Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A God Touch

Ever have one of those moments or experiences where you sense that God was speaking directly to you? I always appreciate those. Even if it's just a traffic jam & I get the sensation that God is saying, "Slow down," I appreciate those.

I got one tonight. We were worshipping before Bible Study, and I was leading worship. I love leading worship... mainly because I get to pick the songs, and so I know that (from my perspective) we won't be singing any duds. (G)

(Control Freak. Remember?)

Anyways, even though I was pleased to be leading singing, I had arrived at church in one of my morose moods. I get these from time to time. Not all the time, or even most of the time. Just every once in a while. It's like I'm saying to the world, "I'm a loner. I'm mysterious. I'm unique. I'm complex. Tonight I'll be morose & you won't be able to figure me out." In all honesty, it's really a bit punk-ish.

So anyhow, all of that is going on in the background when I come to the song I picked to lead before opening prayer: "This is my Father's World." Man, what a great song. There are a few songs in this world that bring me to a state of tranquility. That Acappella song, "Peace." Yeah. You know what I'm talking about! Also, whenever I hear Jennifer Knapp sing "A Little More" ... ahhhhhhhh, I just want to melt. Good warm fuzzy feelings of tranquility. "This is My Father's World" is one of those songs. "Yessssssss ... it's God's world. He's in control. He's faithful. Things are working out for good. Ahhhhhhh ...."

So I'm leading the song. Worshipping God. Still in my punky morose mood. When we come to the last half of the final verse:

This is my Father's World
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: Let the Heavens Ring!
God Reigns: Let earth be glad!

That was like a nice little swift kick in the rear from God. "Come on, Philip. Quit being a punk. You've got a lot to be joyful about. How about you quit being so narcisistic, focusing on your own feelings, and maybe do a little ministry tonight? Huh? How about we do a little bit of that? Would that be alright with you?"

[Chuckles]

I appreciated that.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quick Hits

  • You know how couples have nicknames? Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie = "Brangelina." Ben Affleck & Jennier Garner = "Bennifer."

    My favorite new couple nickname? Tom Brady & Gisele B√ľndchen = "Brady Bunch." BTW, what a NICE HAUL for Brady. Gisele has gotta be one of the top 3 hottest women on the planet, famous or not. I really don't feel bad for the guy losing to Manning last weekend.


  • Does anyone actually watch the X-Games? And do they have drug tests? Because I think you've probably gotta actually be ON something to perform some of those tricks. Do they turn you away if you are drug free?


  • After spending a week with my Mom, sometimes I don't know what is worse: the Cancer or the Chemo. BTW, what an oxymoron: Chemo + therapy.


  • File this away fantasy nerds: if there's one thing that Mike Shula knows, it's how to coach Quarterbacks. The two QB's he coached at Alabama broke all the school records for completions, attempts, touchdowns, & yards (for career & single season). David Garrard & Byron Leftwich will benefit from Shula's hiring.


  • If you're a baseball fan & have not seen For Love of the Game, you've missed a solid flick. Not so much a movie about baseball as it is a movie about life. Go back & rent it.


  • I've decided I'm rooting for the Colts in the Super Bowl in spite of Manning. I love Tony Dungy. He represents everything that is right with humanity. Just a great, great person.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Earth Metaphors

Most of you know that I love Christian music. And if you don't know me personally, you perhaps could at least tell by the title of my blog (which is also the title of a Bebo Norman song.

But this past Sunday night we were singing a hymn I've sung dozens of times before: Won't it be Wonderful There. At the end of the first verse there is a curious metaphor for what Earth is (or will be): "The Story-Land." One day, we're all going to be in Heaven & Earth will be a place we tell stories about. The Story-land. What an interesting thought ...

I've noticed some other metaphors before in Contemporary Christian Music. There was a group named LaRue whose one-hit-wonder was a nice little diddy called "Waiting Room." The premise of the song is that our life on Earth is like an extended wait in a doctor's waiting room. When you go to the doctor, the waiting room is not all their is. Eventually, you make it in, and the waiting room is but a passing thought. It was but a momentary inconvenience.

There's another metaphor that is in one of my favorite Bebo Norman songs. It's a eulogistic song about the death of a woman who was close to him. The name of the song is "Rita." Bebo takes a sort of "Fallen Earth" view of the world with a chorus that says, "It was not your time ... that's a useless line ... a fallen world ... took your life." And at the end of his song, he's committing his beloved Rita to God:


So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

I find that line "killing floor" fascinating. It's an interesting description of a place where so many bad things happen. While life and the Earth itself are gifts from God, our human nature has tarnished so much of life and has allowed death to prevail. Killing Floor.

