Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is anyone Guilty anymore?

I posted these thoughts earlier on a group blog that I'm a part of. I decided to expand those thoughts a little here.

Harold Reynolds plans to sue ESPN. Reynolds, a former analyst for Baseball Tonight, was fired (I believe) because he "allegedly" sexually harrassed a female co-worker at ESPN. "Allegedly," this was not the first incident. Therefore, he was dismissed. He denies the allegations, however, and plans on clearing his name.

(FWIW, Reynolds was my favorite ESPN personality. I love watching Baseball Tonight, and the show has not been the same without him. Guilty or not guilty, I hope he lands on his feet on some other baseball program, because the guy is fun to watch.)

My question is this: Is anyone guilty anymore? It seems that the order of our society is plausible deniability. Rafael Palmeiro didn't do steroids -- he tested positive due to sharing needles with Miguel Tejada, who gave him a B-12 shot. Floyd Landis never knowingly took steroids -- it was the alcohol he drank, the supplements he took, or any other of the half-dozen excuses he gave. Kenny Rogers didn't have pine tar on his hand -- that brown smudge you saw on TV was "dirt." John Kerry wasn't talking about all the troops who are honorably placing their lives on the line -- he was talking about George W. Bush.

In the immortal words of Cousin-Kissing John Stossel: "Give me a BREAK!"

I know it's shameful to confess and to admit that you did or said something wrong. But why don't people just own up & do it? And certainly, not all the publicly accused are necessarily guilty. But for the ones who are, honesty has become the last resort.

This frustrates me. I'm sick & tired of people peeing on my shoes & telling me that it's rain.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Power 12: The Halloween Edition

1.) Ohio State -- Kicking butt & taking names.

2.) Michigan -- Could get bumped if West Virginia looks impressive enough against Louisville.

3.) West Virginia -- It's all or nothing for the Mountaineers this Thursday.

4.) Texas -- Had a scare Saturday. Forgot to show up in the 1st quarter, putting themselves in a 3-touchdown hole. Came back & took care of business.

5.) Auburn -- They are here by default. None of the one-loss teams are really impressive right now. There is a huge drop off from 3 to 4.

6.) Florida -- Put on their disappearing act again, this time against hapless Georgia. They were lucky to win.

7.) Notre Dame -- Would be disappointed if they don't win out.

8.) Tennessee -- Rocky Top rolled through Carolina. Now the Bengal Tigers come to town.

9.) Southern Cal -- Can I say it? I TOLD YOU SO! Trojans stink. I'm keeping them where I've been rating them the last several weeks.

10.) LSU -- Another big game this Saturday. Will they once again come up small?

11.) Wisconsin -- Survived against the fighting Zook's.

12.) Boston College -- Owns victories over both coaching Bowden's this season.

Dropped Out: Clemson -- Horrible showing on ESPN Thursday. Classic let-down game after beating Georgia Tech at home with ESPN Gameday in the house, they go on the road to Blacksburg, VA & lay an egg. High octane offense, but not yet a mature team.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chasing Rabbits

My friend Matthew asked with a recent blog of his, "What rabbits have you chased lately?" There are subtle threads woven throughout the fabric of scripture that are fun to follow if you are deliberate about following them. So, faithful blog readers, for your obscure Bible passage(s) of the week: rabbit chasing.

One came up tonight in Bible Study. In the adult class on Wednesday nights at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ, we are studying Acts. Tonight ... end of Acts 4 & beginning of Acts 5. Barnabas & Ananias and Sapphira. I love how "the folks" tiptoed around giving -- "well of course this means we aren't supposed to give EVERYTHING away." Fun stuff.

Anyway, Ananias & Sapphira can be a disturbing story that is difficult to understand. But something clicked with me tonight as I read it. One of the themes that Luke develops in Acts is that of Giving God Glory. Luke very carefully shows that one of the greatest sins is that of failing to give God his due.

This is why Herod was killed in Acts 12. Herod spoke, and the people cried out, "The voice of a god and not of a man! 23And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died." Herod should have deflected and not accepted such praise. How interesting that God killed this man for a sin of omission.

And then, soon after this, we have the story of Paul & Barnabas in Lystra in Acts 14. Paul heals a man. So we pick up in verse 12. "12And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. [...] 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the Heaven and the Earth and the sea and all that is in them." Their response was the proper one. They gave glory to God. And so the worms were held at bay.

So what does Ananias & Sapphira have to due with giving God glory? Well, you know how we have figures of speech in language? It clicked with me & I remembered that Jews had a figure of speech about giving God glory. Dr. Ken Neller taught it to me in my 3rd semester Greek Readings class at Harding. It occurs twice in Scripture:

John 9:24. The man who was born blind was healed by Jesus & being brought before a council of Pharisees. '24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner."' What they are saying is this: "Come clean. Tell us the truth. What really happened to you?" But the figure of speech isn't "Come Clean," it is "Give Glory to God."

Joshua 7:19. Achan has sinned, and Joshua is trying to discover the truth. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me." Joshua isn't saying, "Go sing some songs to God, and then come tell me the truth." With there being so much repetition in this text, it's like Joshua is channeling Tom Cruise: "I WANT THE TRUTH!"

