Posts tagged ‘Year in Review’

2018 in Review

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Another year is drawing to a close.  Here’s a look back at some of the stories that caught my attention in 2018.

January
President Trump sparks a controversy by making, behind closed doors, vulgar comments about places like Haiti and Africa, and expresses concern about accepting immigrants from nations like these.  His comments are part of a long-running debate and disagreement over the kind of immigration policy this country should pursue.

February
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is shot up by a gunman who kills 17 and wounds 14.  The shooting gives rise to rallies across the country that debate the efficacy of stricter gun control policies.

March
A mystery bomber sparks terror across the city of Austin by leaving and mailing package bombs to apparently randomly selected people across the city.  As law enforcement officials close in on the subject, he blows himself up, killing himself and injuring a police officer.

April
The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, travels to Washington DC to testify before Congress and answer questions about how his company protects users’ data and what it did to stop Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

May
The nation of Ireland, which has been historically informed by Roman Catholicism in its national stances on various moral issues, votes to legalize abortion-on-demand when it votes to repeal the Eighth Amendment to its Constitution.

June
Two celebrities, Kate Spade, an iconic fashion designer, and Anthony Bourdain, a foodie and CNN adventurer, tragically take their own lives.  The suicide rate across the country continues to rise.

July
Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement, effective the end of the month.  A so-called “swing” vote on the Supreme Court, his retirement sparks many questions and debate about who will replace him.

August
The New York Times publishes a bombshell report chronicling the abuse of over 1,000 children in the Dioceses of Pennsylvania by over 300 priests there.

September
Confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the man to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, explode after he is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while in high school.  He is eventually confirmed.

October
In the scope of one week, a bomber sends a series of explosive packages to public detractors of the president, and a gunman, armed with an AR-15 and three rifles, walks into a synagogue in Pittsburgh on the Sabbath and kills eleven.

November
The midterm elections are held.  Republicans keep and increase their lead in the Senate while Democrats flip the House of Representatives and give themselves a comfortable majority, leading many to describe the election as a “blue wave.”

December
The 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, passes away.  A state funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington DC is held in his honor.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy year.  There were many more stories I wrote about that I didn’t include in this brief retrospective.  Along with the above stories, in 2018, the famed televangelist Billy Graham died, a columnist for the Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi, was brutally murdered, a famous evangelical pastor had to step down after accusations of sexual impropriety surfaced in the Chicago Tribune, two major hurricanes crashed into continental United States, the deadliest and most damaging wildfires ever ravaged the state of California, the Hawaiian volcano Kilaeua spewed lava and destroyed homes, the US moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the stock market took us on a wild ride.

So, what can we learn from all of these stories?  Here are a few thoughts.

First, there is a lot outside of us we cannot control.  From volcanos that erupt to hurricanes that flood to wildfires that scorch, the year’s events remind us that, for all our technological achievements and manpower, there is plenty we cannot control.  Indeed, there are many natural disasters to which we cannot even adequately respond.  The limits of our power should keep us humble in the face of the cosmos.  It is big.  We are small.

Second, there is a lot inside of us we cannot control.  Mass shootings, dangerous bombings, accusations of sexual harassment, and tragic suicides have become commonplace events.  Evil is grimly efficient, it seems, at infecting and overtaking people.  It is difficult to stop tragedy when it turns out that the perpetrator of the tragedy is us.

Third, all this means we need something or someone bigger than the cosmos’s brokenness and bigger than human sinfulness.  We need a Crafter of the cosmos to step in and reorder what has gone wrong.  We need a Helper for humanity to step in and rescue us from our willingly wicked ways.  In short, we need Jesus.  2018 needed Jesus.

My guess is 2019 will need Him, too.  So let’s not only hope for a good new year, let’s pray for one.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your blessings in 2019. We ask You to guide us in righteousness in 2019 and guard us from sinfulness. Protect us from calamity, foster in us charity, and give us hearts that live in light of eternity.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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December 31, 2018 at 5:15 am 2 comments

2017 in Review

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2017 is officially history.  And what a whirlwind of a year it was.  As we gear up for what will more than likely be another fast-paced year in 2018, it is worth it to reflect on some of the biggest news stories of this past year and ask ourselves, “What lessons can we learn from what we’ve experienced?”  After all, though the news cycle is continually churning out new tragedies, scandals, stresses, and messes to capture our immediate attention, the lessons we learn from these stories should linger, even if the stories themselves do not.  Wisdom demands it.  So, here is my year in review for 2017.

