Playmobil Advent – Day Five

In seeking to establish a family Christmas tradition, this year my wife and I purchased a few Christmas and Nativity scene kits from Playmobil. Every day from now until Christmas Eve we will reveal more pieces and characters for our scene, tell a little bit more of the Christmas story, read a short passage of scripture, sing a Christmas Carol, and maybe enjoy a treat or two. I share this as a resource to other parents, and as a fun way of connecting.

Today’s character is from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Day 5 – Luke 2: 1-5

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Witness 2: The Reawakening

The relationship between Mennonites and the entertainment industry hasn’t always been a  good one. On the one hand, “we” (and I use that term loosely) haven’t always been happy with the morality of what appears on our screens.  On the other hand, we are often used as characters in their storylines that misrepresent us.  Today’s reality TV fascination with Mennonite/Amish/Hutterite lifestyle is a perfect example of this. They even use real Mennonite people and they still get it wrong.  I’ve writted up a few ideas for new and better Mennonite themed TV shows, and it was well recieved, but I still haven’t heard back from any studio people.

But this wasn’t always the case.  In 1985 Harrison Ford starred in the movie Witness. It told the story of a cop who found refuge in an Amish community while his corrupt superiors hunted him down.  This was a Hollywood movie with Hollywood values (if you attended a Mennonite church, you probably wouldn’t have been able to watch it in youth group), and yet it presented the Amish people in a positive light.

Witness also served a secondary role in Mennonite communities where if somebody asked you what it meant to be a Mennonite, you could point them toward that movie and then build from there to explain what it means to have Anabaptist Christian values in a contemporary world.  Unfortunately, this movie is fading from public memory, so it doesn’t serve that role well anymore.  Thankfully, the solution is obvious; it’s time for a sequel.

At first it might seem odd to film a sequel thirty years later, but stranger things happen.  Hollywood loves sequels and remakes these days for a variety of reasons.  There is a certain amount of guranteed income, assuming that fans of the original will be more likely to pay to see another version. It also requires less investment of energy and money in terms of generating new ideas.

So, here are the building blocks of the sequel to Witness:

  • Actors/Actresses that were in the original that would be available to be a part of the new film: Harrison Ford (John Book), Lukas Haas (Samuel), Kelly McGillis (Rachel), Patti LuPone (John’s sister Elaine) are all still alive and acting (with varying levels of success) and Viggo Mortensen was a relatively minor character in the story but his star has risen in Hollywood over the years as well
  • The Amish fiction genre has taken off in the meantime (even thought it’s cooled a little since then)
  • Anabaptist theology has become more popular in religious circles and pacifism is still an appealing concept

But there are still a few limitations:

  • Because of lobbying on behalf of the Pennsylvania Amish community, a promise was made to not allow film crews back to Amish communities. This promise was made after Witness as a way of trying to limit the intrusiveness of tourists on Amish property. It may or may not still be enforced.
  • Alexander Godunov, who played Daniel, the presumed future husband of Rachel, has died. He also played Karl in Die Hard. This loss is of course tragic on a personal level, but it also presents a number of storytelling limitations. Finding a replacement actor is always a step down in terms of quality.  If the husband dies off in real life, it is either extra grief on a character or presents some sort of black widow scenario.

So, here is the storyline as I see it (again, I am willing to discuss this with any producers that are interested 🙂 )

John Book moved on from the events in the first movie. He found a wife and started a family of his own. He has also joined an anti-corruption task force within the FBI.  In the meantime, Rachel married Daniel, as expected, but it wasn’t long before everything unravelled.  The suspicions about her that arose within the community never went away and her new husband treated her accordingly.  She had also developped a taste for the outside world.  After an argument, she takes Samuel and they leave their home and the community.  Rachel finds out about John’s marriage and doesn’t try to connect with him.  She finds regular work and writes as a hobby until she writes a novel and becomes part of the Amish fiction craze, which is where the movie picks up.

John’s wife, having heard of his time in the Amish community, is a regular reader of Amish fiction and finds a novel that bears striking resemblance to the story John told her.  She tries to track down the writer to see if it’s the same woman.

Samuel has now grown up, and after his first marriage ends in divorce he is struggling to find out who he is.  Despite his mother’s wishes, he returns to the community where he lived as a boy and because nobody else will break the ban he reconnects with his step-father’s brother Moses (played by Viggo Mortensen) for a short-lived stay in the area.