So, back to Ananias & Sapphira. What was their sin? It isn't that they didn't give all they earned from the selling of their land. It was lying about it. And by lying, they were not giving God his due glory. I have little doubt that this figure of speech was in Luke's mind when he wrote this down, and that "Theophilus" was able to pick up on it while reading this story.

So there you go. Give glory to God and you'll avoid being food for worms.

I pity the poor soul whose wife reads this blog. "Honey, give glory to God: does this make me look fat?"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Something Frivolous, brought to you by YouTube

YouTube is becoming one of my favorite web sites. Anyways, you might have already seen this music video. But if you haven't, this is fun! :)

I especially enjoy watching the "big-boned" fellow with the pink shirt, buttoned-up sweater vest, white shoes, black-rimmed glasses, bald head, and obscenely big sideburns. He seems to be having the most fun of all four of those guys.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Power 12: The Birthday Edition

1. Ohio State -- blah blah blah. They are the best.

2. Michigan -- Slept a little through their game against Iowa, but made it look quasi-impressive on the scoreboard in the end. On a collision course with the Buckeyes.

3. West Virginia -- Rich Rodriguez, the man who used to make Tommy Bowden look like a genious, continues to put the best offense in college football on the field.

4. Texas -- Gutted one out on the road against a surprisingly tough Nebraska team.

5. Clemson -- This is a GOOD football team. They could beat Auburn. Big test this week -- they have a short week to prepare for a Thursday game against Virginia Tech.

6. Auburn -- Best of the SEC right now.

7. Florida -- Could wipe the floor with Georgia this Saturday in Jax.

8. Notre Dame -- Continues to struggle with bad teams. They won't earn points in the Power 12 for that.

9. Southern Cal -- Like the Irish, they've struggled with BAD football teams.

10. Tennessee -- Alabama proved that Erik Ainge can be rattled & that the Tennessee offense can be significantly slowed down. Defense is average, which apparently is plenty good enough to shut down 'Bama. Sad state of affairs for my Tide ...

11. LSU -- They've played six opponents at home and outscored them 274-36.

12. Wisconsin -- Earn their way into the Power 12 by playing well week in & week out. Their one loss was to #2 Michigan.

Dropped out: Louisville -- Not a good football team the last two weeks. Victory over Miami looks less impressive week after week.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

October Magic

By a large margin, my favorite month of the calendar year is October. There are a variety of reasons why. For firsts, it is when humidity disappears and the air turns cooler. It gives you an instant natural high just to step outside & take a breath of air. Also, in October, it is my birthday, meaning I usually get free stuff. For you, my precious blog readers, there is still time. My birthday is Monday the 23rd. So get crackin'! And, as well, October is one of the greatest months of college football. You have border-war matchups like Oklahoma-Texas, Florida-Georgia, and Alabama-Tennessee. The season is in full swing, teams are playing at their best, and it is this month that separates the contenders from the pretenders.

And as singularly great as each one of those are, my favorite thing about this month is October baseball. There is nothing more edge-of-your-seat, pump-your-fist, yell-out-loud exciting than a playoff baseball game. There are are rivals, to be sure: back-nine of the Masters, college football rivalry games, March Madness. But for my money, it's October baseball.

Some may say that better athletes play football & basketball; I say that there is no more difficult task in all of sports than hitting a baseball off of a major league pitcher. Some may say that the games are slow; I say that it's just that the drama is building. And some may say that other sports are just more exciting; I say that no other sport produces the kind of "magic" that baseball produces.

Big Papi
Come on! I couldn't talk baseball and not mention this guy!
October makes great players, like Kirby Puckett and Joe Carter, into legends. Beyond heroes. Legends. It was one October a couple years ago that David Ortiz became more than that big oaf who hit homeruns -- he became "Big Papi." It was in the Fall Classic that Reggie Jackson became even more than "Reggie" -- he became "Mr. October."

It's in October that old pitchers can sometimes dig way down deep & recapture that old greatness, like Jack Morris in his 10 shutout innings in Game 7 of the '91 Series. It's also in October that young flamethrowers emerge, like when Josh Beckett silenced Yankee bats in Yankee Stadium in the 2003 World Series.

October is when Kirk Gibson limped into history. Off of one of the greatest closers of all-time, no less: Dennis Eckersley. It's when Curt Schilling pulled off a real-life Roy Hobbs-like performance -- blood seaping through the uniform and all. Only Schilling's performance lasted batter after batter after excruciating batter. And not just once, but TWICE: against the Yankees AND against the Cardinals.

You can't write these scripts. The Red Sox coming back from an 0-3 deficit in a 7 game Series ... after losing game three 19-8 ... forcing not just one, but TWO Mariano Rivera blown saves. Give me a break. Right? The wrinkled old washed-out, burned-out manager returning to coach a group of underachievers, "has-been's," & "never-will-be's" with a franchise that lost a league-record 119 games just a few seasons ago. THEY put the pieces together for a World Series run? You can't make this stuff up.

