentor a teacher or even a parent, is to show a Godly HUMILITY, and A VOLUNTARY, RESPECTFUL SUBMISSION. To the degree that what we learn is actually true, we come that much closer to knowing, and developing a fellowship with, God.

Virgil was in tune with the fifth commandment (the law is written on our hearts) for when he returned home he was HONORING HIS PARENTS. In taking on The Aeneid, and devoting his life to it, Virgil not only demonstrated God's CREATIVE image in himself, but also God's DILIGENT and PATIENT nature. Virgil left half of his fortune to Valerius, thus showing a KIND HEARTED, GENEROUS love for his half-brother.

Why Does God Love.............Carrie Underwood?

Alas, but I must needs depart from our beloved Encyclopedia of Biographies. Ok, I don't need to, I want to. Carrie Underwood has been much in the news lately because of the now viral video of her singing “How Great Thou Art” at the Academy of Country Music Presents "Girls Night Out" special. Using Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, for her background information instead, I will continue as usual to try to identify some of the characteristics in Carrie Underwood that are pleasing to God.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Please note that I believe God's default setting is love. He just plain loves all of us the same; A to Z. It is our response, our embracing or rejecting of His image in our lives, that determines how our lives play out. Those who rebel from everything Godly are generally unloved and certainly un-liked by their fellow people. Those who use God's protocols in their daily lives, even without acknowledging where they came from, are most often beloved and be-liked by many. And those who purposely honor God by giving Him glory for who they are and what they have, go right to the heart of God, for they are not wrapped up in the question of whether, or how much God loves them. Instead, they are more concerned with His knowing that they love Him.

Born in 1983 (as was my own beautiful daughter!), Carrie Marie Underwood was raised on a farm in rural Oklahoma. Her middle class working parents took her to a Baptist Church where, very early on she became a featured singer. She sang for many local events and talent shows and when she was 13, Carrie was offered a contract with Capitol Records.

A good student, Underwood was salutatorian in high school and graduated manna cum laude from college a year after winning season four of American Idol. A natural beauty, Carrie also competed in beauty pageants over the years.

Carrie Underwood auditioned for American Idol in 2004, and impressed the judges and audience throughout the contest. The voting tabulations are never revealed during the season, but after the fact it was made known that Underwood carried the lead week after week, and won handily in May of 2005.

The list of appearances, awards, albums and achievements since that victory is way too long for this blog posting. Suffice it to say that Carrie Underwood has overtaken just about every other female country singer, whether judging by album sales or awards earned.

Not only a singer, Carrie plays guitar and piano. Growing up on a farm where she fell in love with the animals, led her at 13 to become a vegetarian. (In 2007 PETA voted her the coveted “World's Sexiest Vegetarian”.) In fact, she told PETA, "Ever since I was little I loved animals [...] If you told me I could never sing again, I'd say that was horrible, but it's not my life. If you told me I could never be around animals again, I would just die." Underwood supports the humane society, has used her talent to benefit cancer research, and has worked with the USO in Iraq.

Carrie has tried her hand at acting as well, appearing most recently in the film Soul Surfer. Carrie Underwood became Carrie Fisher in 2010 when she married the professional hockey player, Mike Fisher.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Carrie Underwood?

Since she started so early, it seems the first quality would be her MUSICAL gifts. And the fact that she OFFERED her voice to the Lord as a ministry. Perhaps as a child one only sings in church because that's just the thing to do, but as her most recent rendition of “How Great Thou Art” demonstrates, the singing is now a heartfelt statement of WORSHIP. Just like us, God appreciates a heartfelt, honest compliment.
It seems that Carrie Underwood has exercised GOOD STEWARDSHIP over her whole life (so far): As a student, certainly as a singer, and even through DILIGENCE in her diet and exercise regime, she has EXCELLED.

Who knows from the outside, what Carrie Underwood is like in person. But all indications from her public appearances suggest that despite her sudden stardom and amazing successes, she lives with a God honoring and God pleasing HUMILITY.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Does God Love...........Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky?

And (bonus question),.can God say his name three times fast? Bonus answer: YES!

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Born in Votinsk Russia in 1840, Tchaikovsky was raised in a well-to-do home where he and his siblings were educated by their French governess. It seems music caught his attention very early. He could not sleep one night after a concert because “of the music stuck in his head”. While music had a place, it was not central. Peter studied law and government in college, and only took some music lessons on the side. But while despising his first job as a bureau clerk he began to give himself over to the music: He was the first composition student at Russia's first conservatory.

Under the teaching of Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky was just beginning to produce good works. His unique style was first apparent with Fatum, and Romeo and Juliet from 1869. Through the 1870s Peter was busy teaching, composing, writing critical essays and conducting, having been hired as a conservatory professor. His most famous piece, the Piano Concerto No. 1, was completed in 1875, and Swan Lake the following year.

With music now the central focus of his life, Tchaikovsky (I love auto fill!), struggled with basic life issues. His marriage to Antonina failed from the start. He immediately abandoned her and fled Moscow alone. Perhaps suffering an undiagnosed depression, Peter complained regularly throughout this later period of his otherwise successful life about every aspect of his life, including his music.

A Madame von Meck became Tchaikovsky's benefactor through the 1880s. He was able to commit entirely to his composing and public appearances without working at the conservatory, and became famous as far away as The United States where he toured in 1891. Despite great successes, Peter was constantly complaining about something. His Sixth Symphony was poorly received in 1893, perhaps, they say, because Tchaikovsky conducted the performance himself with his less than stellar skills in that department. It wasn't until after the great composer died in 1893 of cholera, that the symphony reached its height of public appreciation.
What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky?

As with a few of the other subjects in this series, Peter received a large dose of God's MUSICAL nature. How else can we explain the ethereal attraction we have to the CREATIVE BLENDING of melody, harmony and rhythm, other than by attributing God with its inception? (Natural selection? I don't think so, but I digress.) I believe God loves to see His gifts exhibited, much like I enjoy seeing my son-in-law's handsome features reflected in my new grandson's visage. In the case of Tchaikovsky, from this small biography I get the impression that he let his MUSICAL ABILITY overcome, even erase, any other gifts he may have had.

Why Does God Love............Ben Stiller?

