I haven’t written here in awhile because I’ve had this question of faith heavy on my mind over the last month or so. During that time, my energies and time normally devoted to exploring how leaders do leadership has been focused on the question of how Christians do Christ.
If we are to be in the world but not of it as Christ prayed the night before His crucifixion, what does that mean now, as the cultural terrain of our modern world is in a dizzying state of flux? The conversation can’t stop at simply repeating that, as Christians, we are to be salt that flavors the world and light that illuminates it. We must go beyond that and wrestle with the questions of what flavor we bring and what our light is aimed at: is our flavor is that of judgment or love? Does our light shine to illuminate the identity of others as sinners, or their identity as the objects of their Creator’s unfathomable love?
The following is how I answer those questions for myself. If it speaks to you and you want to use it elsewhere or share it offline, it is available here as a pdf.
1 – Brae Carnes, a transgender woman of Victoria, British Columbia, protesting an amendment to a Canadian transgender law governing bathroom access. Her protest campaign involved taking selfies of herself in men’s restrooms to illustrate how out of place she is in them despite her being born male.
4 – Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the season of Lent, which is the period of prayer and fasting leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent was originally a period of 40 days when it was adopted as a practice of the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. In 601 AD, Pope Gregory changed it to 46 days in length (40 days of fasting and 6 Sundays of feasting). At that time, he also added the practice of marking the foreheads of parishioners with ashes in the shape of the cross.
The original phrasing of the question is credited to Charles Sheldon, a minister from Topeka, Kansas, who repeated the question throughout a series of sermons in 1886. A century later, Michigan youth minister Janie Tinkleberg read Sheldon’s book, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?. Inspired by the message, Tinkleberg reduced the question to its now famous acronym and mixed it with the friendship bracelets that were popular in 1989.
6 – Polaris, also known as the North Star, sits relatively still while the rest of the star field appears to orbit around it due to the rotation of the Earth. Polaris’ static position at nearly 90ᵒ above the North Pole made it ideal for navigation using the night sky. It also stands as a linchpin to the mathematical proof that the Earth is, indeed, not flat.
7 – Tom Cruise as United States Navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men, 1992.
8 – Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments, 1956.
11 – In the middle of December, 2013, NYPD Officer Carlos Ramos came across Robert William, a homeless man suffering the sub-freezing temperatures of New York City while wearing only a thermal undershirt. Officer Ramos stopped his patrol, took his coat off, and then gave the sweatshirt he was wearing underneath to the man in need.
29 – This warning is written for the driver, not the passenger sitting closest to the mirror. The reason for the warning has to do with the need to use a curved mirror in order to compensate for the distance between the passenger-side mirror and the driver. In order to increase the viewing angle for the driver, image distortion is the result.
32 – The creation of the transgender symbol is credited to Nancy Nangeroni, Holly Boswell and Wendy Pierce of the International Foundation for Gender Education.
33 – Members of the protest group “Black Lives Matter” embrace members of the counter-protest group “All Lives Matter” at a rally in Dallas just days after a gunman murdered five and injured nine other members of the Dallas Police Department. When gunned down, those officers were standing guard, ensuring a peaceful environment for a “Black Lives Matter” rally in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016.
38 – On June 17, 2015, 21-year old Dylann Roof entered the nearly 200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a place he had visited three times before. After sitting in the Wednesday night Bible study for 40 minutes, Roof opened fire on the 12 parishioners as they closed their eyes to pray. Roof emptied 7 magazines from his handgun in the attack, shooting each of the 9 dead at least 5 times. Those killed ranged in age from 26 to 87. The families of the 9 victims responded just days later with public pronouncements of forgiveness for Roof. In the words of Nadine Collier, whose 70-year-old mother, Ethel Lance, was one of the killed: “If God forgives you, I forgive you.”
40 – I wish I knew the story behind this photo. The photo itself is everywhere on the internet, but I can’t find its origin. If anybody reading this knows, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter and let me know!
41 – Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow during a workout for Major League Baseball scouts. Tebow, known equally for his intense work ethic and commitment to charitable work as much as for his athletic accomplishments, is currently a member of the New York Mets organization. His goal isn’t to make it to the Major League roster – he has his sights on a higher purpose: “I want to be someone that was known for bringing faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
42 – Hip-hop/dub step/rock/classical violinist, dancer, choreographer, composer and YouTube music video star Lindsey Stirling. To see and hear this diminutive Mormon play her music is to see passion personified. In 2010, Stirling failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent, as Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel all concluded she was not good enough to play a theater in Las Vegas. Stirling not only has released three albums and gone on multiple international tours, but she is the highest earning woman on YouTube: thanks to over 9 million subscribers, her videos have been viewed a staggering 1.7 billion times.
43 – Members of Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, providing Christmas dinner to inmates at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
44 – “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
I Corinthians 15:17-19 ESV
49 – In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested for the charge of loitering outside of a courtroom in Montgomery, Alabama. King was waiting for his friend, Ralph Abernathy, who was inside appearing for trial. This photo was taken by Charles Moore, a 27-year-old photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser, and was one of several distributed nationwide by the Associated Press.
50 – During halftime of the football game between Florida and Ole Miss on October 3, 2015, the family of Florida native Chief Warrant Officer Kristian Denkins was invited to the field to see a video message from him. To celebrate finishing his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, the soldier worked with the team to orchestrate the surprise reunion that his kids never saw coming. Watch the video at the link and feel all the feels.
51 – Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas, a member of the US Army Green Berets, was killed on Feb. 2, 2017, while deployed in Niger, Africa, training local troops in fighting the local terrorist group, Boko Haram. He was 35 years old, and left behind his wife and 4 young children. Warrant Officer Thomas served seven tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning 2 Bronze Stars, 4 Good Conduct Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal. His arrival and reunion with his grieving widow, TJ Thomas, was captured by Lisa Williams, a passenger on the flight that brought his body home to North Carolina. Williams’ video – shared on Facebook with TJ Thomas’ blessing – has been viewed over 10 million times. Watch the video at the link and cry all the tears.
