Wednesday, December 31, 2008

PLAYOFFS?! You kiddin' me? PLAYOFFS???

It's bowl season. Which of course means it's time for every sanctimonious blow-hard to complain about the bowls & how college football needs a playoff worse than GM needs a bail-out.

This morning, I read Stewart Mandel's compelling case for keeping the bowl system in tact:

I love the NCAA tournament as much as anyone. It's our nation's most captivating sporting event. But it's also an entirely made-for-TV product. The stands at the opening-round sites are often half-empty. The Final Four is played in a dome where half the seats are so far from the court you wind up watching most of the game on the JumboTron. And it really doesn't matter whether you're in San Diego or San Antonio, Dallas or Detroit, because the NCAA's rigid adherence to uniformity (all drinks at courtside must be poured into matching Dasani Cups) ensures not a single ounce of local color or character dare ooze its way inside the arena.

You'll have to forgive me if I'm in no hurry to see the Fiesta Bowl turn into the "NCAA Southwest Regional."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Check In with the Suffering

I got a kind E-mail today from an old high school friend of mine. She works for a Congressman in Washington. And her short message simply read:

This time of year can be tough for a variety of reasons. Just checking in to see how you are doing. So. How are you?


That was very thoughtful. Her message was open-ended, but focused & to the point; inquisitive, but without prying. And concise. It allowed me to feel free to share any thoughts or feelings that I needed to share.

(FYI, I'm doing fine. What I wrote to Angela exactly was, "I'm doing well. Kind of strange how well I'm doing, actually. I was bracing myself for this season a month ago, but it hasn't been that tough. Since Mom & Dad had split 10 years ago, I guess I've grown used to having a Holiday without her.")

Anyway, that was really good. I learned a lesson from that today: checking in with people who are suffering at timely moments is a good thing to do.

So here's my advice to anyone who wishes to be compassionate to those around you who are suffering: write critical dates into your planner/organizer. Write a note to yourself to remember said sufferer on the one year anniversary of their loss. If they lost a spouse, Valentine's Day & their Anniversary would be good days to remember. And, of course, the Holiday's. Even try to be thoughtful enough to give a phone call or write a card just to let that person know you're thinking about them & that they are not alone.

After experiencing that seemingly small gesture of goodwill, I'm resolved to do that myself. I hope you do the same.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What if the President showed up at Your Church???

It wasn't just a hypothetical question for an old college buddy of mine this morning. For my old buddy Jared, it happened to him TODAY! He was performing his first Sunday Mass at Christ Church in Alexandria, VA when none other than George W. Bush and wife Laura made an appearance this morning.

And before you try to start, let me beat you to the punchline: No, he did not throw any shoes!

He even briefly got to meet & mingle with the President and First Lady. Read about his experience over at his blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My 2008 New Year's Resolutions

Nope, that's not a typo. I'm recapping my Resolutions for the year that's about to come to a close. I resolved to do three things coming into 2008:

Take Control of my Financial Planning

I don't mean to brag (which of course means that I do...), but for a good little amount of time now I've been a fantasy baseball savant. Fantasy Baseball is a fun game that makes commodities out of baseball players, whose values rise & fall over the course of seasons. Last fall, a friend in my accountability group asked me a good question: "Why don't you apply all of that to investing?" I'd thought about that before, but I guess I'd never really been shamed into thinking about it so critically.

So I decided to do just that: apply my fantasy baseball acumen to my retirement investing. I devoured a couple of books, and incessantly picked the brain of one of my very loyal blog readers (thanks for being patient with me!).

A year later, I'm about 40% poorer. (g) Nevertheless, I'm excited because I understand what it means to buy low & sell high. And I've learned enough about the financial lay of the land to understand which investments/sectors to engage & which ones to avoid. I am chomping at the bit to get to the new year, pay my taxes, and fund my IRA so that I can get some more money into this undervalued market as soon as possible.

Become More News Aware

There's a well-known quote about preaching attributed to numerous sources (e.g. Karl Barth, Phillips Brooks, etc.) that goes something like this: "Preachers should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." The idea is that preachers need to bring a holy & transcendent word, but that it should also be applied to relevant & timely issues. I just had a sense about myself a year ago that I was kind of "Bible saturated." Don't hear me wrong: I wouldn't say I had been reading my Bible too much. But the idea of balance in my reading wasn't there.

So, about a year ago, my buddy Matt taught me about & turned me onto News Aggregators like BlogLines and Google Reader (the one I now prefer). Instead of wearying myself by checking all my favorite web sites (and being overly anxious about perhaps missing something) all my news now comes to me as a sort of "News E-mail Inbox" via the magic of RSS. I get EVERYTHING there -- my friends' blog updates, sports news, political news, money news, EVEN my Bible reading assignment for the day.

And now, a year later, I sense that I'm much more informed & that I'm a better preacher because of the balance that I bring to the pulpit.

And finally...

Make a Discipline out of Blogging

About five years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to the esteemed preacher Fred Craddock present a 3-hour seminar on preaching. For at least one hour of that seminar, he talked about the technical aspects of what makes a better preacher. One of the points that Craddock emphasized was that though not all good writers are good preachers, ALL good preachers are good writers. And that writing is something that needs to be practiced.

Craddock pointed to one book in particular that influenced him: "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. He explained how Lamott asserts that good writers write regularly, and they perfect their craft "bird by bird." What does that mean? Well, Lamott says that when you have a little narrative idea: STOP, pull out a sheet of paper, and write about it. Just a page. Tell the story. Paint it artfully. Then, when you've finished, file it away. Craddock says you'll have a sermon illustration for a dull sermon that needs color that you'll be preparing one day.

If that's not blogging, I don't know what is. Making a discipline out of this has blessed my life in un-numbered ways. Thinking out loud in this forum has helped me make sense out of life in ways that I hadn't even considered. It's made me a better writer. It's made me a better preacher. And I hope to continue the practice.

So there they are: my three fulfilled resolutions of 2008. They were a big part of what made 2008 one of the best years of my life. I've already made my resolutions for 2009, also. And they are even better than the ones I made for '08. I've shared them with the people I need to share them with to hold me accountable. And hopefully, in about 12 months, I'll have a great testimony to share with you about how my 2009 resolutions blessed my life.

I encourage you to make your own resolutions, and to keep them. I give you a solemn promise: it'll do you a world of good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jim Carrey Makes You LOL

Watched this last night with Dad. We were cracking UP. Jim Carrey channels Mick Jagger & Elvis Presley. And I see shades of Jerry Lewis, Andy Kauffman, and Robin Williams. The line at the end about the "stimulus package" is where I lost it...

Lampooning the Shoe-Thrower

I love what Jay Leno did Monday night at the end of his shoe-throwing monologue. First, you have to have seen the latest Lebron James Nike commercial for context. This is the coolest...

Then, Jay's bit. The shoe-thrower is lampooned in the last 30 seconds...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Authentic Emotion in the Raw

I think it warmed a lot of hearts to see John Walsh & family find a just finality to the case of his long-deceased little boy. I just think about the final justice we will all one day experience, and how this is just a foretaste. It will be so satisfying.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The FAIL Room

I love Alabama Football. I love the The FAIL Blog. I'm thrilled to see these two loves come together...
The University of Alabama is set to honor Mobile native James M. Fail by placing his name on a prominent fixture at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A donation by Mr. Fail to the Crimson Tide Foundation will result in the visitors' locker room being officially named "The Fail Room."

Mr. Fail served three years in the U.S. Navy before graduating from UA in 1949 and beginning a successful and wide-ranging career in the financial sector. His current duties include serving as chairman of Stone Holdings, Inc., and Bluebonnet Savings Bank.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

REALLY?!? with Seth & Amy

... for the last time.