He was born in New York City in 1965 (No, that's not why God loves him.), to a set of famous comedy parents known as Stiller and Meara. (Jerry Stiller is more recently known for his role in Seinfeld as George's father, Frank Costanza, and as Carrie's equally quirky father on The King of Queens.) With his busy show business parents, Ben spent a lot of time with celebrities and on sets, and he loved it.

As a boy, he and his older sister wrote little plays and performed them for the family. By 10, Ben was making simple movies with a Super-8 camera, and appeared on his mother's TV show. After high school, and a short stab at acting school, Stiller worked his way into New York's world of theater, where he worked with John Mahoney (Martin Crane, in Frasier). As a side project, the two made a short film spoof of The Color of Money, which later got the attention of Lorne Michaels. Stiller was hired as a performer and actor on Saturday Night Live, but within the year, decided it was not for him. Seeking more independence, he found work at MTV, ultimately developing his own series. The Ben Stiller Show, comprised a cast of funny people parodying pop-culture. In doing his parody films, Ben studied how the original films were directed, and thus practiced his directing skills. In 1993 he won an Emmy for best writing.

His movie career, whether as writer, actor, director, or producer has been ongoing. Zoolander is one of his famously weird movies which demonstrate his comedic skill, and the Night At The Museum set have been very popular in more recent years.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Ben Stiller?

I think God was the first one to spoof anything. While dealing with the most serious of issues, Jesus used sarcasm to poke fun at the ever-religious Pharisees. Trying to dissuade us from worrying, he used irony in pointing out that “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Even bantering (Too bad we can't actually see His smile in the Gospel story) with the Syrophoenician woman before He healed her daughter, Jesus helps us not be too grave.

Stiller's gift for SPOOFING the overly serious is indeed Godlike (granting that every human application of God's image in our lives is not always God honoring as it should be). Growing up Ben regularly PRACTICED his interest in film making and entertaining, as God not only says, but does. (Actually, with God, his saying is his doing: “God said 'Let there be light.', and there was light!”

Stiller demonstrated much COURAGE through his life. While many comedians would kill to be on SNL, Stiller decided it wasn't enough for his goals, and quit. His desire for INDEPENDENT control of his creative arts reflected a confidence that God made us all unique, and would have us FOLLOW Him individually.

Ben Stiller has always been a DILIGENT WORKER. Even the hilarity presented us did not come easy. In fact, he has said: "I don't think it's very easy to be funny. I'm just not a naturally cheery person."  Ultimately, it is probably his CREATIVITY at large, which most emulates God's image in Ben Stiller

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Does God Love..........Dan Rather?

Born in 1931, and raised as the oldest of three children in Houston Texas, Dan Rather found himself immersed in the big news stories coming out of the countries and the battlefields of World War II. While recovering from rheumatic fever at 10 years old he spent weeks listening to the newly famous war correspondents of the day on radio, and began laying plans to become a journalist.

At a small college in Texas, Rather majored in journalism, but also found all of his work experience with various news outlets, from radio to wire to newspaper. By the time Dan was 24 years old he was named news director at a local radio station, and soon moved to the same post with a CBS affiliated TV station in Texas. When Hurricane Carla hit Galveston in 1961, Rather was in the thick of it: seen hanging onto a palm tree for dear life while reporting, and later arranging to televise (for the first time) a radar image of the storm superimposed over the map of the Texas coastline. CBS executives were impressed. Dan was soon promoted to be the national news correspondent for the southwestern bureau.  It wasn't long before Rather's reporting from the locale of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 earned him another promotion; this time to the White House post.

Dan covered all of the national stories through the 60's and 70's including Viet Nam and Watergate. It was his treatment of Nixon that began to color Rather as somewhat less than a neutral reporter. In 1975 he joined 60 minutes, and in 1981 Dan Rather replaced the venerable Walter Cronkite as anchor of CBS Evening News.

Twenty four years later, one year short of his expected goal, Rather retired from the CBS lead anchor position. His long career was again tarnished by the suggestion of his seemingly unfair and unprofessional treatment of Republican office holders.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Dan Rather?

As is so often the case with first-born children, Dan became the Godly RESPONSIBLE type; it seems he took life SERIOUSLY, with a DETERMINATION to do what should be done. Pursuing his chosen field, he APPLIED HIMSELF with DILIGENCE and CREATIVITY. In some ways, a professional journalist is called upon to be like Christ Himself in that he should empty himself of all personal interests and ambition, to serve only the truth. As Jesus put His own Kingship aside for the purpose of rescuing mankind from their sin, the reporter must live his life as a neutral party in order to be received as a credible purveyor of news.

"My hope has always been, for all my flaws and weaknesses," Rather told the Texas Monthly, "that people will say this: 'He wanted to be a reporter and he is.' I think they know that I love this country."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Does God Love ….....Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi?

You may have seen his name spelled with a “K”, and so have I, but my online encyclopedia of biographies that I'm using has the “Q” version, and since it is the only “Q” name included I'm going for it! Furthermore, this guy probably presents the biggest challenge yet to my task of identifying the loveable factors which I have claimed exist in all of us.

Here goes:

Born in the desert of Libya along the Mediterranean Sea in 1942, Quadhafi was loved much by his poor herdsmen parents. For the only son, and the youngest child, his parents made great sacrifices to get him an education. When Mu'ammar was 10 years old, Nasser overthrew King Farouk of Egypt, and became a hero to the young Quadhafi. As a student, he began to organize protests against Israel, as well as the movement to overthrow King Idris of Libya, which only grew after he joined the army in 1963.

In 1969 Quadhafi managed to take over the government by force and began some major reforms: He nationalized foreign-owned banks and oil fields, banished American and British military bases, called for Libyans to stricter adherence to the Islamic faith, and continued to rail against Israel.

By 1973 Mu'ammar announced what he called the People's Revolution. If I may summarize, it seems like a shady imitation of democracy, but wrapped up in socialistic speech. Instead of “a nation of the people, by the people and for the people” he called for “government by the masses”. Instead of a legislative branch of government, he created “elected people's committees”. In the early 1980s there were many efforts to assassinate Quadhafi, as some of his countrymen began to suspect his motivations.

