He captured the hearts of millions worldwide when he swam to Olympic history last August.  He achieved a phenomenon that will not be repeated maybe in several decades.  Young, hip, affluent now because of his lucrative endorsements, Michael Phelps is on top of his game.

Then this week saw  that horrific image of him taken at a party somewhere.  The sports hero sniffing marijuana.

A picture of a well-loved and well-admired athlete hurting millions of people who adored him.

But the world is in so much pain to really make a big fuzz about Michael’s error in judgment.  While Kellogg removed his endorsements, others  are simply waiting for the whole issue to die down, especially since the stimulus package of Barrack Obama is grabbing the headlines these days.

We have seen this many times. Our heroic athletes “betray” our perception of them when they commit mistakes that make us cringe and ask what in the world were they thinking?!

One of the things that athletes have not fully considered is the fact that they are being admired not just for some special talents or abilities. The admiration they are receiving comes from the humanity that is elated at the possibilities of someone just doing it brighter, someone doing it higher, faster and stronger….

Yes they are already this generation’s icons.

Michael Phelps need to understand that world-class athletes like him are admired for who he is – and not just some dissociated parts of what he is.

Last night, switching between CNN, FOX News and ESPN, I was trying to absorb all the the things that were happening all over the US and China.  The democrats are preparing for their Democrat Olympics in Denver and Beijing was still impressing the world with its closing ceremonies.

When the Olympic flag was transferred to the IOC chairman, who then gave it to the mayor of London – a funny thought ran across my mind. I wondered what he was thinking and how they will try to put up something as grandiose as Beijing.

The commentator said something that I barely heard but really made an impact.  When the flag was being given to the Mayor of London the narrator said “and the IOC Chairman encouraged London, that the focus is on the athletes.”

Before, during and at the closing of the Olympics, it seemed to me that the city of Beijing was really competing for attention against the athletes.  The city is the host for the Games – but the real stars should be the athletes.  I was waiting for documentaries of the athletes and their stories how they got to the Olympics and other inspiring stories – but there was none.  Rather a plethora of ads and Panasonic infomercials, the building of the Bird’s nest and The Cube, the unending smog, the closing of many factories just to lower the pollution index, and anything else about Beijing, rather than the athletes who make Olympics happen.

Every generation must remember the story of Jesse Owens and the German runner Lutz who even helped Owens and in the end, chanted his name during the 1932 Berlin Games, powerfully illustrating to the world that athleticism, brotherhood and friendship were really above any philosophical ideologies being espoused by the powers-that-be in Germany at that time.

I was waiting for something like this. Something more personal.  Something more lasting. We can study the architecture and inspiration of BIRD’s NEST for years to come, but the lives of the athletes are short and their colorful careers are passing. The lives of the people are more interesting, rather than the building and the facilities where the games were held.

During the Olympics, there were few stories that evoked inspiration.  Usain Bolt, dreaming, thinking and then deciding that it was possible to break the WR in Men’s relay.  The agony of the US team dropping their batons!  Michael Phelps breaking the records. Michael Phelps looking to his left to acknowledge his Mom, then turn to his right and saw President George Bush cheering him on as he won another gold for USA.  The athlete with disability who did well in the triathlon. The victory pose of Bolt with the Jamaican flag draped on his shoulders. The strain on the muscles as the gymnasts hit their different stations, the Australian diver who clinched a 112.70 score in the 10M platform dive beating the Chinese favorite diver…. these were the stories that should have been highlighted more than anything else.
This got me thinking about Church life as well.  It is like being invited to attend worship. And once inside the Church building, you hear testimonies upon testimonies of how the Church was built and the amount of money it took, the challenges they faced and where the materials came from.  Then someone spoke about the air-conditioning system in the hall and the filter designed to clean the air inside.  The music ministry talked about the quality of their instruments and the different music schools where their musicians came from.  The pastor came in and talked about the budget, the ministry programs, the plan for another church facilities across the road for sports and other outreach projects.

Then it was time to close.  There was loud and festive music celebrating the building and how beautiful it was. And then it was time to go.

There was no mention of someone who made it all possible. There was no mention of Jesus Christ, or our Savior who died on the cross that we might live.  The Church building was built so that the people may worship – but in the end, it was the builders, it was the building that was worshipped.

I had these feelings at the overall Beijing Games.  The Olympics turned out to be more about the host city than what the Games is all about.  It turned out to be this super “angsted” desire to showcase the city rather than its intended guests.

And thinking of Beijing Games made me realize that there are times when Church life is about what we have made with our hands, rather than what God has done because of His love.

The feeding of the lies…

August 21, 2008

I must have been suffering from a blogger’s block.  After writing the 100th post last week, it just sat there waiting to be followed by another blog this week.  Somehow I could not bring myself to write anything until a couple of minutes ago.

I noticed that the blog on YOU ARE MY HEALER has been getting a lot of hits recently, especially since yesterday.  A lot of people must be getting encouraged by the testimony of Mike Guglielmucci.

Until news articles confirmed that his cancer claims for the past two years have been false.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24216087-1246,00.html

That even his family members were really shocked at the unfolding events.