In Amy Poehler's last edition of SNL, she & Seth Meyers struck gold with this skit where they hit the governor of Illinois HARD. I also loved it when Amy totally busts Seth's balls for what happened to "Seth's friend" ...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auburn Hired WHO???

So Auburn fired a guy who had beaten Alabama six straight seasons, led Auburn to the best season in the history of their football program, and STILL has a career winning record (that's right: Tommy Tuberville is 4-3...) against Nick Saban...

... to hire a guy who has won 5 football games in the last 2 seasons & is coming off of a 10-game losing streak???


Here are my favorite thread titles from an Auburn Football bulletin board in meltdown mode:

• We dumped a GOOD coach after a five-win season for a guy who has five wins in his ENTIRE CAREER?!
• Well done. We hired a proven loser.
• This isn’t a homerun. This is hitting into a triple play.
• This is a real kick in the crotch
• We needed a big splash. We got a fart in the tub
• Dear Baby Jesus: Let Chizik lie on his resume
• We've been Matt Millen'd. We are the Detroit Lions of the NCAA
• So this is what it felt like to be an Auburn fan 30-40 years ago???
Bama fans will be at an airport cheering again

Does it get any better than this? The Red Sox are establishing a dynasty, while the Yankees are throwing ridiculous contracts at risky arms. And the Alabama Crimson Tide have the newest hot program on the block, while Auburn is doing everything in their power to deconstruct their own. I'm not sure life could get any better right now in terms of fanhood.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in New Orleans?!

Dan regularly leaves comments here on the blog. He's a law student at Loyola University in New Orleans. He keeps a blog that he updates as much as a law student can.

Anyway, I enjoyed his entry today with lots of snapshots of New Orleans in the snow. Check it out.

Also, Dan is a big righty when it comes to politics. So he couldn't help but get a pot-shot in at Al Gore with the title there. (g)

It's Time to Go...

It's time. WAY past time.

If Bobby Bowden & Joe Paterno were dinner guests, it'd be about the 1:00 AM hour. They had been great guests for the most part. They told laugh-out-loud-funny jokes & some of the best stories you'd ever heard. You enjoyed having them around. But it is PAST time for them to go.

Joe-Pa with roses
This is how I want to remember Joe
But they're not budging. These two bull-headed old men are too full of pride to come out on the bottom end of their personal rivalry. Paterno has career 383 wins; Bowden has 381. The one who retires first will likely end up on the short end of the totem pole. But 2008 would be a great year for BOTH of them to announce that this past season was their last.

Paterno brought Penn State back to elite status this season. They were a legitimate part of the National Championship chase. After 4 losing seasons in a 5 year stretch earlier this decade, Joe-Pa has rattled off 40 wins in the last 4 years. They're going to the Rose Bowl this year. Even though all that ink was spilled earlier this decade talking about how Joe had lost his mojo, he's proven that he still has it.

So why not go out on top? I don't want to remember Joe Paterno limping out the door because he's not agile enough anymore to evade football players crashing into the sideline. Joe had to spend much of this season up in the press box, getting around with crutches. If he doesn't step down, that'll probably happen again & again. That's not how I want to remember Joe-Pa. I want to remember him coaching the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl & then riding off into the sunset.

Same goes for Bowden. The Florida State football program has been in steady decline this entire decade. Momentum is seeping from the program. Recruiting is still going well, but that talent isn't getting developed. There doesn't appear to be the same drive -- the same fire -- that was a part of this program in the 80's and 90's. It's plainly evident everywhere, even in Coach Bowden's speeches. I mean, my goodness... this is pathetic:

Oh, so we're gonna have to fight tonight? And-and... execution? Got it, coach. Thanks for the inspiration. Really fired me up.

There's no sign that Coach Bowden can do anything to turn this thing around. Bobby isn't suddenly going to sprout more ambition. If he sticks around for next season, he will turn EIGHTY years old! The fire is gone and it's not coming back.

FSU has a coach-in-waiting that other schools keep trying to interview every offseason anyway. That is a coach with ability. He can recruit, he can motivate, and he can scheme with X's and O's. That's also a coach with enough youth & ambition to re-energize FSU with the fuel it needs to become a contender again.

I think that the athletic directors of Penn State & Florida State would do well to get together and end this public rivalry that holds both schools hostage. If they can't get Paterno & Bowden out this year, then say to them, "You both get one more year. That's it and that's all." I guarantee that both schools would get biggest work ethic out of those two old coaches; there would be a fire present that those programs had not been seen probably in decades. Neither one of them wants to be on the short end of the totem pole. So they would work their rear ends off to go out on top. It would be a glorious end for both of them.

Come on, Coach Bowden & Coach Paterno. We're on the wrong side of midnight here. It's time to go.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We've Gotta DO Something!

This song has been in my head all day. If you've seen the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," you'll understand the humor.

BTW, don't take that as a tacit endorsement for that movie: while it's very well-written & VERY funny, it's also very sexually explicit. Ask me sometime and I'll let you know what you need to know going in before you decide to watch it.

Anyway, this song & video cracks me up. So crass. Yet, so right on...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Black Coaches in College Football

I wrote a little diatribe today over at "Saints, Sinners, & Sports" today about African-American coaches & college athletics. Really, it's more about how the media loves to let the University of Alabama be it's whipping boy. Go have a look.

The War on Christmas

With all the clashing over social values, especially "The War on Christmas" seemingly every holiday season, I find Stephen Colbert to be a refreshing source of perspective.

"Because if there's one thing Jesus cared about, IT'S SEMANTICS."

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I was thinking about this the other day? Other than David Gregory not dying his hair & parting it on the other side, don't these two look like they were separated at birth?

David Gregory
David Gregory

Chris Fowler
Chris Fowler

It's even more weird when you think about how they kind of have the same job now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Power 12: The Heartbreaker Edition

1.) Florida
No doubt in my mind who is the best team in football. Nor is there any doubt who is the best player in college football HISTORY. If he wins 2 Heisman's & 2 National Championships, he has to go pro doesn't he? If it isn't a rule, it should be. (g)

2.) Alabama
I'm extremely proud of the Tide. As tough as the loss is, it's even more fun just to be in a position again where your heart IS on the line & can be broken. It's no fun being irrelevant.

Also, no other coach squeezed as much out of what he had in the cupboard than Nick Saban this year. 12-0 in the regular season in the SEC, including road wins at Athens, Knoxville, and Red Stick, was quite a feat.

3.) Oklahoma
Going out on a limb because the game isn't over yet, but I'm not staying up for the ending.

Even though I have them ranked #3, I'm not arguing for an Alabama/Florida re-match in Miami. OU deserves the title shot. It's just that I don't believe that they, or anyone else, can play UF as tough as Alabama did tonight, so you'll forgive me if I play the homer & keep my Tide at #2.

4.) Texas
5.) Texas Tech
6.) Southern California
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Ohio State
10.) Oklahoma State
11.) Georgia Tech
12.) Boise State

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Big Game: Final Hype Videos & Prediction

So first, here's a funny, "Star Wars" themed video made by a Gator fan...

BTW, that was real footage of Tim Tebow wearing a crimson jersey. He filmed that when he was doing the documentary of his recruitment. There were several shots of him wearing that crimson #12 jersey. Looks totally wacky now.

And then, here's the hype video for the good guys... (g)

What a great match-up for the ages this is. Strength vs. Speed. Old School vs. New School. Red vs. Blue! I found this commentary from The 3rd Saturday in Blogtober to be as incisive as any I'd read:

Speed vs. Power. New School vs. Old School. These are the chosen storylines going into the game. While they are true to an extent, this game isn’t a referendum on offensive philosophy. Both teams try to accomplish the same thing, just by different means. The styles of play won’t decide the outcome, it will be which ever team executes their style of choice better, or whoever can defend the other’s style better. A victory by Bama won’t signal the death knell for Urban’s spread (although I do think it takes a special type of player to run as effectively and as productively as the current Gators are), and likewise, a Gator triumph won’t mean that “Old School” football is going the way of the DoDo.