It seems that Quadhafi thought he had it all figured out. He decried western democracies as dishonest, worked endlessly to promote Arab unity, especially against Israel, and tried to persuade his own people that his economic ideas (including the idea that employees should be considered partners) were all based on the Koran. To implement his principles worldwide, Quadhafi seems to have believed that terrorism provided the best means. His country was linked to attacks all over Europe, Africa, and even included the Lockerbie bombing over Scotland in 1988 which killed 270 innocent travelers.

After Bush invaded Afghanistan and decimated the Taliban (temporarily), and then invaded Iraq, it seems that Quadhafi woke up to the danger he was in. He volunteered to dismantle and yield his chemical, biological and nuclear advances to the west, before they invaded his country. His preparations in building a nuclear bomb were much more advanced than anyone knew at the time.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Mu'ammar al-Quadhafi?

He is always EITHER HOT OR COLD. (God spits out the lukewarm! Revelation 3:15)
It seems that he LOVED HIS KIDS!

That's about it. If I were ever to write about what God finds corrupt in people, I hope it's for a Q to P Challenge, so I can start with Quadhafi. (And yes, if it's an M to L challenge, I'll start with Miller.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Does God Love..........Marco Polo?

That's right, Marco Polo! God might love the swimming pool game, but I'm talking about the actual Venice-born-in-1254- traveler-writer Marco Polo. From 6 years old through 15, Polo had to stay at home with his Mom while his father and uncle took their first little trip to China. They were merchants, and established a good business relationship with the Mongol prince Kublai Khan. The Polo brothers so impressed Khan with their intelligence and world knowledge that he 'kept' them in China for several years, until finally, he sent them back to Europe on an errand.

After raising Marco to be a fine young man (“tough, loyal, observant, adventurous and eager to please”) his mother died young, so when the next journey to China was embarked upon, 17 year old Marco went along. That would make Marco 20 when he first arrived in the far east, for the rigorous journey through every terrain took about 3 years! Kublai Khan welcomed Marco's addition to the group for he was already fluent in the Mongol language, and remarkably observant.

For 16 years Marco and family served Khan by traveling all over China to investigate and report on any developments in the empire. It was Marco's detailed and insightful records which later became the basis for his famous travelogue. He finally found his way back to Venice in 1295, now a man of 41 years.

To serve his country, Marco Polo served in Venice's war with Genoa and was captured. He was treated well as a prisoner of war because he was a person of some fame in the region, and spent his time with a fellow prisoner, the writer Rusticiano. Combining his romantic writing style, and Marco's abundance of stories, the two produced the now famous collection of historical and cultural knowledge known simply as Marco Polo's Travels.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Marco Polo?

As a boy, apparently, Marco RECEIVED the training his parents, particularly his single-mother Mom, provided. The child who TRUSTS and OBEYS his parents is pleasing to the Lord. By the time he was 17, Polo ACCOMPANIED his Father and Uncle, making himself a DISCIPLE, as it were, of their extraordinary traveler’s tutelage. God loves when we walk with Him, and listen to Him.

SERVING Kublai Khan in whatever capacity he could, Polo became an invaluable MINISTER to the Prince. EAGER to learn and to UNDERSTAND every thing he encountered, Marco demonstrated an appreciation for God's creation, and for His greatest work: Mankind, in all of its beauty and variety. His perpetual record keeping and quality reporting reflects on God's call for us to REMEMBER and to PASS ON His work in our lives.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Does God Love..........Barack Obama?

Editor's Note: In the spirit of this series the author will not falter in discovering and acknowledging the elements of God's image in today's subject. However, this author is not God, and will work hard not to dilute the subject's love-ability with his unfortunate policy ideas. He will try not to....won't he Mr. Writer?  “Yes Mr. Editor. I won't even capitalize the o, e and s after the D in the title above.”

The biography website I've been using was done around 2006 or so. This outdated factor has not been much of an issue with previous subjects, but the life of Barack Obama has changed most dramatically in the past several years. (His story here ends with his being a US Senator, and with the prediction that he might possibly run for president in 2012 or 2016! ) For the purposes of my analysis, this latter part of his story does not matter; God's love is not influenced by an office gained or held. (Furthermore, I will not let the current unsettled questions about Obama's birthplace interfere with the facts claimed by the biography.)

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Born in Hawaii in 1961, Barack Obama was destined to be the first US President younger than myself! His father was from Kenya and met his mother (who was from Kansas) when they were both attending school in Hawaii. (In the same way Raj Gandhi met Sonia in England.) This marriage was discouraged by Barack Sr's family and ended within two years. The father left for Harvard University, and the mother remarried an Indonesian man, where the new family moved when Barack was 6.

He returned to Hawaii at 10 and lived with his maternal grandparents. His teen age years were difficult, as the rare African American was forced to deal with life in an otherwise white world; including his own home. Referring to a time of loafing at school, wasting time and using drugs, he said:

"I was affected by the problems that I think a lot of young African American teens have," he reflected in an interview with Kenneth Meeks for Black Enterprise. "They feel that they need to rebel against society as a way of proving their blackness. And often, this results in self-destructive behavior."

After leaving Hawaii for college in Los Angeles, Obama got serious about school. After transfering to Columbia, taking time to travel to Kenya, and earning his degree in political science, he eventually became a community organizer in Chicago. Moving on again, Barack was accepted at the Harvard Law School and, in 1990, was the first African American elected president of the Harvard Law Review journal.

Declining prestigious job offers Obama returned to Chicago where he worked for a small firm specializing in civil-rights law. He began to date Michelle Robinson, who would later become his wife and the mother of their two daughters. Around the same time Barack was busy teaching college classes and with political projects such as voter registration drives. He published his autobiography when he was 31, and won a seat in the Illinois state senate in 1996.

In the senate, Obama wrote and worked hard to pass, a bill which required police to note the race of the driver at every traffic stop. He ran for the US Congress in 2000, and lost, but ran for the US Senate in
2004, and won! That summer, John Kerry invited Obama to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention where he wowed the crowd, and the viewing public at large with his great rhetorical skills. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, when discussing his eloquence, Barack said that he always knew he would have a career in the persuasive arts: "I knew I could win some arguments. I knew I could get my grandparents and mom frustrated!" 
What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Barack Obama?

As God originally allowed for so much variety within each species, Barack Obama represents a DIVERSE heritage. Not only are his parents from differing continents, but he has lived for long periods in exotic places. Having been exposed to the black and white, the Christian and Muslim, the western and eastern worlds, he was given a BROAD MINDED world view.