Anybody have any other creative sayings or thoughts that lend a different perspective on how we look at our existence on this side of life?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Saluting an Accomplishment

On an Alabama Football message board that I frequently read, there was a post following the Pats/Colts NFL game tonight that said, "Congrats Tony and Lovie -- first african american HC's to superbowl. very fitting." It was a salute to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy & Chicago Bears skipper Lovie Smith. Both are African-Americans. Both will share the honor of being the first African-American head coaches to lead their teams into the Super Bowl.

The responses to this thread were varied. Some echo'd the adulatory sentiment. Others questioned what the big deal was. And thus, as often happens on messsage boards, a debate ensued. And since I have friends who are weary of "reverse-discrimination" and don't seem to share this congratulatory sensibility, I feel the need to write.

"What's the big deal? Plenty of white coaches have made the Super Bowl. What's so special about two black coaches?"

I understand the sentiment. I really do. And I'm tempted to feel that way, too. I know it seems like any time a black man takes any kind of small step, it's celebrated. For people of my generation it's hard to understand why a colored man gets praise for something lots of white people have already done.

The reason for that is simple: it's ignorance. For a great deal of 18-35 year-old white males, discrimination is not something we experienced growing up. We've heard about it. We've read it about it history books. Now I'm not saying that racism & profiling still don't exist today, but it's not as publicly exposed as it was 30-to-40-to-50 years ago. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was making speeches. When the Ku Klux Klan was an accepted way of southern life. When "coon" was part of the everyday vernacular.

And for those of us who do not share that perspective, we will never know what it was like to grow up in Tony Dungy's or Lovie Smith's shoes. I really don't know what that kind of discrimination is like. Those guys grew up in a generation where opportunities & priveleges were hardly open. They had to work harder & do it twice as good as the next guy because of the color of their skin.

Whether or not it's admitted, there is a stigma against black coaches. It was accepted as common thought as recently as 25 years ago that African-Americans could not make good quarterbacks. They simply didn't have the mental capacity to handle the demands of the position. And it was people like Doug Williams (the first black QB to play in & win the Super Bowl) and Warren Moon (the first black QB to enter the NFL Hall of Fame) who changed that perception. The same perception existed & STILL exists for African-American head coaches. They aren't smart enough to handle the demands of being a head coach. They're not as good at X's & O's. They're not as smart at the psychology of motivating players. They can't handle the public relations demands of dealing with the media day in & day out.

And now Tony Dungy & Lovie Smith have proven those critics wrong. They climbed the coaching ladder -- a steeper & more demanding ladder than their white counterparts were made to climb. I'm not even beginning to mention some of the familial & financial hardships that often come from arising out of the African-American culture. And after jumping through all those hoops, finally they have made it to the pinnacle of sports achievement: The Super Bowl. As a white man, I will never understood what it took to get there.

But, there's another part of this that's difficult for people of my demographic to swallow. As was written last Friday by Bill Simmons, ESPN.com's "The Sports Guy:"

Now here's where a slight dose of hypocrisy comes in. We spend so much time complaining about underachieving superstars, overpaid and overhyped players, incompetent GMs, rookie flops, dreadful officiating, troublemakers, thugs, players and coaches doing/saying dumb things, bad trades and signings, annoying announcers and writers, and overrated teams getting too much credit -- by the way, I do as much complaining and mocking as anyone, I'm not absolving myself here -- that I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever fully embrace a special team anymore. Are we too cynical? Are we too desperate to poke fun at everything? Has being a "fan" morphed into something else? Has the fan-sports dynamic started to become a little unhealthy?

Think about it. As recently as 20 years ago, the concept of a sports radio station didn't even exist. Neither did the internet or DirecTV. Fantasy leagues and SportsCenter were just starting to round into shape, but it was still pretty early for both. You simply watched a game, discussed it with friends, devoured the ensuing newspaper coverage, argued about the game at work or school the following day, then you waited for the next one. Now sports has evolved into a 24/7 event, between the instant highlights and internet coverage, thousands and thousands of Web sites and blogs, an infinite number of fantasy leagues, a never-ending slew of sports radio shows, sportswriters screaming at one another on TV and everything else you can imagine. Every game and event is digested and processed almost instantly, and then it's rehashed and digested again, and then it's beaten into the ground, and within a few hours everyone feels obligated to come up with their own unique angle on things -- even if it's extreme, even if it's insane, even if it's blisteringly nasty or vicious, even if it's completely nonsensical or inane.

And that's what we're REALLY afraid of. We just know that this is the kind of story angle that the ESPN/Talk-Radio/Sports-Print-Media Machine will love. And we just KNOW that they are going to milk this Super Bowl sub-plot for all it's worth. And just when we finally think that cow is all milked out, they will squeeze some more. We will be sick of it after two weeks, and then we'll have to listen to the announcers drone on about it the whole game during the Super Bowl. And the thought of all that is exhaustingly reprehensible.