Meanwhile, John has busted a network of criminal activity in a major police force, and certain people are out for revenge.  They catch up with John’s wife just before she is able to meet up with Rachel, and kidnap her as bait to get back at John.  He has been so busy with his case that he had no idea his wife was trying to find Rachel, but the novel is the only he has to find out where she went.  He tracks down Rachel, and together they follow the clues to discover where his wife is being kept.

When John realizes that his wife was abducted in connection to the case he had been working on, he starts to worry about his daughter. Rachel then sends Samuel to look out for John’s daughter, who is attending a rural Mennonite church in California, and he finds his true spiritual awakening there.

John, Rachel and John’s newly freed wife return to meet up with the daughter (and Samuel), who is not yet out of harm’s way. Moses has heard what was happening, and he follows Samuel to California. In reconnecting with Rachel, Moses apologizes for what happened, and they fall in love. John and his wife grow closer, and while Samuel is too old to date John’s daughter, she faithfully leads him on his spiritual journey.

The bad guys of course meet their fate, delivered via a more or less non-violent confrontation, but there is just enough fighting to appease those movie-goers looking for that.

Again, the Mennonites are presented favourably and it pretty much still fits the formula of a Hollywood movie. Win-win.

Playmobil Advent – Day Four

In seeking to establish a family Christmas tradition, this year my wife and I purchased a few Christmas and Nativity scene kits from Playmobil. Every day from now until Christmas Eve we will reveal more pieces and characters for our scene, tell a little bit more of the Christmas story, read a short passage of scripture, sing a Christmas Carol, and maybe enjoy a treat or two. I share this as a resource to other parents, and as a fun way of connecting.

Today’s character is from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Matthew 1: 18 – 24 (TNIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Playmobil Advent – Day Three

In seeking to establish a family Christmas tradition, this year my wife and I purchased a few Christmas and Nativity scene kits from Playmobil. Every day from now until Christmas Eve we will reveal more pieces and characters for our scene, tell a little bit more of the Christmas story, read a short passage of scripture, sing a Christmas Carol, and maybe enjoy a treat or two. I share this as a resource to other parents, and as a fun way of connecting.

Today’s character is from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Luke 1: 26-35 (TNIV)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Playmobil Advent – Day Two

In seeking to establish a family Christmas tradition, this year my wife and I purchased a few Christmas and Nativity scene kits from Playmobil. Every day from now until Christmas Eve we will reveal more pieces and characters for our scene, tell a little bit more of the Christmas story, read a short passage of scripture, sing a Christmas Carol, and maybe enjoy a treat or two. I share this as a resource to other parents, and as a fun way of connecting.

Today’s character is from Playmobil kit #4887 and can be viewed/ordered here.

The Christmas story is full of angels.  Angels deliver messages from God to the people.  This angel’s name is Gabriel, and before he delivered a message to Mary or Joseph, he delivered a message to a priest named Zechariah.

Day 2 – Luke 1: 5-20 (TNIV)

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both well advanced in years.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Playmobil Advent – Day One

In seeking to establish a family Christmas tradition, this year my wife and I purchased a few Christmas and Nativity scene kits from Playmobil. Every day from now until Christmas Eve we will reveal more pieces and characters for our scene, tell a little bit more of the Christmas story, read a short passage of scripture, sing a Christmas Carol, and maybe enjoy a treat or two. I share this as a resource to other parents, and as a fun way of connecting.

Today’s character is from Playmobil kit #4887 and can be viewed/ordered here.

“Hello, my name is Nick. Some people call me St. Nicholas. Some people call me Father Christmas. In many languages, there are different names and stories about who I am. But a long time ago, before there were candy canes, or reindeer pulling a sleigh, or elves making gifts, there was a simple priest who gave gifts of toys or money to poor children and their families. I wear a preist’s hat and I carry a shepherd’s staff to show that I was a church leader and so I gave these gifts as a sign of my love for God. I also carry this Bible as a sign that I would tell people the story of Jesus.

So, everyday, as we get closer to Christmas, I will tell you the story of when Jesus was born and what that means to us.”

Today’s scripture reading is from the book of Isaiah, from a time when the people of God were waiting for their prayers to be answered, that God would send someone to rescue them.