Struggling in a discriminatory world challenged Obama to OVERCOME, and that he did well. His DETERMINATION to turn around his teen age apathy, and to EXCEL in school carried him far as he began to take advantage of his INTELLECTUAL gifts.

As Jesus Christ is called The Word of God, we are given a sign that our spoken word may have some resemblance to the POWER of God's COMMUNICATING nature. Barack Obama has been well known for his use of speech to get a point across, and to PERSUADE his listeners.

Why Does God Love …........Indra Nooyi?

The fact that you have never heard of her, does not suggest that God hasn't. God even knows how many hairs are on her 55 year old head. Indra (not Indira) was born in India, and early on established her individuality. In a land where women generally lived in the background, Nooyi played cricket, and played guitar in a rock band while in college. With her MBA she landed her first job with Johnson and Johnson where she ran the “Stayfree” account; quite the challenge in India, where advertising for such personal items was impossible.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Despite great cultural taboos, Indra, as a young conservative Indian woman, moved to America in 1978 to further advance her education at Yale University's Graduate School of Management. While struggling to make ends meet, she was more or less forced to wear a sari to school, to her night job, and even to early job interviews, because she could not afford a business suit.

After finishing her degree in management, Nooyi's career advanced through stints with Boston Consulting Group, Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri Inc.,  holding senior executive offices where her specialty was company strategy. By 1994 Indra was being fought over by General Electric and PepsiCo. She took the job at Pepsi, and her deal making, planning and vision led her to be named chief financial officer and president by 2001.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Indra Nooyi?

People always suffer by rebelling from God's standard operating principle, but being INDEPENDENT of the mere cultural norms in one's society is a different matter all together. The ideas which differ from God's, should be ignored. It seems that Indra went as far as she could to EXERCISE her individuality, though not simply for the sake of rebelling, but as a RESPONSE to God's call on her life.

When Indira realized that her education was lacking, she did not take the giant step of leaving for America until her parents allowed her to go. Even in her 20's, Nooyi chose to RESPECT her parent's authority in her life.  As a poor college student at Yale, she ENDURED through the difficult years with HUMILITY.

Always THINKING, Indra followed God's example of GOOD PLANNING. Her plans for improving her own life as well as the profit margin wherever she worked exemplify Christ's admonition for us to INVEST our 'talents' wisely; to be good stewards of the gifts we must MANAGE. Positive results never just happen, but are the fruit of INTELLIGENT DESIGN.

My temporal anxiety may wax or wane according to how well my kids follow the (good) examples I may leave them, because I know they will be better off if they do. I believe that the more we show our trust in God by living our lives to be like Him, and practice implementing more and more of His instructions, the more pleased He is for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Does God Love.........Frankie Muniz?

Who?  If I said “Malcolm” (you know, in the middle), would that help? Ahh, now we're on the same page. Frankie Muniz was born in New Jersey in 1985, and decided when he was eight years old after seeing his big sister in a play, that he would be an actor. Very soon thereafter, he played Tiny Tim in a local theater production of The Christmas Carol, and began to find work in television commercials and in a few movies by the time he was eleven.

Around this time his parents were divorced and Muniz began to be home-schooled; which allowed him to take advantage of more acting jobs and still get a good education. After a few more movie roles,Muniz tried out for the lead role in “Malcolm in the Middle”, and was chosen for the part almost automatically. It would seem that his portrayal of the down to earth, real kid brainiac, Malcolm Wilkerson could not have been done better by anyone else. The entire cast of the award winning, seven year running show was incredible, but Frankie's interpretation of Malcolm impressed critics and the television audience right from the start.

Always eager for hard work, Frankie committed to making movies during the off season of his TV series. A couple of his early films did not fare so well, but his two “Agent Cody Banks” movies, where Muniz played a girl-shy teen-aged CIA agent, were big hits.

Muniz plays the drums, has written a screenplay, and just before “Malcolm” ended it's run when Frankie was about 20, he became a race car driver!

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Frankie Muniz?

WORK. Work is one of the gifts God offers us, and knows that we will find satisfying to the soul. Adam was expected to “work the garden” before he sinned, and it only became “hard” work because of the curse. Frankie loved to work, and suffered miserably from boredom when once he was forced to take three days off!

Not satisfied just with being the lead actor in a top hit show, Muniz DIVERSIFIED. As God implemented a world full of impressive variety, Frankie practiced, and found delight in, some of God's best ideas: RHYTHM, CREATIVITY, and SPEED!

"I don't consider myself a good actor at all. I just do what I want to do, and I'm just having fun doing it." --Frankie Muniz

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why Does God Love ….........Daniel Libeskind?

Daniel Libeskind was born in Poland in 1946, after The Holocaust. His parents had escaped the Nazi scourge separately,but returned to Poland after the war as a couple hoping to start a new life together. The extermination camps were all closed, but surprisingly, a violent anti-Semitism was still strong.

Young Daniel was gifted musically, and at 6 years old, appeared on Polish TV playing the accordian. By the time he was 11, the family had moved to Israel and he was learning to play the piano. Within two years Daniel had won a scholarship in the United States, and the family moved there. As more opportunities arose, Libeskind realized that performing musically did not demand sufficient “abstract, intellectual thought”. He had discovered architecture, which in his mind, accommodated his interest in “people, space and music”.

While studying architecture in New York he watched the World Trade Center being built, and was enthralled. Libeskind was married during college, earned his Master's degree in England, and after feeling frustrated in his work for architectural firms, went into teaching. Still feeling stifled merely teaching what he had been taught, and longing to practice some independent, creative thinking, Daniel moved to Italy and started his own architecture school, where he was the sole professor! It was "an alternative to traditional school or to the traditional way to work in an office.... The school was between two worlds, neither the world of practice nor of academia."

Finally, after 20 years of teaching architecture, Libeskind was commissioned to design his first building; the Jewish Museum Berlin. Designed primarily to tell the history of the Jews in Berlin, the museum emphasized the importance of remembering The Holocaust. It was a striking building, full of innovative, creative and symbolic design; and one which gained a lot of attention. Soon he was designing other museums and buildings all over the world.