It's a month that makes life-long memories with unfamiliar names. Names like Bill Mazeroski, Francisco Cabrera, Luis Gonzalez, and Aaron-Bleeping-Boone. It's a month that makes goats out of Mitch Williams & Bill Buckner. The Fall Classic has intimately intersected with some of our nation's tragedies. The Giants and Athletics played in the midst of a devastating Bay Area earthquake in '89. The Yankees brought life to a city that had felt lifeless after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Yankee Killer Luis Gonzalez
And if there is an unpredictable sport out there, Major League Baseball is it. This October we will crown the seventh different franchise "World Series Champion" in the last seven years. And of all the teams to make the Series ... the Tigers & the Cardinals? If you had put money on this Series pairing three weeks ago, you could have made a bunch of money. Detroit, who led the AL Central ALL season, limped down the stretch, sacrificing their pennant and earning a playoff spot only by sake of the wildcard. And the Cardinals lost 7 games in a row in one stretch in the last 2 weeks of the season. They very nearly missed the playoffs entirely! And now they find themselves on the greatest stage in sports.

We have already seen a little playoff magic already. Kenny Rogers has rejuvenated his reputation entirely. After 2005, you could have stuck a fork in this guy. Who would want HIM? He is notoriously undependable. He always fades down the stretch, when you need a pitcher most in a pennant race. And he has always flopped in the playoffs, never more famously than in this moment in the 1999 NLCS. Not only that, but he seemed to prove himself nothing more than a hot-head jerk when he assaulted a hometown cameraman in 2005 with Texas. But NOW, Kenny Rogers is capturing the imagination of the baseball world. With every nail-biting pitch against New York & Oakland, you were hoping for just one more strikout. One more chance to see Kenny pump his fist and slap his glove. Will Kenny find more magic this coming week?

And what about Jeff Weaver? Talk about a come-back story! The journey-man head-case, errr, pitcher. The Los Angeles Angels basically dropped him from their roster this season. And now he is one of the Cardinals' most dependable starting pitchers headed into the World Series? It's gotta be that October Magic ...

We've seen Magglio Ordonez live the dream of every young baseball player. "Two outs. Bottom of the 9th inning. He connects ... ... long fly ball ... deep left field ... and ... it's ... OUTTA HERE! Three run homerun, and the Tigers are going to the World Series!" Ordonez is so happy when he sees his first-base coach it's almost as if he momentarily forgot that he had to round the bases. The guy on second, Placido Polanco, doesn't just trot home; he SKIPS home, like an exuberant little kid.

And that's really the point. October baseball can make you feel like a little kid again. "It's as if you've dipped yourself in magic waters," and you believe that the impossible CAN really, actually happen. When the world beats you down, the humidity wears you down, & you feel like you're just about to turn completely cynical, October baseball arrives and lets you believe in magic again.

Jim Edmonds
Will Jim Edmonds recapture the Magic?
Can the Detroit Tigers consummate their magical run? Or will Scott Rolen, or Jim Edmonds, or any other of the wounded Cardinals capture lightning in a bottle & become the next Kirk Gibson? Will Albert Pujols become a legend? Or will the next Francisco Cabrera step into the up to the plate and shock the world? Will Kenny Rogers continue channelling Jack Morris? Will Justin Verlander become the next Josh Beckett? Or will it be young Cardinal Anthony Reyes who shocks the world with his young arm? Will Tony La Russa shrug off the image of being just a great regular season manager and finally add another World Series title to his resume? Or will Jim Leyland complete his redemption story? Who knows! But I can't wait to find out what that October Magic has in store for us this week.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spread It Out Before the Lord

In Isaiah 36, we come to learn that Jerusalem is in trouble. Assyria has already invaded & conquered the Northern Kingdom. And now they have Jerusalem in their cross-hairs. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, has commissioned one of his Generals to go and deliver Jerusalem to him.

The Assyrians threaten the Israelites with their strength and make seemingly-logical arguments for why they should surrender. Finally, entering chapter 37, they send a letter to Judah's King, Hezekiah, insulting his God & threatening his future. And then, this:

14Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15Hezekiah prayed to the LORD [...]

I really don't have a sermon to preach tonight. Just admiration of Hezekiah's act. I love that image: the connection of the physical letter & the spiritual God. I love that example: without hesitation, he took his needs to his God.

And I love the ending. You should check it out. I'm not going to spoil it for you. Start in Chapter 36, and see what happens when you take your troubles & spread them out before the Lord.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

THIS is Alabama Football: The Running Diary

Bill Simmons, ESPN's "The Sports Guy," often keeps running diaries of significant sports events & posts them on ESPN.com. And since apparently none of my blog ideas are original (because I "copied" Bob, who invented the incredibly fresh idea of ranking college football teams!), I decided to give all of you a peak into what a Saturday afternoon is like as an Alabama football fan. I warn you. It's not pretty.

So, without further ado, my running diary of this past Saturday's Alabama-Ole Miss game.

2:30 PM (Central Time) -- OK! And welcome to the diary. Alabama is favored by 15 today, which of course means we will play down to the level of our opponent, make a slew of mistakes, and win by a field goal. Let's get it on!

2:33 -- CBS just finished a nice montage highlighting the football history and tradition of Alabama and Ole Miss. The actual subliminal message of desperation was this: "Sure, these teams suck this year. But they used to be good! Please don't change the channel!!!"