Day 1Isaiah 40: 1-5 (TNIV)

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Remembrance, Interrupted

In hindsight, we probably should have been more prepared for it.  Between the four of us pastors, we had probably over sixty years of public speaking experience.  My more charismatic colleague has had more sermons interrupted than he cares to count  by a prophetic voice.  Our local veteran and our newly arrived veteran can also tell stories of various church services, community program and council meetings that were interrupted by a dissenting voice.  A few times I have even found myself surrounded by people who were preparing to further their cause of social justice by being that interrupting voice. I guess, for some reason, we thought that this couldn’t happen at a Remembrance Day service.

It is one of a declining number of community Remembrance Day services that invites Christian pastors to play a lead role, and believe me, we approach it with the respect and humility it deserves.  The program was going along quite well, if not maybe a little behind schedule, but we were doing and saying the right things.  The eleventh hour was approaching and the trumpet player was getting ready for last post. Suddenly, a lone voice at the back of the auditorium spoke up. With the spotlights facing our direction it was difficult to identify the man, but we could see that this was a man in some kind of uniform.

He went on to list of a number of Canadians killed in WWI who were not soldiers. In fact, he was quite sure that the first two official deaths and the last one, were not technically soldiers.  He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t disrespectful.  He simply thought that an important group of victims had not been mentioned. The man at the podium thanked him, and the program continued as planned.

Nobody seemed to mind. Maybe people thought it was planned. Maybe it was because he was senior in a uniform, and if there is any time in Canada when a senior in a uniform is given extra freedom, it’s November 11th. Still, I’ve seen less solemn gatherings turn hostile when a dissenter let their voice be heard, so I was surprised that the response was so peaceful.

Later, I chatted with the other pastors about the incident.  They admitted to being surprised, but also confused. Maybe we hadn’t included WWI merchant marines, but our tributes certainly hadn’t been exclusive to soldiers.  In my opening prayer, I mentioned soldiers returning with PTSD and their families, I mentioned governmental leaders and decision makers, and I asked for time when the rules of engagement would be guided by the love in soldier’s heart (rather than the normal chain of command).  The pastor giving the meditation was careful to use generic words like ‘sailor,’ to include those who were in the navy when their boats went down and those who weren’t, and ‘victim’ to include fighters (allies and enemies) and civilians. His message honoured everyone who put themselves in harm’s way and empowered everyone in the audience.  Finally, the group prayer included such a wide swath of victims that it was hard to imagine that he had left anyone out.  Despite all of our efforts toward inclusion, we were unable to remove the need for this interruption.

We could, in self-defense, write this man off as someone who is impossible to please.  Someone even suggested that he had perhaps made this kind of interruption in the past.  But maybe there is something more going on.  Remembrance Day ceremonies are full of processions and pagaentry, poetry and prayer, but are our carefully chosen words enough?

Is an hour and a half, once a year, enough to honour the soldiers who fought (and died) in what they believed was the pursuit of freedom and justice?  Is it enough to honour the sacrifices of an entire country in the pursuit of victory?  Is there room to include the long list of victims; the soldiers who died, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, sons and daughters left behind, the soldiers who returned with irreparable physical and emotional wounds, the innocent and loving family members who suffer abuse at the hands of those so emotionally scarred, the soldiers who died on the other side not knowing why they were even fighting, anyone relying on entire economies destroyed in the conflict, children of deceased soldiers who swear vengeance and carry hatred their whole lives, women who raise children without their fathers because of the war, women who are called in unwillingly to “comfort” the soldiers, those who suffer from the bombs and landmines left behind by the war, those whole societies who fear retribution, and the list could go on and on and on.

I now see that this man’s voice wasn’t simply an unnecessary part of an otherwise well orchestrated event, it was a necessary part of a perpetually inadequate gathering.  We will continue to remember, and when there is a part for me to play, I am happy to do so, but remembering cannot simply be an exercise of intellectual recall, it needs to be the first step in our efforts to bring peace into this world.

What is wrong with these people?

A week ago yesterday I got back from a trip to South Korea and Thailand. South Korea is a country I’ve lived in already for a few years, but this was my first trip to Thailand, making it the tenth country I have visited. I can without too much difficulty order food and ask for directions in four different languages, and on a good day I could understand the directions given to me in more than one of those languages. I have never refused foreign food that was offered to me. So, I like to think that I have a fairly high level of cultural sensitivity. My default approach is to say that each culture I visit and every custom I observe has something to teach me. I think travelling is pretty futile without that approach.

Sometimes though, that mindset slips back a bit. On just about every trip I take, there is a moment when I forget my place in the world. When I look down from the pillar I have built for myself and I ask, “What is wrong with these people?”  Now, before you shake your heads too easily at me, walk a mile in my “I bought these at a roadside stand because I only brought shoes from Canada” sandals.