As Libeskind's notoriety grew, especially in regards to memorializing important matters, he was asked to enter a design for the World Trade Center memorial, and because of his special ideas, was named the Master Site-Planner at Ground Zero.

What QUALITIES OF GOD are evident in Daniel Libeskind?

We know that “God is Love”, because that's what 1 John 4 tells us. But one of His middle names must be MUSIC don't you think? It seems the MUSICAL skill that Daniel Libeskind exhibited so early was part of God's likeness shining forth. And even as this aspect faded into the background, and his zeal for MATHEMATICS, ART and DESIGN came to the fore, more of God's nature was manifest.

As we are called by God to represent our own unique role in the Body of Christ, fulfilling some duty or purpose that no one else can, so Daniel was always ready to FOLLOW God's calling to come away. Always WATCHING, always THINKING, and always READY, Daniel's ideas have helped thousands of people to REMEMBER important events of history, something God has repeatedly told us to do.

L is for LATE!

I am so far behind with the A to Z challenge!  I got myself in a jam by committing to using names from the Encyclopedia of World Biography, instead of the names of plain old folk I know.  It would be nice to simply write off the top of my head instead of researching so much. Maybe I'll do that next month!  Anybody want to  volunteer to be a subject?

Why Does God Love.............Hamid Karzai?

Born in 1957, Hamid Karzai grew up as an important member of the Pashtun tribe in southern Afghanistan. An eager student, he studied political science in Kabul, and continued in Pakistan after the Soviets began their 10 year attempt to occupy Afghanistan in 1979. Karzai also studied journalism in Paris, collected several advanced degrees, and became fluent in 7 languages by the time he was 28 years old.

Back in Pakistan, he worked with the Afghan National Liberation Front as director, in order to free Afghanistan from the Soviets. When that day finally came in 1989, Karzai worked in the new Rabbani government, but resigned as its rampant corruption and ineptitude became clear. Thinking that the Taliban were “good honest people” with conservative leanings, Karzai joined their efforts to establish religious rule in Afghanistan. Soon, he had to admit that their agenda, when they gained power of the country in 1996, was far more radical and dangerous than he had suspected. When Karzai began to publicly oppose the Taliban, his father was assassinated.

By 1999 Hamid was trying to warn the US about the brutal nature of the Taliban. When its terrorist training camps in Afghanistan were directly connected with the 9/11 attacks in New York, Karzai helped the US invasion effort in country.

The Taliban were soon defeated, and Karzai was selected to lead the country. First in an interim office, and later by the first national election. As President, Karzai fought corruption, provided more citizens with basic necessities, and even opened the government to include women in cabinet positions for the first time. Actions like these were not easy. The Taliban rebounded in strength and was able to assassinate Karzai's Vice President in 2002, and has made life for any government official a very risky venture.

What QUALITIES OF GOD have been evident in............Hamid Karzai?

The PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE was a hallmark of Karzai's early life. As God is the creator of all things true, a PASSION FOR UNDERSTANDING ultimately reflects an interest in God Himself. Furthermore, the study of political science acknowledges that human nature, human systems, and even human government have OBJECTIVE TRUTH at their core. Only certain frameworks of organization are proven to work well in blessing a society.

Karzai CONTRIBUTED his efforts wholeheartedly to whatever group he thought would help Afghanistan. He “took up his cross”, as it were, and GAVE OF HIMSELF freely, displaying great COURAGE in the face of brutal enemies.

"It is our humanity that ultimately brings us together, while the pursuit of narrow interests divides us all." Hamid Karzai

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yes, there's a K in this limerick!

While blogging from A through to Z,
I found that God loves you and me.
With vigor and vim,
He made us like HIM,
In His image we always will be!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So Why DOES God Love................... Scarlett Johansson Really?

I think I've dispensed with the beauty issue.  If it is only skin deep, and God looks at the heart, then what is it behind the skin that God might find lovable in Johansson?

"Making movies is all I ever wanted," Johansson admitted to People Magazine. "I don't plan on retiring until I die."

When she was 10 years old Scarlett landed a role in her first film; North.  Scarlett was always "a ham" she says, and even though she did not enjoy the process, when her mother started taking her to audition for commercials, she knew she wanted to be an actress.  In 1996, when she was 12 years old, Johansson received her first critical acclaim for her role in the movie Manny...Lo.  When 14, she played a major role in The Horse Whisperer which was directed by Robert Redford.  Critics generally panned the film, but gave credit to Johansson for saving it "from the glue factory".

But instead of taking advantage of her new fame to take roles in cheap slasher movies, or sophomoric teen films, Scarlett took control of her career.  She focused on finishing high school well, and waited for good scripts to come along.  In 2000 she was praised overwhelmingly for her "subtle, masterful performance" in the comedy Ghost World.  Over the next several years Johansson starred in many roles, each time performing at least as well as the movie itself, generally better.

Scarlett is known, even as a young modern actress, for her sophistication and confidence not readily seen today. With wide ranging talent and interests, Johansson  was hired by Calvin Klein to represent a new perfume, she is known for her quality singing and has made several recordings, and she has lent her support in several political campaigns.

What QUALITIES OF GOD have been evident in...........Scarlett Johansson?

As God desires new Christians to grow in their faith (move on from milk to meat), Scarlett Johansson demonstrated a MATURITY well beyond her years, at each step of her career.  Her innate TALENT as an actress is part of who God created her to be.  Her DETERMINATION to succeed in the business, and her PATIENCE in waiting for the right roles to come along, reflect just part of what God  sees, and loves, in her heart.

Why Does God Love........Scarlett Johansson? Intro only.

Does God love....a pretty face? We might as well get that superficial question addressed right now, for Scarlett Johansson, the beautiful and sexy 27 year old actress from New York has been called the “sexiest woman alive” and the “sexiest celebrity" by various magazines in the past 5 years. Even the ever prudish Woody Allen who directed Johansson in several movies called her a “sexually overwhelming, beautiful young woman”. [MILLERWRITES-BLOG-ASIDE: What doesn't Woody Allen find “sexually overwhelming? Just sayin'.]

I believe that God designed and created beauty. While we people may all have varied ideas about what is the most beautiful, whether in the face and form of a person, or in the lighting, shape and color of a landscape or still life, we generally admit that someone else's ideal, while not our own, is still very appealing. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” might best be framed as “the MOST beautiful is in the eye of the beholder. God created all kinds of things to be all kinds of beautiful, for He is beautiful!