Also, besides the Archie & Eli Manning, does anyone know anything about Ole Miss football tradition? Tradition of what? Losing?

2:36 -- I always sort of thought the funniest multiple-name in sports was that of Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni (three first names ... Mike. Dan. Tony.). However, he may have been eclipsed by Ole Miss Rebels' running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Two first names. Two last names. Were his parents unable to settle on a name & decided to just compromise?

2:38 -- 3 and out Ole Miss. Lately, freshman linebacker Prince Hall has been out of position & chasing running backs from behind. Here on third down, he stuffed a running play on 3rd & short. Good sign.

2:40 -- DJ Hall catches a short curl out, turns it back toward the middle, heads up-field untouched, and ... TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA. 39 yards. This might be an easier day than I first thought.

2:46 -- Ole Miss QB Brent Schaeffer just scrambled for a first down (after a couple missed tackles), and Alabama safety Rashad Johnson slung him to the ground about two yards out of bounds resulting in an additional 15 yards for Ole Miss. Just when it appears that we're about to put our foot on any opponents' throat this season, this team has an uncanny knack for letting them right back in the game.

No wonder I chew my fingernails.

2:52 -- Touchdown Ole Miss. This is an offense averaging 118 yards per game, and they just drove all the way down the field on us for a score. There are no words ...

2:54 -- Not sure I care for this new wave of Vonage commercials. Just thought you'd like to know ...

2:59 -- Alabama drives to midfield, stalls, and is forced to punt. I should say fortunate to punt. Alabama QB John Parker Wilson nearly threw two interceptions on successive plays. You know, sometimes this kid looks like Tom Brady, and other times he looks like an underclassman first-year college starter.

3:05 -- CBS just showed former Alabama quarterback Scott Hunter describe the 1969 Alabama-Ole Miss game. He and Archie Manning combined for over 700 yards passing as Alabama squeaked out a victory in a shootout. Here is Hunter:

"After the game was over with, I was looking for Archie and I found him. And he had tears in his eyes. I didn't even know what to say. I reached out, shook his hand, and he looked me in the eye and I looked him in the eye. We didn't have to say a thing to each other. We just knew what we'd had ... together ... that night."

My sister Katie: "That sounded sort of homo."

3:09 -- An update from College Station. Missouri 7, Texas A&M 3. Hold the rope, Aggies!

3:10 -- 3rd & 15. John Parker scrambles and finds Will Oakley for a first down. There's Tom Brady.

3:14 -- Katie: "Ole Miss' coach has man-boobs."

3:20 -- The announcers just let us know that Alabama has only 9 touchdowns in a conference-leading 28 trips to the redzone. Thanks CBS.

3:21 -- Alabama is forced to settle for three points. Really, CBS. Thanks for that.

Very GRRRRRR, Baby!
The View at Alabama is Spectacular.
3:24 -- Ahhhhhhhh ... The Houndstooth Twins. Thanks for THAT, CBS. Really! Thank you.

3:32 -- Fran and A&M are still losing. Despite the fact that Ole Miss seems to be running at will on our defense right now, Alabama fans everywhere are high-fiving.

3:41 -- Brent Shaeffer's numbers for the season entering today: 55 completions. 122 attempts. 8 interceptions.

Today: 7 completions. 10 attempts. 0 interceptions.

The lesson, as always: We suck.

3:43 -- For those of you who don't know, Alabama has a field goal kicker, Jamie Christensen, whose nickname is "Money." He hit three game-winning field goals last season. He has plenty of leg strength.

So, of course, when faced with 4th down & longer than a yard at the 27 yard-line, Shula decides to go for it. Mr. Hyde, errr, John Parker Wilson overthrows the tight end.

File that one away for later. Score is 10-10.

3:44 -- Awkward exchange:

Katie: "Wow, that Ole Miss guy just got hammered by a white guy!"

Me: "He's black."

Katie: "Number 20?"

Me: "Marcus Carter. He's like a light brown, but he's black."

3:55 -- For the second straight week, Alabama goes to halftime trailing one of the worst teams in the nation. Rebels kick a FG. 13-10, Ole Miss. I'm gonna go bang my head on the wall for 20 minutes.

3:59 -- The BEST commercial on TV these days is the Yellow Wood commercial with Gene Stallings. I'm surprised it hasn't shown up on YouTube yet. When it does, I'll let you know.

4:13 -- Back from halftime. CBS does another "Tradition" montage.

"Please-Please-Please don't change the channel! Why didn't we get the Auburn-Florida game?"

4:17 -- Ruby Tuesday is about to change your perception of what a burger can be.

Nope. Pretty much what I expected.

4:25 -- I'll be honest. I'm bored. I look forward all year to Alabama football, and this game is boring. Both of these teams just aren't good. We suck. They suck. And it is boring the snot out of me.

4:30 -- How bad is Alabama playing today? 3rd & 25.

4:31 -- And there's Dr. Jekyll. John Parker Wilson completes a pass to DJ Hall for 36 yards. First Down Alabama.