There is something about sitting in an airplane for a long time, eating foreign food and bouncing around less than perfectly paved roads that helps me develop a keen eye for public bathrooms. It’s a scary sight though, when instead of a place to sit I find a porcelain lined hole in the ground. It is at these times that I ask myself, “What is wrong with these people?” Even though much of the world does it this way and it is actually much more efficient for the task, I feel entitled to a comfortable place to sit and tank of ten or more litres of fresh, clean, drinkable water that I can dispose of my leisure.

Maybe I just grew up sheltered from the realities of the world, but I have no idea where I would go in any Canadian or American city I’ve visited to find a prositute.  Granted, it likely wouldn’t be very hard if I started looking, but off the top of my head I don’t know where they are. But in more than one foreign city I have stumbled across these women and been absolutely certain about what profession they were in. One time I was in a car with a pastor and a school teacher who accidentally drove me through one of these areas and then sheepishly explained to me that this practice was illegal in their country. I was a little skeptical that these buildings which were designed and wired for the specific purpose of displaying their wares had somehow alluded the attention of local police. I look at these women and the infrastructure around them, and I ask myself, “What is wrong with these people?” Sure, we have the same industry in Canada, but they hide it, don’t they? Our police work harder to enforce those rules, don’t they? While prositution represents a smaller portion of our tourism industry, a close look at the local news and the classified section of the newspapers in our country’s largest cities will show you that we are in no position to condemn.

I make those comments about a business I’ve never and what I’m about to say within the context of a happy marriage. When I travel to other countries, I am constantly impressed by the women. Everywhere I go I meet incredible men doing incredible work, but as a whole, the women impress me more. They take advantage of new world opportunities, they pursue and gain new world education, and they enjoy and promote new world rights, but they go home to old world husbands, live out old world responsibilities and face old world limitations. Looking at their plight, I often wonder, “What is wrong with these people?” These women look at me and want to hear about Canada, a place where women don’t face the same limitations, where husbands don’t physically intimidate their wives and young women don’t define themselves by how they appear in men’s eyes. I want to hear about that version of Canada too.

When I travel, I like to bring gifts home for my family, but it is increasingly difficult to buy cultural gifts that aren’t just souvenir trinkets. If you can find cultural clothing, it’s irrevelevant because nobody wears it anymore. Main streets are crowded with western businesses selling western products and genuine local cuisine and cultural expressions are pushed farther and farther into the obscure. Sure, I think that people all over the world should be given a choice about what they can eat, what they can wear and what belief systems they can adopt, and sometimes those choices have to be presented to them from other places, but isn’t there still room to honour and uphold old cultural expressions? Whatever pride I had that this wasn’t the case in Canada came crashing down this week.  I returned on Thursday of last week and on Tuesday of this week I sat in on another session of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission in Calgary. Speaker after speaker told stories of how their cultural identity had been made to feel worthless, how their family structure had been depleted, and how they as human beings had been abused, neglected and discarded. This time when I ask “What is wrong with these people?” I need to ask that about myself and about the men who sold land to my ancestors that was not theirs to give.

I don’t know the way forward. The solutions to these culturally engrained problems are not easy, but they will not come from us blindly exporting our answers to them and they will not come from them or anyone closing their eyes and ears to the realities of the world around them. It is not whether their side or ours is correct, it is about how we walking side by side can arrive at the destination together.

New Mennonite Programming

It was recently announced that the DIY network will be airing a new TV show called “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish.” Of course, this comes as a huge disappointment to all those who hoped that reality programming based on the Amish, which is a pretty big segment of the population. It also comes as a huge blow to everyone hoping there wouldn’t be any more Vanilla Ice based programming, which covers pretty much everyone else. I could respond to the mainstream fascination with Amish lifestyle, but that would quickly head in a predictable direction.

I’m trying to be more positive these days, so I’ve come up with a few ideas of Mennonite themed TV shows that we actually do want to see.

Breaking Bread – a Mennonite pastor finds out he has terminal cancer and starts selling unpasteurized milk on the side to raise extra money. Does his new secret life harbour hidden dangers like the bacteria in the milk he sells or is he simply freeing himself from needless religious and governmental restrictions?