He's right. But I tend to think that Alabama's formula for success -- dominating in the trenches, limiting mistakes, aggressive attacking-style defense -- will trump any firepower Florida brings to the table.

Both teams are very good at what they do, though. So good that I could see either team blowing the other one out very easily if all the breaks fall one way -- that is, if one team buckles under the pressure, fumbling & starting to throw interceptions. But I don't think that will happen; these are two first-class football teams. I think we've got a classic on our hands...

Alabama 24
Florida 21

Give 'em Hell, Alabama

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1992

Coming off a shut-out of rival Auburn (which was their head coach's last game with the Tigers), Alabama edged out Florida to stay undefeated en route to a perfect season & a National Championship.

I think I could grow to like that script. (g)

• This was one of two SEC Championship Games played at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. It didn't take the SEC office long to realize that this resulted in a little bit of a home field advantage for a certain school.

• Tide fans who were at the game not-so-warmly remember this event as the coldest game in Alabama football history. It looks it.

• This game was a tale of two halves. Alabama owned the opening part of the game. But then Florida came roaring back to tie it at 21. With just a couple minutes left in the game, Antonio Langham intercepted a Shane Matthews pass & ran it in for the touchdown. In Alabama lore, this is very simply remembered as "The Interception."

• I really miss Keith Jackson.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1999, Part 2

This one was a little less enjoyable for me.

Oh not because of the outcome. 34-7 was very sweet. But I watched this game with a bunch of Gator fans at a campus ministry Christmas party. And at the time I was dating one of those Gator fans. I couldn't cheer for fear of alienating her & everyone else. If I so much as smiled, I got pillows thrown at me. I'm not even making that up -- that happened. I grinned once and got a pillow stuffed in my face.

Still this is great stuff. A few reflections before the video...

• It's too bad 'Bama can't face Jesse Palmer again this Saturday instead of Tim Tebow.

• Even though the SEC Championship Games are technically at a neutral site, it sure doesn't seem like it when you listen to the cheers in this video. Tide fans travel well. Very well. We filled up that dome.

• Is there anything much more fun than watching Steven Orr Spurrier squirm?

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 1999, Part 1

"The Stomp in the Swamp!"

At least that's what I like to call it. (g) And I feel like I have naming rights because I was THERE to witness it. My 82 year-old grandmother & family matriarch (a life-long Tide fan who had season tickets for decades), when we called her later on that evening, called it "The greatest game I've ever SEEN!"

I was a freshman at UF when the Tide rolled into town to tangle with the Gators. I scored 4 tickets in the visitors section for my family & friends at face value. My buddies rolled in on their RV, and we just had the time of our lives.

We joke all the time about how we're going to tell our grandkids about that game...

"Not again, grandpa..."
"YES, you're gonna hear it again! And it'll be good for ya!"

A few other reflections:

• Florida entered this game #3 in the country & having not lost a game at home since 1994. Alabama entered the game having lost to Louisiana Tech 2 weeks prior.

• Shaun Alexander made great use of his face time in the post-game coverage on CBS. Being interviewed after producing 200 all-purpose yards & the game-winning touchdown, he glorified God and spoke about how the team embraced this game like David embraced facing Goliath. He talked about how a sermon at Alabama's FCA inspired them to take the fight right at the mighty Gators. I love Shaun.

• Speaking of Shaun, he was running right at our section on his game-winning 25-yard touchdown run. We were sitting in the corner of the endzone, and I can't even describe how awesome that moment was. I'm not even going to try.

Hype Videos: Tide 'n Gators 2005

I just keep getting more & more geeked up about this little scrimmage scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. So I decided to remember, here on the blog, some of the more prominent games (READ: "the games Alabama won") in this inter-divisional rivalry leading up to Saturday afternoon.

We'll start this morning with the 2005 Tide/Gators match-up at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL. If ever the Tide rolled, they did in this game. Total domination to win 31-3. A few incidental reflections:

• Tim Tebow was AT this game as a prospective recruit for ALABAMA. He nearly went with the Tide a couple months later -- reportedly agonizing over the decision on the day of his announcement, soul-searching while sitting by a lake with his dog -- but instead went with his boyhood dream of being a Gator. Having a Heisman Trophy to his credit & a National Championship ring on his finger, I'd say it's hard to fault him for the choice he made.

• This was the game in which Tyrone Prothro broke his leg. No matter how enjoyable this game is for Tide fans to remember & relish, it sucks that much more to remember that one of the most celebrated Tide players of this decade suffered a career-ending injury near the end of this same game. He caught an 80-yard touchdown to open the scoring on Alabama's first play from scrimmage, as well as a 2nd touchdown later in the game. Little did we know that just a few hours later his career would be over. He was just a sophomore.

If it sounds like I'm describing a death in the family, that's precisely what it still feels like.


Okay, that's a total bummer for a lead-in to an awesome video. How about a story?

A year later, in '06, my sister & I went to a 'Bama game where she wanted to get Prothro's autograph. Tyrone's career was done for all intents & purposes, but he would still suit up and was sort of a player-coach.

At one point in the 3rd quarter, with the game well in hand, we decided to go for it. So we found him on the sideline & Katie started calling him to try to get him over to the fence to sign her jersey. She was calling, "Prothro!!" "Hey Tyrone!!" "Number FOUR!! Sign my jersey!" He wouldn't budge. I figured it was hopeless at that point -- the players probably don't interact with fans during the game as a general rule.

But my baby sister looked up at me with her puppy-dog eyes & asked me to parlay my strong preaching voice for her cause. So big bro went to work...

"Hey PRO! Come on man! Just one signature!" "Pro-THRO!!" No response. Nothing.

Finally I got creative. In the loudest, clearest voice I could muster, I yelled "HEY PLAY-MAKER!!!" He & the other receivers just cracked up laughing at that. The people around us giggled at it, too. Still, though, no dice. We could sense that he wanted to come over to sign after that, but it was still taboo. That's okay. At least I made "Pro" laugh.

Alright! That's better. So back the truck up to 2005 again. Here are the highlights from a glorious Gator beat-down...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Warm Fuzzies

That's what this video is for me. It's the last 3 minutes of the 2008 Iron Bowl.

If you're an Auburn fan & you read this blog, just go ahead and skip this entry. This one's just for me...

Hope Springs Eternal for this Tide fan

I wrote a little something about my Alabama football fanhood today over at "Saints, Sinners, and Sports." Have a looksy:

The Nick Saban Redemption

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Immovable Object vs. The Unstoppable Force

I just hope we get as good of a game as the resume's of the two schools entering it.


"When they get a hold of you, there's no letting go. They've been tied or led in just under 756 of the last 780 minutes, and they've scored first in 12 of their last 13 games dating back to the end of last season."

... versus FLORIDA

"The No. 4 Gators walloped rival Florida State 45-15 at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, marking the seventh consecutive game in which they scored 40 points or more.

In fact, since losing to Ole Miss 31-30 in The Swamp on Sept. 27, the Gators have outscored their eight opponents 414-97, and won each game by at least four touchdowns."

What "they" are saying so far...

From's Chris Low:

Not long after Alabama had put the finishing touches on a 36-0 battering of Auburn on Saturday night, somebody asked Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson about being the nation's No. 1 team and still being an underdog this coming Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.

Not that the Vegas line had come out by that time, but it's the assumption college football has made for the last several weeks.

Florida is the team to beat.

"It doesn't matter to us," Wilson said, his smile widening. "It's about the guys in the locker room. It's about our attitude. Underdog or favored, it's not going to affect the outcome of the game at all. The whole season, people have not expected us to do the things that we've done.