4:37 -- Another Alabama trip to the redzone. Another field goal. For anyone keeping track, that's 30 trips to the redzone on the season & only 9 touchdowns. At least we're not losing to Ole Miss anymore.

4:40 -- OK, Alabama is +8 in turnovers for the season. Ole Miss is -3. No turnovers for either team yet in this game. As bad as Schaeffer has been this season, something's gotta happen here soon!

(Editor's Note: And the game ended with 0 turnovers for either side. Turns out I don't have ESP.)

4:46 -- Missouri just scored a safety against Texas A&M. Missouri now winning by 2. Alabama fans everywhere smile in glee.

4:47 -- Alabama running back Kenneth Darby just broke off a 35-yard run. Alabama's longest run from scrimmage this season is no longer held by a quarterback. Nice of #34 to finally show up this season.

4:53 -- Still bored. To the bulletin boards! Here's a post from BamaOnLine:

"This game is like two girls fighting in the back yard."

4:58 -- TOUCHDOWN 'Bama. 10:32 left in the game. That's the equivalent of a deep four-finger scratch down the other girl's back, right? Not a knockout punch, but pretty hard to recover from that.

Not Bette Davis eyes
Would you want to meet this guy in a dark alley?
5:03 -- Katie: "Jamie Christensen has freaky looking eyes."

She's right! Something about him almost looks thuggish.

5:07 -- Three and Out! Defense holds. Nice of you to show up, defense.

5:08 -- FAKE! Ole Miss lines up in punt formation, the punter throws out to a guy in the flat, and he barely gets the first down. Ballsy call by the guy with man boobs. I feel sick.

5:09 -- Touchdown Ole Miss. Long touchdown pass by Brent Schaeffer. And the other girl scratches back. It's times like this that I question why I invest so much passion into such a fivolous, meaningless hobby.

5:11 -- I may be in the minority here, but I enjoy the Sonic commercials with the people sitting in the car. Good stuff.

5:14 -- Ole Miss almost picked off Mr. Hyde. Phew!! [wipes sweat from brow]

5:16 -- 3rd & 5. Dr. Jekyll scrambles 10 yards for a first down. I love that guy. He could win a National Championship if we could build a good defense in the next couple years.

5:18 -- OK, this is where Alabama goes into their conservative shell. We're gonna run the ball, move the chains, milk the clock, put one through the uprights, and go home.

(Editor's Note: I still don't have ESP.)

5:22 -- 4th & 2 ... From inside the 30 yard-line ... AND WE GO FOR IT AGAIN! It must be that "Money" Christensen isn't 100% healthy, right?


5:36 -- After holding my breath for a world-record 14 minutes, we are headed to overtime.

CBS tells us that Ole Miss is 6-3 all-time in OT games. Alabama's record is 2-6. I feel great.

5:43 -- Ole Miss gets the first posession in OT. Alabama holds them on 3 plays, and the Rebels kick the field goal. You mean you don't have to go for it on 4th down?

5:46 -- Darby - 25 rushes for 162 yards. Nice to have him back in the offense. Probably the MVP today.

5:51 -- TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA!!! John Parker Wilson to Le'Ron McClain. 26-23, 'Bama.

And just as I predicted, Alabama edges the Rebels by 3. Turns out I might have ESP after all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Power 12: "The Apostolics"

Just like Jesus picked a top 12 of all his disciples, I'm picking the top 12 of the college football landscape.

1. Ohio State -- John. This is the team whom the pollsters love. However, their win at Iowa is looking less impressive as the Hawkeyes lost to Indiana ... in football.

2. Michigan -- James. James & John were the "Sons of Thunder," and the Wolverines are on a collision course to meet the Buckeyes at the end of the season in a clash of the titans. I'll also point out here that I put Michigan #2 last week, and now the AP Poll agrees with me this week. Just goes to show the level of my influence over the world of college football ...

3. West Virginia -- Thomas, because everyone's doubting them. And perhaps they have some holes on defense, but who cares when their offense is so stinking good?!

4. Texas -- Andrew, who was the first-named Apostle. And I'm naming the Longhorns first among all the teams with one loss.

5. Auburn -- Judas Iscariot. Because I don't like them. Just like Judas. And I hope that their insides burst & their entrails pour out all over Bryant-Denny Stadium in about a month. The Tigers' defense isn't nearly as dominant as it has been in the last couple seasons. However, their offense is near unstoppable when it's on. Problem is that their offense hasn't clicked on that often this season -- they've scored 1 offensive touchdown in their last two games against Arkansas & Florida. So, Auburn may be the most beatable team among the 12. However, they've found crafty ways to beat two athletically superior teams, so I gotta give 'em their prop's.

6. Notre Dame -- Peter, because the Irish are Catholic & Peter was their first Pope. Plus, whenever Jesus decided to start calling Simon "Rocky," I imagine Simon Peter's friends started snickering -- just like you are right now because you think I've fallen into the "over-rating the Irish" trap. This team has looked awful at times, but incredible at others. They are #3 among the once-beatens by virtue that their loss was to Michigan, plus they do have at least one mildly impressive win on their resume (Georgia Tech). Perhaps over-rated, but at least they have a dependable QB, which is more than the next three schools can say.