52 – The divided loyalties of Warren and Carol Reckmeyer were on display as the couple entered Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 17, 2015, to see the Cardinals host the San Francisco Giants. The photo of the couple – married 63 years at that point – was captured by St. Louis native Pete Hubert, whose friend shared it on Facebook. It went viral after a St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist saw it and shared it on Twitter.
53 – During a visit to a Tallahassee middle school with some teammates, Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph saw a boy eating his lunch by himself away from the other kids. Rudolph took his pizza and sat down with Bo Paske, unaware that the boy had autism. A teacher shared the photo with Bo’s mother, who shared it on Facebook in a post describing what a great act of kindness it was for her son who normally is left to eat lunch alone. After the post went viral, the team presented Bo with his own customized Seminoles jersey (bearing his name and Rudolph’s number), tickets and field passes to an FSU game, and invited Bo to spend the day as an honorary member of the team, eating lunch with them.
55 – Nelson Mandela (left) spent 27 years in jail as a political prisoner opposed to the official system of racial segregation in place in South Africa since 1948 known as apartheid. F.W. de Klerk (right) became South Africa’s president in August, 1989; six months later, de Klerk released Mandela from prison. Working together, the two men led South Africa through the transition to a free and democratic nation while avoiding the violent reprisals and civil war that often accompany such change. In 1994, Mandela succeeded de Klerk as President in the country’s first democratic election. The two men were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
57 – On May 13, 1981, an escapee from a Turkish prison named Mehmet Ali Ağca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. The Pope was shot four times, severely wounded by two shots hitting him in the lower intestine. Ağca was sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court. Two years later, the Pope visited Ağca in prison, where he communicated the forgiveness in person that he had already stated publicly. In 2000, at the Pope’s request, Ağca was pardoned and released to Turkey to serve an original life sentence there. Ağca eventually converted to Christianity and was released from his Turkish prison in 2010.
58 – Five months after the fighting began, the first Christmas of World War I arrived in 1914. Up and down the Western Front, the trench lines of the British/French/Belgian allies and the German invaders were sometimes as close as 100 feet apart. On Christmas Eve, soldiers on both sides could be heard singing Christmas carols. The next day, the men emerged to shake hands, share food and cigarettes, and even games of football/soccer. The temporary truce also enabled each side to retrieve their dead comrades stuck in “no man’s land” for weeks and give them a proper burial. The peace was tragically temporary, as 3 more Christmases would pass before the Armistice of November 11, 1918, officially ended the war. Total casualties of WWI included more than 9 million soldiers killed, close to 10 million civilians killed, and another 21 million soldiers wounded.
60 – In the early morning hours of June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was taken at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. Over the course of the next 9 months, Smart was often chained to a tree and subjected to perpetual sexual and emotional abuse by her kidnappers, religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison, while Barzee is now in a Utah state prison until 2024. In the years since, Smart has worked to overcome her horrific ordeal: she is now a wife, creator of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, and a public speaker and author advocating for missing children and the victims of sexual abuse.
61 – The worst mass shooting in US history occurred on June 12, 2016, at the Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At approximately 2 am on “Latin Night” at the club, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen began shooting the gay club’s patrons inside. During the subsequent 3-hour shooting-filled standoff with police, Mateen called 911 multiple times, identifying himself as “an Islamic soldier” and pledging his “allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.” Mateen killed 49 people and wounded another 53 more before being killed himself by law enforcement. The people of Orlando responded the next day by lining up to donate blood for the dozens of hospitalized victims, while multiple Chick-Fil-A locations set aside their corporate policy of being closed on Sunday in order to prepare and deliver free food to the lines of blood donors as well as first responders.
62 – On June 27, 2015, an unnamed street preacher stood among the festival goers at ComFest, a community street music festival in Columbus, Ohio. Flanked by a large “Jesus Saves From HELL” sign, the preacher loudly proclaimed the wages of sin to passers-by. Just one day prior, the US Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling same-sex marriage to be a constitutionally protected right nationwide. Zea Bowling, a 1st grader who was walking by on her way to buy pizza, stood with a tiny rainbow-colored gay pride flag in protest to the preacher. The scene of the screaming preacher and the silent child quickly went viral (8.6 million views on YouTube alone), reinforcing the cultural image of Christians as angry and hateful in the face of even small children when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.
64 – In 2010, members of the Marin Foundation began attending the Chicago Pride Parade as part of their “I’m Sorry” campaign. The purpose of this campaign is for Christians to counter the messages of judgment at gay pride parades with messages of love and, in particular, expressions of apology for, as one sign put it, “the way the Church has treated you.” This image of Foundation member and pastor Nathan Albert hugging a parade marcher quickly went viral, being shared over 34 million times. Two years later, it was the #1 image on BuzzFeed’s “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity” article, which has been viewed over 9 million times since it was published in 2012. This expression of Christian love has not gone unnoticed by the LGBTQ community.
65 – Leprosy was more than just a disease; it was a life sentence to perpetual isolation from meaningful human interaction and contact. The gospel of Mark records what happened when Jesus was confronted with a man suffering from leprosy: “Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” Jesus didn’t heal the leper at a distance. Jesus crossed the ultimate taboo line by physically touching this man, affirming his dignity as a human being worthy of connection.
68 – In 1998, an anonymous client hired Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, advertising firm The Smith Agency to develop a series of ads featuring short, conversational messages from God. The ads were to be placed on billboards along highways and roads throughout Broward County, Florida. A total of 17 messages were produced.