"We'll just keep taking it that way, and we've seemed to handle it pretty well."

Nobody on Alabama's team was coming right out and saying it, but you could tell they're reveling in the whole notion that Florida is a cut above.

From's Mark Schlabach:

Florida might be the fastest team in the history of college football.

And whether you love or hate him, it's hard to find many coaches who are better than Saban at preparing a game plan.

The Gators haven't seen a team as strong or menacing as the Crimson Tide.

From's Ivan Maisel:

Now that everyone is looking forward, the next big issue for the Gators is whether Harvin will play against Alabama. The fleet wide receiver got sandwiched by linebacker Nigel Bradham and corner Korey Mangum late in the second quarter. He stayed on all fours, stopping only to grab his right ankle. Meyer described it as a sprain and said he would wait to see what the doctors say Sunday. Harvin left the locker room on crutches with his ankle in a boot.

Meyer has never coached against Alabama coach Nick Saban. Asked where their paths have crossed, Meyer said they haven't, beyond the SEC head coaches meetings. Meyer said they have been cordial toward one another.

"Helluva coach," he added.

Helluva game.

From's Stewart Mandel:

"When you look at Alabama, the sum is greater than the parts," CBS' Gary Danielson said during Saturday's broadcast. "When you look at Florida ... the spread [offense] highlights the parts that beat you."

It's not the smoothest analogy I've ever heard, but it's pretty accurate. It may well be that the Gators' multitude of weapons is too much for even as stout a defense as Alabama's -- but I wouldn't bet my house on it. The Tide's formula is one that's stood the test of time since well before the spread offense ever entered the sport's lexicon.

"It's going to be a good game," said Terrence Cody, the Tide's 365-pound nose guard. "We're both very good teams. Florida is flashier and all that stuff. But we're hard-nosed and we'll go out there and give them everything we've got."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Power 12: Rivalry Day Edition

1.) Alabama
The last time 'Bama shut out Auburn, they won a National Championship. Just sayin'

2.) Florida
The stage is set. Gary Brando of CBS aptly said that this will be the biggest SEC Championship since 1992 -- the very first, where the Tide edged the Gators 28-21. And then, uhhhh, went on to win a National Championship. (g)

3.) Oklahoma
4.) Texas
5.) Texas Tech
6.) Southern California
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Ohio State
10.) Oklahoma State
11.) Georgia Tech
The best team in the ACC, and they won't get to play for their conference championship. I just love watching the Yellow Jackets offense play ball.

12.) Boise State

Friday, November 28, 2008

Having My Cake and Eating it, too

I love listening to music. Listening to music makes me a more cheerful person -- life is more dreary without music. I'm not sure I've ever been one who particularly enjoys making music; but I enjoy listening to it. Life is just better with a soundtrack.

When I was in high school & college, I always did my math homework with music playing -- I was always able to knock out mathematics while also enjoying tunes at the same time. In some ways listening to music raised my efficiency level because it kept my mind from wandering & being distracted -- I'd knock out my homework quicker with music playing. However, when it came to my English Composition & Literature classes, I could never pull off the same feat. Music was a major distraction to me while I attempted to read & write -- the lyrics of the songs would compete with the content of my homework for my attention.

Now that my vocation consists in large part of reading and writing, I've not been able to enjoy music at the same time as I work... that is, until just a couple of weeks ago. I've recently discovered a way to listen to music while I'm working. I wish I had made this discovery ten years ago! I've figured out that I can listen to instrument-only music & raise my level of productivity in reading/writing projects!

(My use of exclamation points should express to you how much this means to me!!)

There is a wonderful web site on the internet called "Pandora." It is an internet radio station, but not any ordinary station. At Pandora you can create your own personal station & seed it with your own musical tastes. So a couple of weeks ago I created a station called No Vocal Radio that plays great music without lyrics. I can vote "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on whether I like the music that's played or not. Pandora is simply the most wonderful music site on the planet.

I've thrived in my work the last couple of weeks because of the creation of NVR. I've discovered a bunch of new music that I never thought I would enjoy but do. I now listen to anything from John Williams to Explosions in the Sky to Ronald Jenkees. And since Pandora helps you discover new music, I've just begun to enjoy the musical stylings of Georges Bizet and Apocalyptica.

Check out NVR or make your own Pandora station, and add an awesome soundtrack to your life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Out-of-the-Park Thanksgiving Sermon

I love analogies and metaphors: they help lend meaning and perspective to elements of life that are sometimes hard to wrap your mind around. One of my favorites is how I judge my preaching & teaching performances by comparing them to a baseball at bat. No matter how good you are, you can't hit a homerun everytime. Sometimes you're going to strikeout: it happens! Anyway, some sermons connect and some don't. This one that I preached Sunday connected right on the sweet spot.

I've been thinking a lot about this notion that American Christians are dual citizens: members of the Kingdom of God, but also Americans. No less American, and no less Christian. Kingdom citizenship certainly holds a place of dominance over our deferent, temporal American citizenship. But both citizenships exist together: sometimes in unison, sometimes in tension.

This sermon appeals to both of those notions in the context of Thanksgiving. I tie together the stories of the Pilgrims & the Israelites, and bring it full circle at the end in a way that I could just feel resonate through our auditorium on Sunday. I'm sharing this because it's just the most exciting sermon I've preached all year: it's blessed me & my church family immensely already.

Anyway, have a looksy. Maybe you'll find some material worth sharing.

My 2009 Conference Plans

I've picked which lectureship I'm gonna attend in '09, and I'm starting to make plans to be there. I'll be going to the Lipscomb Summer Celebration, which runs from July 1st to the 3rd. It's close by in Nashville, TN (not across the country in Malibu) and they typically put together an all-star cast (last year they had Jeff Walling, Buddy Bell, Lynn Anderson, the late great Prentice Meador, Donny Mac, "The Man in Black" Randy Harris, and many more).

Lipscomb University holds a special place in my heart. I've attended several life-changing rallies & workshops there over the years -- really formative, transformational experiences. I look forward to what I hope will be yet another one.

I'd love to meet some of my friends in the blogosphere there. If you haven't made your conference plans yet, come along with me to Lipscomb's lectureship. I'd enjoy hanging out with you there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Standing on Their Shoulders

My friend Mark wrote an inspirational blog entry about his home church yesterday. I couldn't help but reflect on my own spiritual heritage as I read Mark's great testimony (growing up listening to R. Harris -- I'm still jealous!).

Scripture teaches us that we can learn the truth about people, or even institutions, by their fruit. I can't help but be overwhelmed at the moment considering how fortunate I am to have been hanging around the right orchards all my life. Mark is a minister. I'm a minister. It's the good, strong, solid, healthy churches that manufacture our ministers. As I survey my life, I sense that I'm the product of more than just one of these environments.

My home church in Panama City, the Jenks Avenue Church of Christ, has had a hand in producing at least 4 ministers since I was a young, adolescent member there (among them some may know David Black, Daniel Cherry, and Dannie Rio). And it is still producing ministers -- there are some encouraging young men coming up through the ranks of that youth group right now.

We were each mentored by the preaching minister there for over 35 years now: Jack Reece. He's not the most impressive orator (I believe his favorite line to deliver at lectureships is that he feels like "a mule among thoroughbreds"), but he is the preeminent example in each of our 4 lives of humble service. For me, he is the model for what I want to accomplish professionally in my life. He's partnered with God in building my home church. He converted some of his own Shepherds. By any measure, a great man. I could go on & on about Jack.

Heck, even when I was in high school, I was around a bunch of developing ministers. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a magnet high school program called International Baccalaureate at my Alma Mater, Rutherford HS. Of the 60-odd high-achieving kids (who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, Congressional aids, FBI & NSA agents, etc.) in my graduating class, at least 4 of them are in full-time ministry today.