Not Dancing with the Stars – a TV crew follows around a group of Mennonite young people who visit high end night clubs and try to demonstrate to their contemporaries that they can have fun without dancing. Episodes usually end with the group putting up non-violent resistance when the bouncers seek to remove them from the club.

The Shame of Thrones – an HBO history style show. The story of Münster, a city of apocalyptic expectation, exclusive political and religious practice, vanity and struggle for superiority, and what late-night TV audience wants, wanton sexuality. (This one isn’t really a joke, this story is made for this genre of TV history. Historical details had to be altered to make the Tudors and the Borgias sexy, but this story is ripe for the picking.)

Mad Mennonites – a travelling deacon/conference minister visits various Mennonite congregants who are demonstrating far too much agression to be in good standing with their spiritual or birth families and are either on the verge of being shunned or are already being viciously gossiped about (or both).

Boardgame Empire – a home-schooling family designed their own boardgame and travel North America trying to find buyers for their game and keeping up their education as they travel.

Downtown Abbotsford – a hidden camera show where residents of British Columbia’s Mennonite Bible belt are presented with moral scruples while their pastors sit in a van and watch the action/inaction unfold on TV screens.

The Voices – a choir director at a Mennonite college is trying to assemble his ensemble for the year. The contestants try to demonstrate the right amount skill, personality and lack of personality that the panel is looking for in a Mennonite college choir member. The panel consists of the choir director, college president, the wife of the school’s biggest donor, and the diva from the previous year’s choir that couldn’t get a job with her music degree and so she has nothing better to do with her time. (Rejected name: The MezzoSupranos)

Any TV networks interested in developing these ideas should indicate so in the comments.

I forgave Ben Johnson

Twenty-five years ago this week our country was in turmoil. There was only one thing we wanted to hear about on the news and there was only one thing we discussed at the coffee shop. Even on the playground at my elementary school, all we wanted to talk about was how much we hated Ben Johnson.  Only a few days before, of course, he was our greatest hero. His monumental victory at the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics was our victory too. His enemy, the cocky Carl Lewis, was our enemy too. So when Ben tested positive for use of performance enhancing substances and his medal was stripped away, it was as though Ben had allowed our enemy to celebrate. The joy we felt in the moment of his win was turned to agony and was stretched out for weeks and months after that.

In the time that followed, we as a nation became quite introspective. We wanted to know just how rampant this kind of drug use was among our athletes. Other countries were happy to believe that their programs were fine, but our international reputation had been scarred and we needed to fix that. We interviewed doctors, coaches and doctors. A number of atheletes came forward and admitted their drug use. They publicly recognized the impact their behaviour had on us, their fan base, and they apologised. They told stories of broader drug use and an internationally corrupt system, but we didn’t believe them and while we may have heard their apologies, we certainly didn’t forgive them.

More recently the sports world has had to come to grips with drug use in cycling.  A similar hero admitted to using similar substances which was followed by a similar scandal. In the years since 1988, six of the eight runners in that 100m dash final have had positive drug tests.  The skeptics would say that we can no longer assume that our athletes are all clean. But it certainly paints a clearer picture of the world that Ben Johnson was competing in.

Some would say that he doesn’t deserve it, but I have forgiven Ben Johnson. After all, he apologised. He later repeated his mistake and coached others to do the same, but he has punished for his transgressions, and then some. We were wrong to hold him up on a pedastal like we did, and when he fell off of it, we were wrong to kick him while he was down. I think any of us as parents, teachers or community leaders can identify with the risks of being held up too high and the grace required when one does not live up to unrealistically high expectations.

I think he has some more apologising to do, but I would be willing to forgive Lance Armstrong too. For a long time, he would aggressively defend himself against any accusations of his drug use and now he has admitted that it was all true. For all of those who put their faith in him, forgiveness will be difficult.  For all those left in the wake of his compulsive self-defense mechanisms, forgiveness will be a long journey. From the outside though, I see in his defensiveness the same patterns of deception that all of us are capable of when we too are caught in a lie. When we try to be alone at the top of the ladder, we will find that the bottom is even lonelier.

The greater question, though, is,  “Can I forgive Carl Lewis?” While some suggest otherwise, officially he has nothing to apologise for. Even if he did, the greater problem is the resent in my heart. There is a quote that says, “Forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free, and then realizing that the prisoner is you.”

For all of the Ben Johnsons, Lance Armstrongs and Carl Lewis’ in your life and for their adequate and inadequate apologies, it is important for all of us not to live in that past, but to look toward a future free of the burden of resent that we all carry.