7. Florida -- Jude. Both hard to figure out. At times, Jude is straight forward. And then he goes and references Enoch & Bell and the Dragon. Florida looks great at times. And then sometimes they disappear, like in the first half against Alabama & in the second half at Auburn this past Saturday.

8. Tennessee -- Bartholomew/Nathanael. "Can anything good come out of Knoxville?" Apparently so, at least when David Cutcliffe coordinates the offense. Will be fun to see him & Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines duke it out this Saturday.

9. Southern Cal -- Simon the Zealot. Just as Simon zelously desired to overthrow Roman rule, I urge everyone to band together & overthrow this silly BCS system that has the Trojans BLATANTLY over-rated at #2. Apparently, just squeaking by Arizona State at home earns you tons of respect. Guess what people? Carson Palmer isn't walking through that door. Matt Leinart isn't walking through that door. Reggie Bush isn't walking through that door. USC has talent, but they aren't a good team right now. And quite simply, I don't think they could beat any of the above eight teams right now.

10. Clemson -- Philip, who wanted Jesus to show him the Father (John 14:8-21). I want Clemson to show me more. They lost a squeaker early, beat a bad FSU squad, and appear to be the best of the ACC. They have a phenomenal offense, but they need to show me more. They'll have their chance to do just that this weekend at home versus Georgia Tech, as well as next week in Blacksburg, at Virginia Tech.

11. LSU -- Matthew, who borrowed a bunch of the material of his Gospel from Mark. LSU is living right now on a borrowed reputation from their former coach, who is now in the NFL. LSU has tons of talent, but unfortunately for them this season, whereas they have come up big in the small games, they have come up small in the big games.

12. Louisiville -- James, son of Alpheus. What do we know about him? What do we know about Louisville? This weekend they barely beat Cincinnati. AT home. In serious danger of falling out of my Power 12. They will earn points, major points, in my book if, and only if, they manage to beat the Mountaineers.

Waiting list (Matthias ... waiting for someone to "drop"): Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Cal, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Arkansas.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Praying in 2nd Person

For the latest installment of a lesser known Bible passage, a prayer. From Acts 4:24-31 (NASB, w/ a few adjustments):

24And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 25who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,


27"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus."

31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

I enjoy a great many things about this prayer. For one, I love how the early Christians received an INSTANT answer to their request to speak the Word with boldness. It's always fun when God decides to answer our prayers instantly. Also, one of the things I've tried to emphasize in my teaching recently is how important it is that we retain a boldness when we speak about our faith. And, a lot of times, we equate boldness with rudeness or arrogance. Yet, there is example after example in Acts of how to be bold politely & in a well-mannered fashion (FWIW, my favorite example is Paul's defense in Acts 26). Among other things that we ask of God, we should ask him for Boldness.

I also like how the early Christians connected Psalms 2 with what was happening in the world around them. One thing I like about modern-day post-liberal theology (and specifically with regard to Scripture) is how they capture the sense of how the early Christians viewed Scripture like unto a script to be lived out. That is, that Scripture is not simply a chronicle of past events, but that it is also a living document which finds allegorical-like application in current events. It is not simply a document to be studied, but it is also (and perhaps even more ...) a script to be lived out. And so the early Christians, in this prayer, found an allegorical match for every character mentioned in that Psalms 2 passage (as I underlined for you above). Also, for you non-Greekniks, "Nations" & "Gentiles" is the same word in the original language. So, in interpreting this way, they took courage from the words of Psalms 2. And as the installed ruler of Psalms 2 vanquishes the foe with ease, the early Christians ask that they may vanquish the foe via the name & authority of God's annointed.

None of us will ever forget September 11th -- it's events, it's aftermath, and where we were when we heard the news. I was at a Bible Major's Retreat at Camp Takodah in Arkansas, barely a month into my first semester at Harding University. It was an amazing scene to return to campus later that afternoon and to put pictures & video with the devastating descriptions we had already heard. And one other thing I will never forget is Chapel on September 12th. I remember sitting down & seeing a gigantic American flag behind the podium & Chapel leaders' seats. I don't remember what songs we sang or even anything that Dr. Burks said as he brought the devotional message that morning. But I'll never forget the Scripture that Dr. Burks read:

1 God is our refuge and strength,

     A very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change

     And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

Was the writer of Psalms 46 writing prophetically about the events of September 11th? No. But it's words find new life & special meaning as it's words are compared with the events of September 11th. One thing that I love to do is to pray the Psalms -- reciting a Psalm & making it my own prayer. I suggest that you try it, as well, and that you try to capture a new wider view of Scripture, rather than just the narrow historical-critical perspective.

But what impresses me most about this prayer is what you will find emboldened. This prayer is almost exclusively in 2nd person. You know, you can tell a lot about someone from listening to how they speak. Even Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). And as I think about this prayer alongside my own prayers, I think about how selfish I must sound. I mean, if I were to have prayed this prayer, I wonder if it might have sounded something like:

"Lord. I know you know about what's going on here. Things are about to get pretty tough for us down here. The Jewish Council threatened us, Lord. We need your help, and your power. Lord, bless us."
It is very subtle, but there is a distinct difference between speaking in 1st person vs. speaking in 2nd person. Do you see the difference? This second prayer is more me/we-centered. And it is primarily concerned with what happens to me/we.