And then, before I went to Harding, I was a part of a vibrant campus ministry at the University of Florida that produced a lot of ministers while I was there. By my count, in just my two years in "Gators for Christ" at the University City Church of Christ, I saw that ministry produce 4 ministers and 2 Christian counselors. One of those ministers left his Ph.D. Psychology program (then ranked the #1 Clinical Psych program in the nation), which he had a full-paid scholarship for, to go study at Harding Grad to become a minister. Another already had an engineering degree from Georgia Tech -- he's now in full-time ministry. That's how much drawing power & influence that the Gospel had through that ministry.

Then I got to go spend three years at Harding University. One of my friends likes to say that we walked amongst "spiritual giants." The friendships I forged & the lessons I learned have served me and the people I minister to -- and will for years to come.

And now I'm working with the Lynn Haven Church of Christ. We're a small family of 40. But in my two and a half years there, they have grown up so much. One of the prominent members is just a couple of years older than me -- he's the manager of the largest branch of a local, popular credit union. His wife is owner of a local girls dance studio. Their mission is to grow that dance studio up large enough so that he can quit his prominent job & work full-time with our small church family. He's a minister waiting to happen.

God has placed me in fruitful environments, and allowed me to incubate in some of His greatest churches. I've been exorbitantly blessed. All I can do is just praise God.

Monday, November 24, 2008

British Television Profiles the Iron Bowl

Passion for the Iron Bowl

It's Iron Bowl Week in Alabama. In a way, I have to confess, I don't even really fully grasp the passion of this event because I've never lived in the state. You see, in Alabama, football is all they've got. There's no pro teams. Only a small sliver of the state is on the water. These people live, breathe, eat football -- much like folks in Indiana or Kentucky do for basketball.

Tide fans are especially fired up for the game this season. We haven't experienced a win over Auburn since Bush's first year of Presidency. Auburn keeps celebrating by holding up more fingers, and Alabama fans are ready to show them the finger. Here's the video that has 'Bama fans all fired up this week, from the celebration at the end of the '07 game:

And finally, to give you a taste of JUST how big & important this game is to Alabamians, I read this story a few months ago while reading my favorite Tide Football bulletin board...

I was a 4th year med student at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (the proper name to my mind, despite UAB’s attempts to steal it) doing my Cardiology acting internship. The Cardiology service was always slammed: beepers exploding all the time, the ER calling non-stop, patients trying to die in the units, etc. My team happened to be on call Thanksgiving 1992; we were all afraid we wouldn’t get to watch the game. The beepers were ominously quiet ALL day until the minute the game finished when all hell broke loose. Apparently, people had been having chest pain for hours but refused to come to the hospital because they didn’t want to miss any portion of the game.

People who aren’t from Alabama wouldn’t ever understand the depth of passion for our teams.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Power 12: The BCS Chaos Edition

1.) Alabama
2.) Florida
3.) Oklahoma
4.) Texas
5.) Texas Tech

Calling teams 3 through 5 is just a crap shoot. But that's how I'm calling it.

6.) Southern California
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Georgia
10.) Missouri
11.) Ohio State
12.) Oklahoma State

Friday, November 21, 2008

More than a Speeding Ticket

My aunt forwarded this story to me. She may not be the queen of E-mail forwards, but she's up there. I almost feel like I have to apologize before sharing an E-mail forward. But it's really worth reading.

I know we all feel like Superman behind a steering wheel: we're in control, and nothing could happen to us. But we have speed limits in our nation for a reason. And that reason is that there is a direct correlation between average rate of speed & major traffic accidents.

Take some time & let this story soak in. It's pretty sobering.

Read This Slowly

Jack took a long look at his speedometer
before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone.
Fourth time in as many months.
How could a guy get caught so often?
When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour,
Jack pulled over, but only partially.
Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard.
Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with a mirror.
The cop was stepping out of his car,
the big pad in hand.
Bob? Bob from Church?
Jack sunk farther into his trench coat.
This was worse than the coming ticket.
A cop catching a guy from his own church.
A guy who happened to be a little eager
to get home after a long day at the office.
A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow.
Jumping out of the car,
he approached a man he saw every Sunday,
a man he'd never seen in uniform.
'Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this.'
'Hello, Jack.' No smile.
'Guess you caught me red-handed
in a rush to see my wife and kids.'
'Yeah, I guess.' Bob seemed uncertain.
'I've seen some long days at the office lately.
I'm afraid I bent the rules a bit -just this once.'
Jack toed at a pebble on the pavement.
'Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight.
Know what I mean?'
'I know what you mean
I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct '
This was not going in the right direction.
Time to change tactics.
'What'd you clock me at?'
'Seventy. Would you sit back in your car please?'
'Now wait a minute here, Bob.
I checked as soon as I saw you.
I was barely nudging 65.'
The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.
'Please, Jack, in the car'

Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door.
Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard.
He was in no rush to open the window.
The minutes ticked by.
Bob scribbled away on the pad.
Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license?
Whatever the reason,
it would be a month of Sundays
before Jack ever sat near this cop again.
A tap on the door jerked his head to the left.
There was Bob, a folded paper in hand
Jack rolled down the window a mere two inches,
just enough room for Bob to pass him the slip.

Jack could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice.
Bob returned to his police car without a word.
Jack watched his retreat in the mirror.
Jack unfolded the sheet of paper.
How much was this one going to cost?

Wait a minute.
What was this? Some kind of joke?

Certainly not a ticket. Jack began to read:

'Dear Jack, Once upon a time I had a daughter.
She was six when killed by a car.
You guessed it - a speeding driver.
A fine and three months in jail, and the man was free.
Free to hug his daughters, all three of them.
I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until Heaven
before I can ever hug her again.

A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man.
A thousand times I thought I had.
Maybe I did, but I need to do it again.
Even now.
Pray for me.
And be careful, Jack,
my son is all I have left.'


Jack turned around in time to see Bob's car
pull away and head down the road.
Jack watched until it disappeared.
A full 15 minutes later, he too,
pulled away and drove slowly home,
praying for forgiveness and
hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

Life is precious.
Handle with care.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Christmas Music

I've been cheating. Ever since the weather has started to turn cooler, I've already started to break out the Christmas music. Sue me. Anyway, while I was picking up a book at the local Family Christian Store, I was fortunate enough to pick up Third Day's new album ("Christmas Offerings") on sale for FIVE BUCKS. How awesome is that?! And it's really good stuff!

I typically tend to react in an annoyed way when I hear the tunes of old hymns given a make-over. But I love what Third Day has done with some classics like "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Joy to the World."

The one that is echoing around my cranium this afternoon is "O Holy Night." I don't guess I'd ever really explored the lyrics before, but they are rich! My favorite part is where the music begins to swell at the bridge & chorus following the 2nd verse...

     Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
     Let all within us praise His holy name.

     Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
     His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Hit up your local Christian store, or iTunes, and check out this great music. Third Day always seems to deliver solid albums. Southern Rock just never goes out of style. (g)

Plus, I have a soft spot for the lead singer because we have an added "tribal" connection. Mac Powell is a Birmingham native, and grew up a huge fan of the Crimson Tide. Love that guy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Right To Win

A really outstanding, well-written article written by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell. We have a lot of rights in America, but the "right to victory" isn't one of them...

"The Right to Win"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sad News

Due to registration response, the 2008 Huntsville Auburn Club's "Beat Bama" Party has been canceled.

So apparently, as far as I can tell, Auburn’s plans to beat Alabama have been canceled. All I've gotta say is...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Compliment from Google

One of my favorite things to do lately is to check the Sitemeter stats for my blog. Sometimes it's fun to see how people find their way here. I know that most of my regular readers have known me at one point or another, and that's why you read. But sometimes it's funny (and sometimes it's not) to see how folks find this virtual space.