Mankind lives in a broken world, however. Nothing is as it was designed to be. Since “the fall”, all of the beauty we know is only a shadow of what it was originally, and considering the corrupting influence of accumulating mutations in the gene pool, I believe that “the beautiful people” among us will only reside in the archives of our ugly descendants. (see my Creationism Examiner article for a tongue in cheek application of this truism) Do you marvel at the beauty of a rugged mountain landscape? Or a craggy shoreline of high broken cliffs? Then you would be downright awestruck, I think, at the incredible original work of creation before it was absolutely wrecked by the cataclysmic world wide flood, and then simply left to drain and recover as best it could.

Back to the question at hand: Does God love a pretty face. Yes, I think so. But does God really care about the outer shell of a person? No, I think not! When Samuel was looking over David's family to anoint the next King of Israel, he was impressed with the good looks and stature of David's brothers, and not with the squat and scrawny David, until he was reminded that “God looks at the heart”. If the heart is the reflection of a person's choices, then God is much more interested in what we do with whatever form of body or face we might happen to have. We may need to care for the body, for the sake of what it contains, but one day we will abandon the old broken vessel and move on.

Sorry Scarlett, for neglecting your story. And I'm sorry for those like you who must deal with so much attention which, unlike God's, is focused somewhere outside the heart.  May you live your lives from the heart, and forsake the trap of allowing your good looks to (temporarily) take you places you don't really want to go.

How about if I tell your story in another post?
Good idea? Thanks. I'll do that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I (There's the 'I”) Get a Break Today!

Before committing to my plan to work through names from A to Z, I checked my Encyclopedia of World Biographies and made sure there were names beginning with “Q” and “Z”. But surprise surprise, now I find that there are no names starting with the letter “I”. So today I get the chance to address an “I”mportant “I”ssue, one that my Challenge postings so far may have “I”nitiated some “I”nterest “I”n. (I think I got that out of my system now, thank you for your patience.)

I have been peeking into the lives of various people and asking myself “Why does God love _______?” So far I have learned about all kinds of people that were only vague mysteries to me before. And I have recognized more than ever, that there are a multitude of qualities in folks, all derived from being made in God's image, that make His children (us) very lovable indeed! In fact, having listed five or six qualities in each of the eight people examined so far, I don't think I have found any duplicate characteristics yet!

As those of you interested enough to wade through my overly long posts, I hope that there are two things happening. I hope you are looking at your own biography, and starting to identify qualities in your life that are reflections of God's own image, manifest in you. Not in some effort to foster a boasting self-esteem, but a serious and grateful recognition of who you are in God's creative work.

The second benefit I hope to be instigating, is for more of us to look appreciatively into other people's lives and find the perhaps foggy, shadowy, or even besmirched, image of God that is there. Too often we promote ourselves so much that the actual vine which connects us with our root in God is stretched too tight to function, or even breaks, and we drift away unconnected. I believe, however, that God's stamp remains. Look intently into the sometime fog. His image can be found.

There is one, even more vital point I want to make on the subject of God's great love for us, but I will wait and see if another gap in my name list appears, or I will bring it up at the end. Until then, thanks for reading my looooong posts, and please leave a comment or two below! 


Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Does God Love........Tony Hawk?

A “hyperactive demon child”. Fortunately for Tony Hawk, that was not God's loving assessment of the young boy, but his own, as recorded in his autobiography. Generally exhausted by young Hawk's outrageous behavior as a boy, who was born in 1968, his parents were frustrated and anxious about what to do with him. Growing up in San Diego with boundless energy and a high IQ, Tony's destiny was suddenly and happily satisfied at 8 years old when his brother bought him a hand-me-down skateboard, and his father built him a skating ramp in the backyard.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

With 6 hours of dedicated practice every day, and the freedom to make his own rules and follow his own daredevil imagination, Tony Hawk quickly became THE skateboarding expert who would establish the highest standard of excellence in the newly created 'sport'.

Tony's father established skateboarding organizations first statewide, and then nationally, that would support and encourage his son (along with thousands of other skilled kids). Known especially for innovating dangerous new skills on the board, Hawk was winning championships and was earning $100,000 a year before he graduated from high school.

When interest in the sport waned, Tony delved into the business side of skateboarding to build skateboards and accessories. This was a risky endeavor, in 1990, considering the huge costs and limited focus of its products, and contributed to the divorce from his first wife. 

By 1995 his fiscal world was in shambles, until he was unexpectedly called to skate in the brand new “X-Games”. Here he again wowed the competition and the amazed viewers of this new ESPN show with his incredible tricks. In particular, landing “the 900”, his own invention, set him apart from the rest of the crowd once and for all. With his newly minted notoriety, Hawk exercised his marketing genius to the max. He was endorsed by major companies and eventually developed the top selling skateboard video game called Pro Skater.

Hawk was married again in 1999. Even into his 30's he excelled on the board, and went on to form the “Boom Boom Huck Jam”, a riotous combination of extreme sports and rock music. Lending his name, personal appeal, and his passion for the sport, the BBHJ was a huge success, and Hawk was named Favorite Male Athlete among kids even into 2003 and 2004. As a multi-millionaire, Hawk established the Tony Hawk Foundation, which has provided money for many dozens of skateparks across the country. Simply following the lead established by his brother's off-handed gift, led Tony Hawk to where he is today. As he explained to Sports Illustrated: "Here's what skateboarding is to me. It's my form of exercise, my sport, my means of expression since I was nine years old. It's what I love. I never expected it to give me anything more than that."

What QUALITIES OF GOD have been evident in........Tony Hawk?

Even when unfocused, Tony was fully ENERGIZED into action. God would rather we be cold or hot, than lukewarm. Never sitting still, Tony, like God, has been ACTIVE all of his life. On the board as well as in business, he showed that he would always be a RISK TAKER. Like our God who created a set of people who just might (and did actually) reject Him, Tony took many chances that would intimidate most of us.

As an entrepreneur, Hawk proved himself to be like God by being ENTERPRISING; always up for some good project, and like God, Tony seems to have an AGELESS quality about him. I believe that God would love for us all to be fully engaged in life until we die, CONTRIBUTING whatever we can for as long as we can.