However, the 2nd person prayer is more concerned with the movement of God & the will of God. These Christians see themselves no longer as individuals, but corporately as the literal body of Christ, carrying out God's wishes as Jesus' very hands & feet. They weren't concerned with the threats against their lives & livelihood; they were interested in how the recent events were going to affect the infant Christian movement.

Not only that, but the prayer was more personal. It was a conversation: you & me (or, with that group, I guess "us"). Sometimes, in my own prayers, I can catch myself drifting & have to catch and ask myself, "Who are you talking to? Yourself? Or God?" And I've found that being deliberate about using 2nd person language in prayer, and breaking out of normal speech patterns and well-worn prayer phrases, can be unsettling as you all of a sudden gain more perspective on who it is you are keeping company with: The Almighty.

I urge you to try this. Say a prayer in which you almost exclusively & very deliberately use 2nd person language. For those of you who may have more advanced prayer lives than me, perhaps this won't be very startling. But I'm guessing that for some of you who read this blog, praying in the 2nd person will almost be like a paradigm shift. It is amazing how we can sometimes almost subconciously think about God in a way that we would never affirm consciously. You will begin to view God in your prayers less as like a Divine Dispensing Machine (money in: candy bar out ... prayer in: blessing out), but begin to view Him more as a Person with feelings & values as you are talking to Him. Less of a mechanistic view and more of a personal view.

Best wishes to all of you as you learn how to better pray in the 2nd person.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pop Culture Review

My new favorite comedian is a guy named Jim Gaffigan. You may not recognize the name, but you'll recognize his face from at least one of the hundreds of commercials that he has been on, whether it's Siera Mist, Saturn, ESPN, or Rolling Rock. He recently did the Gator Growl (University of Florida Homecoming pre-game festival) this past Saturday, and I wish I had known so I could have gone.

Click play below to listen to one of Gaffigan's best bits, as he talks about "Hot Pockets."

I'm not much of a television watcher, but that which I do watch I watch religiously.

My favorite show right now is by far NBC's The Office, with Steve Carrel. If you like to laugh but don't appreciate standard sitcom humor ("Look, the husband has done something dumb again ... that's so funny"). OK. Now, you know when you here from like half a dozen people that something is "SO FUNNY," and you're not sure, so it makes you stay further away from watching it for some reason, and then one day you tune in on your own & you discover that it REALLY IS funny? THIS is THAT show. So if you've never watched The Office, give it a try. And I recommend that you start from the beginning ... go buy it on DVD. You will love it; I promise.

My go-to guys for comedy
The BEST show you aren't watching.
OK, to preface what's coming next -- I am a man, and I am indeed heterosexual. One of my favorite shows is Gilmore Girls. I've really been disappointed with the trajectory of this show over the last several seasons, however. When it first began, Lorelai was eye candy, Rory was the innocent girl that reminded you of all that's right with women, & Luke was the one normal guy on television who was a good guy and who always came through in the clutch. Now, Lorelai is still eye candy, but is aging. Rory lost her virginity on the show and has never been the same and is slowing becoming all that is wrong with women. And the writers have made Luke into sort of a jerk. I just watched my first episode of the season last night, and it was a rather joyless experience. But I've invested myself into the first 6 seasons, I've gotta watch this last one, right? Maybe. We'll see ...

Those were my only two until I recently discovered ABC's new drama, Six Degrees. It is everything that is right with TV -- beautiful women, excellent plot development with believable writing, & likeable characters (with solid character development). I've been very impressed so far. If you haven't seen it, and are interested, you can catch the first three episodes in full on-line at ABC.com for free.

In music, I'm really excited, and unsure, about a new rock band: Hinder. I love pure rock & roll. Not head-banger stuff. Not punk rock. Not pop rock. ROCK. And Hinder has said publicly that they are making it their mission to bring rock back. I'm so happy about that. They also say they want to bring back the "Sex & Drugs" element back with it. I'm not sure if they're joking or serious. So, tread lightly there. But their music seems pretty good so far.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Power 12

Because I have an opinion, and because Bob has no idea what he is doing, I'm introducing my Power 12. I doubt that I'll update it every week. But we've played enough football by now to begin judging the talent, so here goes.

Oh, and it's 12 because 'Bama has 12 National Championships ... in case you were wondering. ;-D

1. Ohio State -- Because they're consistent. Because they're supremely talented. Because they have a head coach who has done the deed before. And, quite simply, because I'd look stupid if I put anyone else in this spot.

2. Michigan -- Strength of schedule isn't all that great, but they are consistently winning comfortably. If they keep it up, it will be clear sailing until their showdown with the Buckeyes.

3. West Virginia -- They destroyed the reigning SEC Champs in the Sugar Bowl last year. Rich Rodriguez is an offensive guru ... and should be getting all the man-love that ESPN reserves for Urban Meyer. The Mountaineers are legit.

4. Florida -- They have looked good so far. Their test this weekend at Auburn & the annual Cocktail Party will be tough obstacles. But if they hurdle them both, I'll have to bump them up to #2.