I had to chuckle at how a person from Asheville, NC found me this morning. This person did a Google search for the intellectually curious angel, and my blog was the 6th site listed.

So thank you, Google, for considering me worthy of the moniker "the intellectually curious angel." I'll take it as a compliment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Power 12: The "Gary Danielson Must Go" Edition

1.) Alabama
The off-week couldn't have come at a better time. 'Bama will get a chance to heal up & rest up before facing Auburn and Florida.
2.) Texas Tech
3.) Florida
They looked really, really good today. Although Carolina also looked really, really bad. When they face the Tide, it will be total contrast in styles: the speed spread vs. big brawny strength. But I think I'll watch it with the CBS announcers on mute.
4.) Texas
5.) Oklahoma
6.) Southern California
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Georgia
10.) Missouri
11.) Ohio State
12.) Oklahoma State

Friday, November 14, 2008

Churches of Christ vs. The Denominations Settled Via YouTube

More evidence that acappella four-part harmony rules...

... and everything else drools. I dare you to watch this last video all the way through. It's painful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Mournful Nightmare, Part 3 of 3

Dreams are strange constructs to try to break down. They are sometimes more fanciful & imaginative than anything in the conscious world. And trying to translate them into a conscious stream of thought can sometimes make you sound like you belong in the loony bin. Nevertheless, dreams are revealing, and that's why I've spent time trying to break some of them down here.

The most recent dream I had related to my Mom & her death happened a couple of months ago. And it wasn't really a dream; it was more like a nightmare. I woke up from this nightmare at about 4:00 AM on a Friday morning with tears streaming down my cheeks. It was so shocking to me & emotionally jolting that I could not simply fall back to sleep. That was it -- I was up for the day.

I can't remember enough of the dream to script it out entirely, but I remember enough. The dream involved my Mother and my grandmother (my Dad's deceased mother, or my Mom's deceased mother-in-law) laying side-by-side each on their death beds. It was a large room, and there was lots of white. The room had the feel of an old-timey hospital where they would open the windows & let the breeze flow through the room.

Anyway, there lay my Mom & Grandma. Both on their death beds. Both seemingly in the final hours of their "life," but essentially lifeless. It was the day of their death for both of them. Their faces showed pained expressions -- they were uncomfortable, weak, and their faces were shriveled. They were about to die. It was not a pleasant scene. In fact, it was a horrific scene.

Then the nightmare takes a turn for the weird. This is where you'll have to bear with me. All of a sudden, this dream begins to take the form of me kind of watching a movie trailer. All of a sudden, I'm sort of seeing my mourning portrayed on the silver screen, and I'm watching a preview of an upcoming movie about my experience.

And who is the star of this upcoming feature? None other than Dane Cook. (It's okay -- go ahead and laugh. I know I did.) The one scene I can recall is Dane Cook sort of staring off into the distance as he tries to capture the words & emotions of what I'm feeling about seeing my Mom and Grandma on their death beds. I can almost here a majestic musical score cresting in the background.

And that's all I remember.

Dane Cook
Complete Moron
Okay, first, the Dane Cook thing. The only thing I can think is that my mind was so overwhelmed with the horror of death that I needed a comedic release. I personally think that Dane Cook is one of the worst actors & comedians of all time. I don't find him remotely funny. I don't think his movies have any redeeming value. However, the thought of Dane Cook trying to establish some acting "bona fides" by playing a serious role where he tries to convey my emotions on the big screen is hilarious. It's like I was lampooning Dane Cook's anticipated career arc in the middle of my nightmare. And I'm kinda impressed that my subconscious came up with that.

Okay, enough with the comic relief. Back to the real subject matter.

I think that at least one thing people who haven't experienced loss need to understand about it is how utterly horrific is the experience of the death of a love one. It is a terrorizing, haunting experience. I don't say that to scare anyone. But it is a traumatic experience.

People who are unfamiliar with death need to understand this. I know that I did not understand it before this experience. I'd hear people talk about violence on TV, and I didn't understand what the big deal was. I'd heard people mention how soldiers coming back from war sometimes experienced PTSD. Even though I was aware of that, I couldn't quite grasp the mechanics of it. But now I understand it better. There is something so horrific about death -- so exceedingly heavy for our minds to bear -- that our mind is programmed against becoming comfortable with death.

With a loss like this, you come to understand the meaning behind a well-worn phrase like "the sanctity of life." Life is precious. After going through this, I have a whole new perspective on a myriad of issues related to life: murder, war, grave illness, etc. With this nightmare, I think that my subconscious was trying to cope with or process through the horror & trauma of that experience somehow.

I don't know if I'll have more dreams that include Mom in the future. I imagine that I will. But the ones I have had have already helped me recognize so much already. I'm grateful that they've been impressionable enough for me to remember them when I've woken up.

I encourage you to try to pay attention to your own dreams. If they're impressionable enough that you remember them the morning after, write or type them down. Meditate on them. I imagine that there are some thoughts in them that will help you discover more about yourself or about the subject matter your dreams explore.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ministry: "Explain it to me like I'm your Grandmother"

Still feeling the effects of my cold, I marched to church with an intrepid spirit on Sunday morning. Equipped with an ample supply of lozenges and tissues, I was determined to grind it out & feed my church family this past Lord's Day. However, after a full hour of Bible Study & a sermon, I was starting to cough an inordinate amount & my voice was beginning to crack and fail. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to preach Sunday night, so I tagged our church's de-facto youth minister & he was it. I'm so blessed to have a ready & able, and most importantly willing, fill-in whenever I require it.

It's not often that I get to go to church to just listen, so I figured it'd be a good opportunity. Instead, he began with a line of questioning so profound that I could barely hold my attention on his presentation -- my mind was swirling with the implications. Here's the question:

"Who is God?"

He was asking us to think of how we would explain God to someone who had never heard of Him before. I like the way Denzel Washington puts it in the movie "Philadelphia" when he asks people to, "Explain it to me like I'm your grandmother," or, "Explain it to me like I'm a 3rd grader." You're having a conversation with a totally unchurched unbeliever & you're going to explain the subject in the most simple terms imaginable -- how do you explain the concept of God?

My mind immediately goes either to attributes or to metaphors. I can explain God by addressing his exclusive attributes: being omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Or I could explain God by appealing to metaphors: God is like a King; God is like a Father; God is like a Shepherd; etc.

And then he continued, "But do we ever BEGIN with God is love?" I'm unsure if I ever have. And so our fill-in preacher continued through the evening addressing how "God is love" should be primary in our thoughts about God, and thus in our conversations about Him as well.

I began to think of the implications for ministry. In terms of how I think about God and how long it takes me to get to "love," how does that affect how I dispense the grace I've been given? When I think about myself doing the work of an evangelist & fulfilling the role of a minister (2nd Tim. 4:5), what do I think of? Well, true to form, I either think of attributes or metaphors. I'll explain what I do: preaching & teaching, having Bible studies, serving, visiting, etc. Or I'll appeal to metaphors: minister as pastor; minister as shepherd; minister as CEO; minister as point man; etc.

But do I ever think of myself, the minister, as "Lover in Chief?" I'm unsure if I've ever really, consciously conceptualized my daily vocation in that way. In fact, in view of Eph. 6:12, I've always thought of myself as more of a fighter than a lover. But perhaps a reordering is due in light of this reimagining.

What do I do for a living? I get paid to love on people in the name of God.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Job 39 and Glen Coffee

Alabama running back Glen Coffee has a favorite Bible passage: it's God's description of a war horse in Job 39:19-25...

Pretty cool stuff. I'd never really paid this verse much mind until I heard it was his favorite passage. I think it's awesome that he takes on the spirit of this passage in his running style.

Glen Coffee image

Monday, November 10, 2008

Religulous: Conversation or Confrontation?

