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I recently finished reading Killing Kennedy, an interesting take on the JFK assassination from Bill O’Reilly. I knew some of the indiscretions of Kennedy through reading history but getting a more full picture through the book was eye-opening. It also educated me about the indiscretions of some other well-known leaders of his time.

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Here is a brief history of some of the most well-known people in the world.

  • John F. Kennedy was a serial adulterer
  • So was Martin Luther King, even with prostitutes
  • Nelson Mandela was involved in terrorism early in life
  • George Washington owned slaves
  • Benjamin Franklin slept his way across America and Europe
  • Margaret Thatcher had an incredible short temper
  • John Lennon all but abandoned his son Julien when he married to Yoko Ono
  • Elvis Presley was a drug addict
  • Oprah Winfrey is known to be a diva that expects royal treatment
  • Ronald Reagan was a lousy actor divorced early in life

The list goes on and on and you’ll be surprised to learn some of these things from some of the most admired people in recent history.

One of my favorite authors and historians David McCullough shares a brilliant piece about how we should view our leaders but more importantly, how we should see ourselves.

“Now those who wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia that fateful summer of 1776 were not superhuman by any means. Every single one had his flaws, his failings, his weaknesses. Some of them ardently disliked others of them. Every one of them did things in his life he regretted. But the fact that they could rise to the occasion as they did, these imperfect human beings, and do what they did is also, of course, a testimony to their humanity. We are not just known by our failings, by our weaknesses, by our sins. We are known by being capable of rising to the occasion and exhibiting not just a sense of direction, but strength.”

Ephesians 1:7 sums it up.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Thank God for grace and recognition that he sees the potential in all of us and wants us to do good and succeed in his eyes. God sees us as perfect, even in our imperfections and it makes his grace shine brighter than ever.

 

 

Recently I watched the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Eddie Izzard.  If you don’t know much about the story, there have been detailed and exciting documentaries on the subject but it short, it is about the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944 by Germans.  Tom Cruise plays the lead character Claus Von Stauffenberg who led the failed assassination.  Brilliantly directed by Bryan Singer (Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects), the story comes to life in Hollywood style.  The movie is quite underrated primarily because it was written off by viewers because it featured Tom Cruise during the period of his freak out in the media.  I was intrigued by the story.

The movie got me thinking about the tremendous sacrifice in the story led by these brave Germans in the face of evil.  Americans in particular tend to think of all Germans living in 1930s and 1940s Germany as “Nazis” but it is so far from the truth.   There was brave people throughout all of Germany who who fought openly behind the scenes against the Nazis. One of them was the great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I have been reading a biography on him, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes.  Metaxes previously had wrote the story Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce fighting to end the British slave trade.  Metaxes understands great sacrifice in his stories and with Bonhoeffer, it was about the role of the church in the face of evil.  I am of German descent so my passion is to learn more about these people and honor their lives.

I can’t believe I am m quoting Braveheart but this line is so powerful and to the point: “Every man dies, it’s just a question of how and why.”

The question kept popping up in my head, what am I dying for?

I began to think about those before me who have made such immense sacrifice. Some that came to mind: Martin Luther King, Jr. died for the injustice and suffering of the African American people, Claus Von Stauffenberg and others in the Valkyrie conspiracy died to save Germany, Bonhoeffer died to save his country and the message of his King, Jesus, Lt. Mike Murphy died “for the men next to him” in Afghanistan, Nelson Mandela stood up to fight the injustice of apartheid while forgiving those in it, and Jesus died for all of us and all of it.

Then there are those close to me that have been tremendous examples.

In high school, my cousin Carolyn overheard some other kids talking about “blowing and shooting up the school.”  This was in years following Columbine so things like this was not to be played around with at schools especially then.  She risked her reputation to make sure kids are protected.

When I was 18, my father took a week off work to join me and friends hiking in Colorado.  His boss could not reach him by phone during that period and he was let go a couple months later because his boss didn’t feel that he was “committed” enough. My father sacrificed for me and our relationship.

For justice.  For country.  For a friend.  For a son.  To just “do the right thing.” All in the name of love.

But…

I need to die for something?

Well, it may not mean you actually dying but what in this short life are you “risking”?  I’m challenged to figure out what this means to me.  I may never encounter a situation of having to stand up to a “Hitler” or a “Terrorist.”  But I know I need to “risk” in order to “live.”

Okay back to Braveheart: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

For me, this has been a time to engage with my two little girls and my wife and play less golf.  I used to play everyday until my early twenties.  I know that I need to take more out of my leisure time and devote it to helping others, I’m just not sure what exactly.  It may also mean that I need to break away from the “traditional” elements of life and embark on the unknown of a career.  Lots to pray about as I clearly don’t have all the answers.

What about you?

-Is your business doing something “on the fringe”?  You can go about your business as well but you can change the way things are done.

-Do you defend the reputation of someone being misrepresented at work?

-Do you stand up for the kid being bullied in the hall?

-Does your church needs people to work the night of your favorite TV show?  God gave us DVR, use it.

-When you drive down the street when you see someone who is genuinely homeless what will you do next time?

Everyday you are approached with a situation involving potential sacrifice. You may not have to die for it but you will have to make the tough decision.  It takes courage.  It takes faith.

Don’t just “let it be.”

Life is worth sacrifice, always.


PS.  I am blessed to work with a tremendous man and author, Max Lucado.  In his upcoming book Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, Max shares this in the opening chapter:

“A few years back, three questions rocked my world.  They came from different people in the span of a month. Question 1: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?  Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism?  Question 3: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

I didn’t mind the first two questions.  They were hypothetical.  I’d like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and fought against racism. But those days are gone, and those choices were not mine.  But the third question has kept me awake at night.  I do live today; so do you.  We are given a choice…and opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  What if we did?  What if we rocked the world with hope?  Infiltrated all corners of God’s love and life?  What if we followed the example of the Jerusalem church?  This tiny sect expanded into a world-changing force.  We still drink from their wells and eat from their trees of faith.  How did they do it?  What can we learn from their priorities and passion?”