Needless to say, I am very baffled. Why a pastor needs to lie about his medical condition – and deceive the whole world?

While the message of the song IS STILL TRUE, I am afraid that the credibility of his witness would suffer for quite a long time.

Here are some of the lies that have really baffled me in recent months:

1. The photographer who took shots of what was supposed to be a “lost” tribe in Latin America, where there was a man covered in red ink in a warlike stance as the picture was taken.  Later on, this turned out to be a fraud.

2. Bigfoot fur remains – when thawed revealed that the whole BIGFOOT mystery was a FAKE. The fur was made of rubber materials.  Mystery is solved for all of us though.

3. Senator Edwards was also involved in an extramarital affair and it forever changed the image of him being an almost perfect husband and father.

4. Athletes caught in doping incidents even at the Olympics and other worldwide sporting events.

5. Gasoline companies declaring before the media that they are not earning enough and kept on jacking up the prices.  Well the price of crude oil is down to $114, yet the price of gasoline in this country has remained unbelievably high when it should have been lowered by more than P20 per liter at this time.

6. I don’t know who is lying when the Philippine government would report that the economy has gotten a lot better since the current President took office.  But millions of Filipinos are going hungry – and those who can still afford to buy food are now mostly eating noodles for viand along with their very cheap rice.  How can the economy be better when the inflation rate has been measured at 12.07% last June?

7. System generation loss of the electric companies. These people need to start being honest and not charge all these to the people who are the poor hapless consumers.  It is not the people who are causing the generation loss – but their faulty equipment, cables and other infrastracture.

8. Who is telling the truth in Mindanao?  When days after the ARMM elections, war broke out and these cruel and savage things are not even reported by the Philippine media? People are being killed and institutions are being burned yet it is not reaching the news channels in the cities.

9.  In the Georgian conflict, lies are being told in the worldwide body right there in the UN Security Council.  Russia has punished the “aggressor” but why is it taking too long for Russia to move out of Georgia? They are acting like the real aggressor with powerful words like “crush” the Georgian military.

We are surrounded by so many lies.  And unfortunately, if we are not careful, we may begin believing some of these as well:

Here are some of them:

1. Religious lies about the exclusivity of certain faith systems/church/denominations – where family members not following their strict religious codes are considered “polluted.”

2. Lies that make us feel and think that we are not worthy to be loved by God.

3. Lies that tell us that we can never be forgiven.

4. That we are not and will never be good enough.

5. Lies that measure our lives according to how much we have accumulated in our lives.

6. That happiness depends on our socio-economic status.

7. When sexual abusers deceive themselves into thinking that they are not responsible for the crimes they have committed.

8. The powerful lie that for the sake of the family’s financial well-being, sexual abuse victims should just remain silent.

9. Lies that tell us, that the Father is never pleased with us, and that He is some distant God who just watches us, uninvolved in our pains and miseries.

How about you? What are some of the lies that may have shaped or may have influenced you?  Sometimes, we do not want to accept the truth because the lie has become so deeply embedded in our thought process that it has become our “reality.”

John 8:32 states that we shall know the truth. And the TRUTH shall set us free.

May the loving Father of the truth gently reveals to us the lies in our lives that we may be set free into the absolute and objective reality of HIS TRUTH.

I am maybe alone in saying this. I did not enjoy the Opening of the Olympics.  But before you send me packing for my things and banish me somewhere let me tell you why.

I was in CEBU – and as China was impressing the whole world with its pageantry ( too long though!), I was in a small hotel in CEBU working on a powerpoint of my Boss for the following day.  I was tired from the previous sleepless nights and much as I wanted to sleep, I also felt the uneasiness being in a new surrounding.

I was thinking of the billions of dollars spent on just the Opening of the Games.  Too much money it seemed were poured to impress the whole world.  Well I felt that the whole world was on “intentional ignore” mode and Olympics while it was not supposed to be political, I could not help but feel it was already too politicized on the other extreme.

It was sad that nations come together and play sports, display unity when it is farthest from reality.  I started asking why do we have the Olympics after all?  How can we as humanity, ignore so many injustices, hunger and poverty and come together and play games and make it so ornate that it could lit up the whole city.  It seemed like the Olympics is the world’s anesthesia every four years.

The following day, tanks were rolling from Russia to Georgia.  I did not even hear of the place called South Ossettia before, now it is hugging the headlines and CNN broadcasting.  As the drums in Beijing were playing, as people were clapping their hands, Georgia was being destroyed by the Russian military.

In the past, I  enjoyed parts and pieces of the Olympic Opening Games, but this year, it seems like the whole WORLD IS GROANING MORE IN AGONY, only to be ignored because it is the OLYMPICS.  After the Olympics, it is going to be smoggy in BEIJING again as their millions of cars, and factories will be churning out smoke on a daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Olympics. I just don’t like it when the OLYMPICS are used to get us distracted from what the world leaders are supposed to be doing to help the plight of their people.

The rings of the Olympics are very poignant display of unity and interdependence.

I wish someday we would realize how much peace could be had when we really have unity not based on our ideologies, but based on the unity from our transformed hearts.