I want to highlight what I found to be a great review of the recently released mockumentary by Bill Maher entitled "Religulous." A few months ago I made it known that I pledged to not watch this film -- I didn't want to contribute a dime to it's box office returns or Bill Maher's, as I called it, "2nd-gradish, bullying brand of 'Ha Ha Ha! You're so Dumb' humor." After reading this review by Holly Robaina, I'm even more resolved to fulfill that pledge. Check it out:

Conversation or Confrontation? Thoughts about Bill Maher's new movie, Religulous

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Power 12: The No Respect Edition

We're just lucky, I guess

1.) Alabama
If you listen to "the experts" speak, you'll hear them keep on emphasizing how Alabama isn't very impressive and probably won't even make it to the BCS Championship Game. I guess 'Bama doesn't get any style points for having Sara Evans & Eva Longoria on the sideline last week. Meanwhile, in workmanlike fashion, Alabama keeps on finding ways to win the very games that the so-called "better teams" keep on losing. Last week it was Texas; this week it was Penn State. But Alabama stands tall at 10-and-0 in the SEC.

2.) Texas Tech
They look impressive in their scrimmages. I wonder what would happen if they had to play against a defense.

3.) Florida
4.) Texas
5.) Southern California
6.) Oklahoma
7.) Utah
8.) Penn State
9.) Georgia
10.) Missouri
11.) Ohio State
12.) Oklahoma State

Dropped Out

LSwho? and TCU-later

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Emotionally Disturbing Dream, Part 2 of 3

It's high time I pick up with describing some of the strange dreams I've had recently as I've been mourning the loss of my Mom. If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here.

A fair warning: there's some real personal stuff in here. If you're uneasy with people getting sort of "emotionally naked," then you might just wanna stop reading now and move on to something else.

It's been awhile since I dreamed this dream. Anyhow, here's a summary from my previous entry about the major events of this dream:

I had this dream where Mom was coming to visit me for a week. She was coming down from Alabama with her mother & her sister. The first day she came, she and I reconnected in affectionate ways that are normal for mothers & their sons (and as was normal for us). I always enjoyed it when Mom scratched my head & played with my hair; so I would oftentimes lean against her shoulder & let her play with my hair. In this dream, Mom & I were doing this on our first day together. I didn't have an awareness of the strangeness of this encounter because of Mom's death; I was simply enjoying the rich, full amount of time we had together after recognizing that we had been apart for some time. The best way to describe this part of the dream was that Mom & I were reconnecting both physically and emotionally.

This was a very comforting experience for me. But what happened next was an emotional jolt of another kind.

Within the dream, the very next day, Mom surprised me with the news that she, her sister, and her mother were going to cut their visit with me short & head up to Atlanta, GA for some shopping. They had to go abruptly, seemingly after having planned to spend time with me for a week.

My immediate reaction? First shock (What?! Why? Why NOW?), and then anger. But it wasn't an enraged anger; it was a calm, thoughtful anger, if such a thing exists.

Before I describe what happened next, I have to provide some context. My Mom left our family in the middle of my Senior year in high school. She met another man who flattered her. She didn't have any improper relations with him while still with my Dad. But she felt that her relationship with Dad had grown cold, and she was eager to experience the warmth of love again.

This is going to sound odd -- because it was -- but Mom actually consulted me on her decision to leave us & move away to Alabama. I specifically remember how in early December 1998 Mom told me that she had rekindled a friendship with an old pal, she didn't know if it would ever become anything more, but that she felt trapped & wanted to be set free to pursue a better relationship with him or whoever else might come along. She asked me what I thought about that. So, I told her that I thought that was her choice. I calmly, rationally told her that I wanted her to stay with Dad, but I understood how she felt & appreciated her desire to be happy. I explained that I thought her decision wouldn't much affect me, because I would in just 9 months time be moving away for college. But I urged her to consider my sister, who was just entering adolescence.

Mom made the decision to go pretty quickly after that conversation. The month between that conversation & the day she left was one of the dreariest, depressing periods of my life. I kind of chuckle about it now, but I literally sat in my room and listened to Simon & Garfunkel that whole month. That's how sad *I* was! ;)

I didn't think Mom's leaving our family would affect me that much, but it did. I don't think I ever really expressed it to Mom, either, because part of her decision to leave was based on me saying, "I think I'll be alright."

So back to the dream. Mom has up & decided she's going to cut her visit (and MY time) short to go off on some flighty, selfish shopping journey. And so I tried to rationally explain to Mom why I didn't appreciate it. I started to explain how she wasn't considering me, and how this was hurting my feelings. I remember saying repetitively, "Mom... ... You KNOW why I'm upset about this." With this line of conversation, I was connecting her cutting her visit short with her leaving the family a decade ago. I was turning the screws to try to get her to stay. And she'd act dumb, and I'd interrupt saying, "MOM -- I know you KNOW why I'm upset."

And that was it. That's when I woke up. So comforting, and yet so disturbing.

For the first time, I think, I've realized how much Mom's departure from my family actually did affect me. Like the stereotypical "hero child," I wanted to pretend that I was above mere feelings -- that I was an impregnable fortress that couldn't be touched by pain or hurt. And yet I was still feeling it all. And here I am NOW -- almost TEN years later -- STILL feeling it because I never really dealt with it.

You wanna know what song I listened to most during that dreadful "Simon & Garfunkel" period? It's called "I Am a Rock." Until just a few weeks ago, right after I dreamed this dream, I hadn't realized how much this song conditioned my response to those events in my life until I randomly heard this song on the radio -- the first time I'd given it a listen almost TEN years.

The first & last lines are so revealing...

"A winter's day
In a deep & dark December
I am alone..."

"...And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries."

Dreams can shake us up because sometimes they make us deal with emotional issues that we've tried to sweep under the rug. For me, my response to the intense emotional turmoil in my life at that time was to retreat into myself & shut others out of my life. To this day, my personality still resonates with figures & characters who can be strong, self-reliant people without the need of supporting friends or family.

Listen to something I wrote but never published on the blog when I was trying to clear my mind about an infatuation with a particular girl a couple of years ago. I was pontificating about my own romance with being like a cowboy:

Cowboys don't need girls -- it's just them, their horse, & the frontier. It's what I love about the movie "Jeremiah Johnson."

And yet still he learned to settle down with his wife & adopted boy.


So part of me likes the independence of singleness. The cowboy-esque "I'm satisfied on my own" attitude that doesn't need anyone else.

You know, it didn't take long for God to figure out in Scripture that "it is not good for man to be alone." We were not created to be Christian Cowboys wild & roaming the frontier all by ourselves. I wasn't created for that. I, and we all, were created for community.

I suppose I'm writing this for the benefit of my friends, or for anyone who might stumble across this while doing a Google Search. In life, there are going to be unique times where we face intense grief or disappointment. It's not a matter of if, but when. When you do, I encourage you to do the courageous thing and face your grief or disappointment head-on. You will not be able to put it off forever. Someday your feelings will find you; perhaps long after it's too late to deal with the person who helped produce those feelings.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Reason #4,863,093 to Hate the Yankees

As if we really needed to have another reason. Despite the success of the Red Sox, this story just goes to show that the Yankees are still -- and will always be -- the bad guys.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Power 12: The "Crabtree Took My Breath Away" Edition

1.) Alabama
I didn't see it, but on ESPN's College Gameday, apparently Chris Fowler stated that an undefeated Alabama team would be an underdog to a one-loss Florida team if they both were to advance to the SEC Championship Game. I wish I could describe how much I appreciate that the media is down on the Tide. And the only reason they'll be ranked #1 is seemingly by default -- begrudgingly.

2.) Penn State
3.) Texas Tech
What a WIN! If you missed this game, you missed the game of the year in college football. Michael Crabtree... unbelievable.

This is the one team that I had not given much in terms of respect for most of the season. They've earned it. But they'll be on letdown alert this week versus Okie St.