PS  Thanks to all (both) of you who voted on who I should write about in the "H" category.  Sorry to the 50% of you who voted for Freddie Highmoore (because now you'll never know who he is or why God loves HIM so much).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

H is for HELP!

There are only two "H" names in the encyclopedia of biographies I'm using.

Tony Hawk, skateboarder; and Freddie Highmore, British actor.

Does God love one more than the other?  NOT!  But who do you want to learn about?

Comments please!

Why Does God Love ….........Sonia Gandhi?

Now Mahatma sounds like a name that goes with Gandhi right? That's because both parts of the name are of Indian origin. But “Sonia” Gandhi? Not!  I think we need a little bit of background information here. Mahatma is the wise old guy that made himself instrumental in India's gaining independence from Great Britain in 1948, and we have all seen the famous 1982 movie. Ever since his triumphal victory over the British Empire through non-violent resistance, everybody who wants to be anybody in India wishes their name were Gandhi.

If you guessed that our subject Sonia was born and raised in Italy, and just happened to meet a cute Gandhi when they were both attending school near Cambridge England, you were right! Sonia's new beau, Rajiv Gandhi's mother was Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister of India when they married in 1968. So that's how the Italian Signora became a Gandhi, but how did Indira become a Gandhi? Her husband's name was Feroze Khan. They say that Indira fell in love with Feroze, but his family was Muslim, and she would have lost her inheritance had she married a Khan. Enter Mahatma, who offered to adopt Feroze, and give him his name!

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

If you are still with me after that bit of historical drama, I will proceed with a short biography of Sonia G after she was married and living in India with the PM. Forsaking her modern Italian woman's attire and lifestyle, Sonia quickly adapted herself to life in India. She gave up her miniskirts for the sari, steeped herself in Indian culture and learned to speak Hindi. While her husband's brother, Sanjay, entered politics, Rajiv became an airline pilot, and the couple had two children.

Sanjay was the likely successor to Indira, but was killed in an accident in 1980, and Indira essentially coerced Rajiv to enter the fray as member of Parliament.  Sonia was not happy, but gave her full support in the end. A few years later, Indira was assassinated and Sonia Gandhi, the Italian immigrant, was suddenly wife of the Prime Minister of India. Here she excelled in all the diplomatic duties of the role. Behind the scenes she worked diligently as an art historian, and she prepared historical Indian correspondence for publication.

Rajiv lost the 1989 election attempt, and, tragically, was assassinated when running again in 1991. Sonia was devastated, and disappeared from public view. Eventually she wrote two successive books about Rajiv which brought her great popularity among India's electorate. By 1997 she was being pressed into running for Parliament and leading the Congress Party. In 2004, her party won the majority, and Sonia Gandhi was being pressed to accept the call to become Prime Minister.

Known among the masses as desh ki bahu (our daughter-in-law), and beloved, dressed regularly in the white sari of a widow, Sonia announced her decision: "I was always certain," she said, "that if ever I found myself in the position that I am in today, I would follow my inner voice. Today, that voice tells me that I must humbly decline this post."

What QUALITIES OF GOD have been evident in.........Sonia Gandhi?

“As Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her”, so Sonia Gandhi LOVED India. She SACRIFICED her interest in living a quiet life with her pilot husband, when the call came to serve. In WORKING hard behind the scenes with a SERVANT'S heart, SUPPORTING her mother-in-law, her husband, and later, the interests of the country at large, this latest Gandhi demonstrated a Godly spirit. 

In MOURNING her husband's death, Sonia exhibited the lamenting heart of Christ, when He lost His friend Lazarus to our most common enemy. (Remember the Bible's shortest verse?  "Jesus wept.")   Even in declining to serve as PM, she set a supreme example of HUMILITY.

What Would God Love About........Gandhi?

I'll tell you later today (maybe; my GRANDSON will be here most of the day, so you can just take a back seat!).  In the meantime, maybe you can guess which Gandhi I'm going to write about.  One clue: She's Italian, and I believe that God loves her WILLINGNESS TO SACRIFICE her own interests, for the sake of others.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why does God love........Tina Fey?

Perhaps I should ask the same question about Sarah Palin while I'm at it. But I'll let that go until we get to the 'P' day.

Tina Fey was born into a humor loving home in Pennsylvania where Fey's mother exampled the dry wit we have all appreciated in her shtick. Her father and brother also played a part in producing the fun loving, laughing and hilarious comedian in the black rimmed glasses we all recognize at a glance.

In middle school Fey discovered that she could make people laugh, and began to study humor seriously. Having decided that comedy was “going to be my thing,” she studied drama in college, and after graduating moved to Chicago to join “Second City” where she could regularly practice the comedic craft. Here Fey gained most from her addiction to improv; the practice of working with a group to produce a live-action, spontaneous skit. She multiplied her writing and acting skills through this process, which prepared her for her future work at Saturday Night Live.

Working through the ranks at Second City Fey toured the country performing in shows and writing skits. In 1997 she was hired by SNL as a writer, and within two years she was named head writer; the first woman to hold this position in the 24 years that SNL had been on the air.

By 2000 Tina had written herself into the show, as it were, when she began to appear in SNL's famous Weekend Update segment. Fans were immediately impressed with her low-key delivery, and sexy glasses. In 2002, Fey, along with SNL producer Lorne Michaels, began to work on a screenplay for what would be the popular movie, Mean Girls, starring a young Lindsay Lohan. Fey proved herself to be capable in yet another arena, as a movie screenwriter with Mean Girls, and went on with Baby Mama in 2008, and Date Night in 2010.

Having left SNL in 2006, Fey moved on to create 30 Rock, a situation comedy based loosely on her work at Saturday Night Live. In 2008 Fey renewed her popular fame due to the random fact of her similar appearance with Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, and Palin's susceptibility to Fey's particular brand of scathing humor.

So what does God love about …......Elizabeth Stamatina (Tina Fey)?

As with Ellen DeGeneres, I believe that God loves to see his gifts of HUMOR being used among us. HARD WORK, and AMBITION are also important characteristics that reflect the image of God in us. You won't find this word in the Bible, but STICKTOITIVENESS has been exhibited in Tina Fey's life, and certainly is another trait exemplified by God Himself. 