5. Southern Cal -- They need to get their Booty in gear. Literally. Still, supremely talented & superior athletically to anyone they will face this season before the bowl game.

6. Tennessee -- SEC East is back on top with a couple SEC West Flops courtesy of Auburn & LSU. The Vols were unstoppable Saturday night against a good, athletic Georgia defense.

7. Texas -- Along with USC, Florida, & Ohio State, the only other school that legitimately recruits nation-wide. Dripping with talent & athleticism. Should roll through the rest of the Big XII.

8. Clemson -- Best offense in the ACC. And they have the best running back duo in the nation in Davis & Spiller.

9. Notre Dame -- Will win out at least until they face USC.

10. Auburn -- They were embarrassed by Arkansas. They will be fired up for the Gators.

11. Louisiville -- Some might think I'm ranking Bobby Petrino too low. However, no defense + playing with backups at QB & RB forces my hand.

12. LSU -- I'd put Cal here, except that SEC fans laugh at that prospect when you consider how they were manhandled at Tennessee. Have played pitiful offense in their two big early road tests (Auburn & Florida), and subsequently lost. Still, they may have the most talented roster of anyone in college football, so that's why they hang on here.

Knocking on the Door: Cal, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Missouri, Nebraska, and dare I say Rutgers

Saturday, October 07, 2006

There is a God

As a Red Sox fan watching a Boston-less playoffs, fewer things could be more satisfying than to Detroit's victory over the Yankees last night. Kenny Rogers dismantled the Bronx Bombers & their $200 million lineup over 7.2 innings last night, and the Tigers knocked around the Big Unit, giving the Detoit Tigers a 2-1 Series lead in this short 5-game series.

Yankee fans would be stunned. Steinbrenner would be furious. A-Rod would be traded. Go Tigers!

The first week of playoff baseball has been pretty good so far. I have to admit that, for me, the highlight is the Tigers giving the Yankees all they want. I was glad to see the A's finally break through & win a series. Hooray for Moneyball. And hooray for the only other legitimate possibility of beating the Yankees if the Tigers can't finish them off.

The NL, or Quadruple-A, playoffs have been more disappointing. I was hoping to see Nomar & the Dodgers capture a little playoff magic. Not happening. And the Padres make it to October and once again can't hit. It's sickening. I'm TIRED of the Cardinals. I suppose we're destined for an NLCS with matchups like Jeff Weaver vs. Steve Trachsel & Jeff Suppan vs. John Maine. BORRRR-EEEENG.

From ESPN.com. A nice read:

If there are indeed football gods -- and the next time Duke scores a touchdown, I'll be a true believer -- then perhaps justice is being served at Michigan State and Texas A&M.

Remember when Louisville's players learned coach John L. Smith was bolting for Michigan State during halftime of the Cardinals' 38-15 loss to Marshall in the GMAC Bowl at the end of the 2002 season?

Likewise, remember when Dennis Franchione implored his players at Alabama, which was under harsh NCAA sanctions, not to leave ("Hold the Rope") and stick with Coach Fran and the Crimson Tide? And then many of those same players watched Franchione bolt for a $2 million salary at Texas A&M in December 2002, before Alabama faced the worst of its probation.

At Michigan State, Smith's program is in meltdown. The Spartans blew a 17-point lead in the second half of their 40-37 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 23, and then slept through a 23-20 loss to Illinois on Saturday.

It was the Illini's first victory in a Big Ten road game since 2002. Illinois had lost 24 of its last 25 conference games before spoiling the Spartans' homecoming.

"All week. That's the way we practiced, what you saw," Smith told reporters after the Illinois loss. "We can't get them to go. And apparently I don't have the answer. We can't get them to go hard in practice, so we've got to continue to look for the answer."

The stunning loss was followed by an ugly scene at midfield, when the teams exchanged punches and shoves when Illinois players tried to plant an Illini flag at midfield.

It might get much uglier in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans play at No. 6 Michigan on Saturday, then host No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 14. They'll probably play the Wolverines without quarterback Drew Stanton (bruised ribs) and tailback Javon Ringer (sprained knee). Left guard Daniel Zynn broke his ankle and is probably out for the rest of the season.

Texas A&M fans might not ever get over the Aggies' 31-27 loss to Texas Tech, in which the Red Raiders scored the game-winning touchdown on Graham Harrell's 37-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson with only 26 seconds to go. The Aggies had kicked the go-ahead field goal less than two minutes earlier.

The loss dropped Franchione's overall record at Texas A&M to 20-20 in three-plus seasons. The Aggies might need to win three of their next four games -- at Kansas, at home against surging Missouri and road games at Oklahoma State and Baylor -- to save Coach Fran's job.

Texas A&M finishes the season with home games against No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 22 Nebraska and a road finale at No. 7 Texas.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I am having the worst luck with electronics lately. I'm about to be with my third cell phone in the last calendar year. I've been through three computer chargers in the last calendar year. So, yes, that means I'm getting a new computer. And for now, I'm using someone else's.

I have had serious bad luck with regard to electronics in recent years.

(I'd like to be writing more. But with my RIDICULOUS bad electronics luck, I'm limited. Hope to be back soon.)