Well, here's the solution: turn off SportsCenter. Go without a little Sports Talk Radio. And read CNN.com instead of going to ESPN.com.

One other interesting angle about these coach's success. Since the NFL is renowned for being "the copy-cat league" (that is, "If that concept/philosophy/method is working for someone else, maybe we ought to employ that in our franchise as well!"), hiring an African-American coach could become the new trend. Heck, it could carry into the NCAA. And you may think that to be dumb & think NFL exec's are smarter than that. But franchises have copy-catted dumber things before.

This is a significant event from many perspectives. Perhaps not for some of us with a priveleged caucasian perspective. But for many, this is a real inspiration. I'd say it's even on the scale of the Miracle on Ice -- the 1980 USA Gold-Medal-winning Hockey Team at Lake Placid that raised the spirits of an entire nation. This kind of scenario was unimaginable a generation ago. And now? Doors will be opened. Children will be encouraged. Barriers will be removed.

Congratulations Tony & Lovie. I appreciate your dedication to chasing your dreams, and I salute your dual accomplishment of making it to the Super Bowl. Well Done.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Empty Saturday's

If you do the MySpace thing, I've just recently thrown myself in the fray. Click here to go check me out. And please let me be on your buddy list. PLEASE! Don't make me beg.

I've long resisted this teenie-bopper web trend. But alas, no more. Still, I'm sure by signing up for this I am put on some kind of US Government Pedophilia Watch List or something.


I've lost one of my weekend religions. College Football is no more. No more fuzzy-screened Lincoln Financial "SEC Game of the Week" broadcasts at 11:30. No more Vern Lundquist belly laugh's at the Aflac duck. No more 'Bama football. No more.

It was almost a relief when the season actually ended for Alabama almost 2 months ago. Losing is tough on fans who ride out even the hard times. I was glad it was finally over. But now that we have Nick Saban in the house, I'm ready to go again. I'm stoked for next season already. And it's tough to flip on the tube & only see basketball.

So, anyway, I went to YouTube for my fix this morning. This is a recording from when Alabama defeated Tennessee at home in 2005. We were literally inches away from losing the game before a Tennessee player fumbled the ball through the endzone for a touchback. Alabama then proceeded to drive down the field & win the game with a last minute field goal. 6-3. It is the most recent high-water mark for Alabama Football.

Also, I've posted a video from that same afternoon of the favorite post-game tradition of every Alabama fan: The Rammer Jammer. Not the classiest of cheers, but fun nevertheless! Be sure & listen for the woman at the beginning of the clip who exclaims, "We WEEEEEEEIIINN!!" Good stuff!

So here it is in two parts:

Game Highlights


Post-Game Celebration


The Rammer Jammer

Hey Vols ... Hey Vols ... HEY VOLS!
We just beat the HELL OUT OF YOU!
Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer
Give 'em HELL, Alabama!


Monday, January 15, 2007

Confessions of a Control Freak

My name is Philip Cunningham, and I'm a control freak. Perhaps there are worse things in the world to be (like "serial rapist"), but control freak is shameful enough. I like to be in control. I enjoy steering the ship, and feel a certain degree of anxiety when I'm not. I like winning games & competitive events, and feel a great degree of frustration when those competitions don't go the way I want them to. I most certainly AM a control freak.

Today was an especially trying day for this control freak. I often meet with a group of ministry friends every Monday morning. This morning, I spent the entire morning waiting to discover when we would meet, only to find out that we would not be meeting. I was in the middle of an on-line game this afternoon when my phone rang & someone knocked on the door at the same time, forcing me to end my game. Then, when trying to prepare dinner, we were delayed TWICE. I had made a list of groceries to prepare dinner with this week, and we had to make two extra trips to the store today because Dad forgot to pick up groceries on the list. A series of events like that make for a trying day for me. Right now, I'm unsettled & stressed.

Being a control freak manifests itself in a variety of other ugly ways in my life. Without being too specific, you could imagine that Christianity doesn't work too well when you're butting heads with God as to who is steering the ship. Prayer has always been more difficult for me, I sense, than others.

I write here about it because I'm hoping for a little catharsis as I try to settle down to sleep. And if anybody has any friendly encouragement for this control freak, I welcome it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Homerun

That's what the hiring of Nick Saban is for Alabama. He will establish the discipline that Shula never could. He will recruit the level of talent we haven't seen in Tuscaloosa in about 15 years. And he will win.

Is 4 million dollars a year too much to pay a coach? No. It is an investment, because a coach like Saban will bring in more than 10 times that amount in revenue.

Saban will truly bring Alabama Football back. Roll Tide Roll!