January

By far, the biggest story of January was the inauguration of Donald J. Trump into the office of President of the United States.  After a campaign that was both contentious and raucous, many were on edge when he was inaugurated.  As our nation increasingly fractures along partisan lines, Mr. Trump’s presidency continues to inspire both sycophantic adoration and overwrought incredulity.

February

A debate over immigration led the headlines in February as fallout over President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from nations with known terror sympathies – including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – came fast and fierce. The president’s travel ban was, until very recently, the subject of endless court battles.

March

The headlines jumped across the Atlantic in March when Khalid Masood, a British-born citizen apparently inspired by online terrorist propaganda, drove an SUV into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge, leaving four dead and forty injured.  After crashing his vehicle outside Parliament, he ran, fatally stabbing a police officer before he was fatally shot by law enforcement.

April

In one of the strangest stories of the year, Vice-President Mike Pence was both criticized and, at times, even mocked for refusing to dine alone with any woman who was not his wife or one of his close relatives.  Many people interpreted his boundary as needlessly prudish.  Mr. Pence viewed it as a wise way to guard his integrity.

May 

Another story of terror echoed through the headlines in May, this time in Manchester, England, when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated himself at an Ariana Grande concert leaving 22 dead and 59 wounded.

June

The terrorist attacks continued in June as seven were killed and another 48 were wounded in London when a vehicle barreled into pedestrians on London Bridge.  Three attackers then emerged to go on a stabbing rampage.  Also, Steve Scalise, the majority whip for the House of Representatives, was seriously wounded when 66-year-old James Hodgkinson opened fire during a congressional baseball game.

July

President Trump and Pope Francis offered to provide medical care for the family of Charlie Gard, a baby born with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.  A judge in the UK, where the Gard family resides, ordered that Charlie be taken off life support because he saw no hope for Charlie’s recovery, which prompted the president’s and the pope’s overtures.  Charlie was eventually removed from life support and passed away.

August

James Alex Fields killed one person and injured nineteen when he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter-protesters at an event called “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was protesting a decision by the city to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  Hurricane Harvey also ripped through Texas, devastating the Coastal Bend, the Houston area, and the Golden Triangle on the Texas-Louisiana border.

September

Hurricane Irma churned its way across Cuba, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, and, finally, Florida, leaving mass devastation in its wake.

October

The worst mass shooting in American history took place when James Paddock broke the window in his hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and fired onto a crowd of country concert goers below, killing 59 and injuring hundreds.  In a much more heartwarming moment, the Christian Church celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

November 

On the heels of one mass shooting came another – this time at a tiny church outside San Antonio in Sutherland Springs.  26 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on the congregants inside in the middle of a Sunday service.  A sexual assault epidemic also broke wide open, as man after man – from Hollywood moguls to politicians to television news personalities – were revealed to have engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior.

December

Devastating wildfires ripped through southern California, scorching thousands of acres and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate.

These are only a few of the stories from 2017.  There are, of course, countless others that I did not mention.  So, what is there to learn from all these stories?

First, when I compare this year in review with others I have written, I am struck by how, in the words of Solomon, there really is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Other years have featured other terrorist attacks, natural disasters, mass shootings, and political upheavals.  Even the freshly revealed charges of sexual assault chronicle things that happened years, if not decades, ago.  The news cycle seems to have a certain, sordid rhythm to it.  The news may be saddening, but I’m not so sure it’s surprising.

Second, if anyone ever needed a bit of empirical verification of the biblical doctrine of human depravity, the news cycle would be a good place to find it.  Both the drumbeat of dreariness in our news cycle and the fact that we, as a matter of course, are often more riveted by horrific stories than we are by uplifting ones are indications that something is seriously wrong in our world.

Finally, at the same time the news cycle testifies to human depravity, it must not be forgotten that, regardless of how bad the news cycle gets during any given year, hope seems to spring eternal for a better set of stories in the coming year.  Yes, we may brace ourselves for the worst.  But this cannot stop us from hoping for the best.  Such a hope is a testimony to the fact that God has “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – an eternity when everything that is wrong in this age will be set right in the next.  We cannot help but yearn for that age to come.

So, here’s to hoping for a grand 2018.  Yes, the news cycle may indeed take a turn toward the sour, but we also know that God has promised a new age to come, even if we do not yet know its day or hour.

January 1, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

2016 in Review

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It’s difficult to believe, but another year has come and gone.  Before we chug full steam ahead into 2017, I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on the year that was.  Whenever I look back over what I have written over the course of a year on this blog, I am always amazed – and a little disturbed – by how much I have forgotten.  Thus, it seems worth it to look back and linger a bit longer on 2016, lest we file away some important lessons from this year into the dusty rolodex of our fleeting historical memories too quickly.  So, here is my Year in Review for 2016.