In this Tina Fey quote, we see an example of HONESTY, MATURITY and HUMILITY; all Godly qualities.
“Somewhere around the fifth or seventh grade I figured out that I could ingratiate myself to people by making them laugh. Essentially, I was just trying to make them like me. But after a while it became part of my identity.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why Does God Love................Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot?

Melissa Arnette Elliott of Portsmouth Virginia, suffered sexual abuse as an 8 year old girl, and endured the trauma of witnessing her father physically abuse her mother. When Melissa was 14, her mother finally found what it took to take her daughter and leave the home. A difficult time ensued as the two struggled on their own, but a new young woman, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot was forming behind the scenes.

Even as a four year old, Missy loved to sing to her dolls. Growing up in the Jackson era, she wrote daily letters to her idols, Michael and Janet Jackson, begging them to come and take her home with them. After her mother did rescue her, Missy enjoyed a new freedom that allowed her musical bent to blossom. She began to write songs, even to the point of covering her bedroom walls with lyrics.

Missy formed a vocal group called Sista with three other teen age girls. After an R&B concert, they managed to get a short audition at a hotel, were signed on to make a record, and a lifelong career in music had begun. She was soon recognized as a fine contributing singer, song writer, and rapper in the Hip-hop world, and released her debut rap album Supa Dupa Fly. Called “the most influential album ever released by a female hip-hop artist”, it went platinum with over a million unit sales.

After more hit releases and earning two Grammy Awards for best female solo rap performance, Elliot faced her threatening obesity with determination and was able to lower her blood pressure and lose 70 pounds in a few months time.

Elliot went on to win a third Grammy, earn top dollar endorsing products, and has built a substantial fortune for herself and her mother. She is also a spokesperson for Break the Cycle, a non profit working to limit domestic violence situations.

So what QUALITIES OF GOD are seen in the life of Missy Elliot?

One word comes to mind. OVERCOMER. Missy started OVERCOMING at an early age. No child should be expected to endure such trauma in her home, but she had to, and she did. She overcame the abuse by a cousin, the violence of her father, and being forced to move out and start over in poverty. With little opportunity, she and her friends overcame great odds by stepping out and taking a chance.

Missy had no resources other than her own innate TALENTS for singing and song writing, which she PRACTICED for years. She entered the male dominated hip-hop world of rap as a woman; again, OVERCOMING huge obstacles with absolute success.  Unlike a lot of people, Elliot was able to face up to, and conquer her own body when her weight and blood pressure were out of control.  

God wants us to, and provides what we need to Overcome as He has. In John 16:33, Jesus said:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Does God Love................Ellen DeGeneres?

I know I do! Ellen is so funny! My high school science teacher said to me, “Miller, if you aren't the class _ _ _, I don't know who is”, so I was pretty much destined to fall for the quick witted, dry humor of Ellen D. And as an older woman (she was born in January and I in December of 1958), I must give her the respect she is due.

[To see what I'm up to here, read this introduction]

Ellen grew up around New Orleans, and became another victim of divorce when she was 13 years old. Using her innate sense of humor, the Don Rickles teasing type, DeGeneres worked to protect her mother from the ensuing depression of divorce when they had moved to Texas. **Aside** Many couples resist divorce, “for the kids”. I wonder how many more would resist divorcing if they knew one of the kids would be rich and famous one day, and that their divorce, with all of its bitter tasting connotations, would be one of the first things mentioned in the kid's biography. Or, if it weren't for the divorce, would the kid not have gone so far? **

After high school, DeGeneres moved back to New Orleans and looked for work. She tried a multitude of jobs but was never happy as an employee until she worked as an emcee in a comedy club. In 1982, she sent a videotape of her stand-up comedy routine to a “Showtime” contest, and was named the “Funniest Person in America”! That seems to have changed her life a little bit.

It wasn't long then, before Ellen appeared on the Johnny Carson show (1986) and became the first female comedian to be “invited to the couch” after her monologue, instead of being left to leave the stage: A big deal in the comedic, career building, circles of the day.

In the 90's Ellen branched out into television sitcoms, including starring in her own in 1994. It wasn't until '97 that Ellen officially announced that both she and her character were gay, a fact that did not alter the more relevant fact that she was so very funny. When her sexuality became more and more of a prominent issue in the show's story lines, viewers began to complain, and the show was canceled in 1998.
This led to a long depressing period for DeGeneres, when she thought “everybody hates me now”, but then impressed the world with her “witty, respectful and wise” performance as host of the Emmy awards shortly after 9/11.

2003 was the big turn-around year. She published her book, her unmistakeable voice and humor starred as Dory, in Finding Nemo, and the brand new Ellen DeGeneres Show quickly became a hit daytime talk show. Her good humor and common sense approach to the show ("I'm doing a talk show. It's not my job to get into an argument with somebody about religion or politics or sexuality or anything. It is my job to make people laugh." ) made it wildly successful, and it continues to this day. Her one season stint as an American Idol judge in 2010 affirmed her likeability and good natured humor as well.

So what QUALITIES OF GOD have been on display in Ellen DeGeneres?

Have you ever seen a platypus? God, has a great SENSE OF HUMOR! (And He recommends it: Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”) Where else would ours come from, if it weren't part of God's image in us? It is a gift to mankind, and the extra dose of that particular gift that God gave to Ellen is extraordinary. She did not stifle the talent, but invested it, and has been SHARING the dividends freely with us all.

Ellen obviously accepts lesbianism as a viable human option, and has attempted to HELP others be more tolerant of the same by subtly PROSELYTIZING her views. Trying to convince others of the value of something you believe in, is a good thing.

To run off subject for a moment, however, I would add that being sincerely wrong is still wrong. God gives us instruction on how to live for our sake, not His. He can not be mistaken on what is best for us, nor can our rebellion lead him to know that something He knows to be correct, is wrong. I believe that God wants us to live an “abundant life”, and that comes by trusting that His ways are the best ways. Every one of the myriad of ways that we avoid obedience is a mistake that can only detract from an inwardly satisfying life. Most of our sins are more private than others, but every one of them reveals a step away from God's perfect standard, the standard of which an un-seared conscience would remind us.

Ellen's interest in ENTERTAINING us and, as she showed so well on American Idol, in CARING about people, are two more loveable aspects of our God made manifest in her life.