January
The biggest Powerball jackpot ever, valued at $1.5 billion, goes up for grabs.  People across the country flock to convenience stores to buy their ticket, even though the chances of winning the jackpot stand at 1 in 292,201,338.

February
Fear of the Zika virus sweeps the nation as a woman in Dallas contracts the disease. Justice Antonin Scalia, a fierce proponent of Constitutional originalism, passes away, leaving a vacancy on the high court and an even split between more conservative and more progressive justices that remains to this day.

March
Terror strikes Brussels, Belgium as two coordinated attacks – one at the airport and another on a subway – are carried out simultaneously, killing 32.

April
A bathroom brouhaha erupts as retail giant Target announces it will allow “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”  Massive boycotts of the chain ensue and concerns are raised over the misuse of the policy by predators.

May
Art Briles, head coach of the Baylor Bears football team, is dismissed after he is implicated in cover-ups of sexual assaults by his players.  The University’s president, Ken Starr, also leaves the institution in connection with the mishandling of the assaults.

June
Omar Mateen opens fire in an LGBT-frequented Orlando nightclub, killing 50 and injuring 50 more.  In a stunning electoral surprise, Britons vote to leave the European Union 52% to 48% in what has popularly become known as “Brexit.”

July
Police officers shoot black men in Baton Rouge and Saint Paul and five police officers are killed in Dallas by people protesting these shootings.  The next week, 84 people are killed when a terrorist drives a large, white paneled truck into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, 290 people are killed in a failed coup against the president of Turkey, and three more police officers are killed in Baton Rouge by a sniper.

August
More than 50 people are killed in Istanbul when a 14-year-old suicide bomber walks into a wedding party and blows himself up.

September
Nicholas Kristof pens a column in The New York Times issuing a call to rethink Christianity as a faith free from many of its traditional beliefs, such as opposition to abortion and an affirmation that marriage is between a man and woman.

October
After decimating Haiti and Cuba, Hurricane Matthew strikes Florida and slowly moves up the eastern seaboard.  About 1,600 people are killed by the massive storm.

November
Donald Trump wins the presidential election over Hillary Clinton after taking many of the so-called “rust belt” states that, for the past several election cycles, have traditionally gone to Democratic candidates.

December
Fidel Castro, the longtime brutal dictator of the island nation of Cuba, dies.  The Russian ambassador to Turkey is shot by a Turkish police officer in Istanbul while, on the same day, a Tunisian refugee drives a semi-truck into an open-air Christmas market in Berlin, killing twelve.

As I look back over the list of stories I blogged on this year, a few thoughts come to mind.  First, the violence of this past year has been horrifying.  From terrorist attacks to assassinations to sexual assaults, there is no shortage of violent acts in our world.  Indeed, this new year has already brought new violence with a New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in Istanbul that killed 39 and injured many more.  Second, the political season of 2016 has been a thing to behold.  On this blog alone, I wrote about issues pertaining to this year’s presidential election here, here, here, here, and here.  Politics was certainly front of mind for many.

What strikes me about these two themes in particular is that whether the stories were about violence or politics, these themes shared a common denominator – that of power.  In the case of violence, acts of terrorism, for instance, seek to gain power by striking fear into the hearts of societies.  People live on edge, never knowing when, where, and how a terrorist will strike.  The terrorists gain power by “getting inside the heads,” as it were, of communities and nations.  In the case of politics, it is obvious that the United States is painfully divided.  Whether it is cast as a division between red states and blue states, the seaboards and middle America, or traditional America and progressive America, there is a pitched battle to define this nation, with each side fiercely fighting for its own interests.

As I wrote on this blog last weekend, power is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it can be used badly.  Rightly used, power is a gift from God to be stewarded.  But we all too often assume it’s a weapon of our own to be wielded.  In other words, we are called to use whatever power we may be given to first serve others instead of serving ourselves.  If the stories from 2016 are any indication, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to stewarding power appropriately.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the stories from this past year is how impotent our potency ultimately proves to be.  The spread of the Zika virus and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew are sobering reminders that there is still much we do not and cannot control.  What is true of these disasters is also true of the future.  We cannot control what 2017 will bring.  So perhaps the best posture to take as we head into a new year is one of humility toward the future and faith in the One who holds the future.  He knows what is in store for us.  And He will take care of us.

January 2, 2017 at 5:15 am 2 comments


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