4.) Florida
They skunked Georgia in the 2nd half. It's pretty evident how Georgia can kind of give up if you demoralize them enough.

5.) Texas
6.) Southern California
7.) Oklahoma
8.) Oklahoma State
9.) Texas Christian
10.) Georgia
11.) LSU
12.) Missouri

Dropped Out

Florida State
What a heart-breaking way to lose.

Who Doesn't Love This Commercial?

Friday, October 31, 2008

REVIEW: Ben Stein's "Expelled"

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Just Watched:
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

My Rating:
4½ Stars

I'm just stunned.

Ben Stein has put together an excellent documentary about the eclipse of academic freedom in America, especially with regard to the issue of the origin of species. With engaging interviews & startling facts, Stein goes on a journey to show how scientists who simply acknowledge (not even *subscribe* to the theory -- just ACKNOWLEDGE) the viability of the intelligent design theory are becoming victims of a systematic effort to supress alternative perspetives to Darwinian Evolutionism. With a skillful weaving of current events & images of totalitarian regimes past, Ben Stein makes a strong case that the supression of ideas is a barrier to scientific freedom as the Berlin Wall was a barrier to personal German liberty for many years. He also takes time to show the fruits of the evolutionary theory of origins by connecting the thinking with Nazi Eugenics programs.

It's just an excellent documentary. I'm amazed at the awful reviews Stein's documentary received. They simply serve as further evidence of the existence of a kind of conspiratorial cabal for the mainstream worldview of the future. And Ben Stein just furthers my deep aversion for public figures of anti-religion such as Bill Maher & Richard Dawkins.

What "Expelled" further does for me is highlight a troubling trend in 21st century culture: unknowable truth resulting from the reign of bias. What do I mean? Personally, I am unnervingly frustrated that I have no idea what to think about the idea of global warming. If you think global warming exists, then you must be a Democrat; and if you think global warming is a farce, then you must be a Republican. Each political party has their own set of scientists & "scientific" conclusions. How can a person even form an objective opinion?

As a moderate thinker, I have a difficult time with the veneration of the subjective. I listen to right-leaning people wring their hands over ACORN & people who would manipulate our political system by saturating the vote with illegal votes. And then I listen to left-leaning people wring their hands over voter suppression or the idea that electronic voting is not trustworthy -- people in positions of high influence who would manipulate our political system by fixing the numbers. And you know what -- each side is ONLY concerned with the pety notion that the other side will gain an unfair advantage! What I want to know is this: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THE PURITY OF OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM?!? It's nowhere to be found! No one cares, because each side only cares for itself.

This development of a highly-polarized culture is intellectually dishonest. And that is at the heart of Ben Stein's documentary: the idea that people place their worldview before science, or objective investigation. Such as happened with the poor kids involved in the Duke lacrosse rape case -- "well, they fit profile, so let's book 'em & get it over with." Placing your worldview ahead of your investigative pursuit leaves you living in a fantasy world of your own construct -- it's not reality. And it's frustrating to people like me, especially if (like in the issue that this documentary explores) you're not even allowed to ask questions from an alternative perspective.

Well, I got lost in my own diatribe there. But you should see this documentary. And then you should go sign the Academic Freedom Petition as Ben Stein urges people to in the extra's on the DVD. "Liberty & justice for all" -- that would be a nice direction for America I think...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saints, Sinners, and Sports

A couple blogging buddies of mine, and myself, have started a new blog dedicated to highlighting both virtue & vice in the world of athletics. It's called Saints, Sinners, and Sports. I think the idea is that we're going to spend time figuring out who all the good guys & bad guys are while pretending that wasting all of our time talking about sports isn't a moral issue itself. ;)

Anyway, give it a looksy. I just posted an entry about our saint of the month: former Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings. Be sure & provide feedback about topics that interest you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It Don't Get More Cocky than This


Hey Vols
Hey Vols
Hey Vols
We just beat the hell outta you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer, Give 'em hell Alabama!

Granted, it's not the classiest cheer in the world. And we've had our medicine fed right back to us by rival fans in recent down seasons. But I'll assure you that, at the end of a well-played game, there is little else that is as satisfying as yelling this cheer. It's just sublime. In fact, I could play that little clip from Saturday night all day long & not get sick of it.

Power 12: Rocky Flop Edition

1.) Texas
Still the best team right now. I'm not convinced that Texas Tech will be as much of a challenge as the media thinks they'll be; the Longhorns have always handled the Red Raiders pretty easily.
2.) Alabama
A 20-point victory in Knoxville, without their best player (the injured Terrence Cody), and when many of the pundits were saying that the Tide were on upset alert. It's possible that Alabama may be the most complete team in college football.
3.) Penn State
Despite doing a great job of going into Columbus & getting a win, their overall strength of schedule is lacking.
4.) Florida
5.) Georgia
6.) Southern California
7.) Oklahoma
8.) Texas Tech
9.) Oklahoma State
10.) Texas Christian
11.) LSU
12.) Florida State

Dropped Out

Georgia Tech and Ohio State

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Bloody-Knuckle Tennessee Story

It's Tennessee week for Alabama fans.

This week Tide fans are staring at a game in Neyland Stadium against perhaps the weakest Vol team in 20 years. It doesn't lessen the anticipation, though. Ever since Phil Fulmer worked to take down Alabama with the Albert Means situation, Tide fans fume at Tennessee. We want to make Fulmer pay; we want him to suffer. So pardon us all if we're a little less than sympathetic to the notion that Fulmer currently sits on a hot seat. We're just thrilled if we're the ones who are allowed to figuratively act as the executioner.

The rivalry pre-dates that drama, though. It goes back to the early days of college football when Tennessee & Alabama were the two pre-eminent football schools in the south. It's not the oldest rivalry in the world: that distinction belongs to Auburn/Georgia. But it's still one of the longest-running & most exciting. There's even a fantstic blog dedicated to it now: The 3rd Saturday in Blogtober.

I have one good Tennessee story to share in terms of my own personal fanhood. I shared it on a 'Bama message board a few months ago, and I thought I'd re-print it here for Tennessee week. Hopefully it'll give you an idea of just how big and captivating this game is for folks on both sides of this border-war rivalry. Enjoy...

It was October of 2000, and I was watching the Alabama/Tennessee game on TV on the first floor of my townhouse. It had a low ceiling, and just above the couch was a ceiling fan. At one point, 'Bama had the ball and running back Brandon Miree broke off a 30-yard run all the way down to the 2 or 3 yard line. I was so excited that I jumped up. And when I did that, I completely busted out the light fixture attached to the ceiling fan & sent shattered glass everywhere.

First thing I did: I literally had to pull out a couple of shards of glass that were sticking out of my knuckles.

Second thing: I quickly slipped on my loafers so I wouldn’t step on any broken glass (which was all over the room).

Third thing: I ran to the kitchen -- breaking even more glass underfoot -- to get some paper towels to stick on my bleeding fingers.

And I very skillfully managed to do all that & navigate my way back in front of the television to catch the next play! I was hopeful I would be able to put off cleaning up the mess & tending my wounds in order that I could watch us score. I wasn’t going to miss it!

The very next play, however, we fumbled on the goal-line & gave the ball back to Tennessee. Sulking, I then went and treated my cut up fingers & swept up the glass.

I think that just about sums up the 2000 season for Tide fans.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bursting the Comfort Bubble

It seems to me that these are hard words for 21st century Americans. They don't mesh very well with the idea of "The American Dream." But these words are perspective-bringing words of truth...

God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn't want to destroy it. Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.

God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the beatitudes of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, Paul's great chapter on love, and Peter's list of the characteristics of an effective and productive life. Every time you forget that character is one of God's purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You'll wonder, "Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?" One answer is that life is
supposed to be difficult! It's what enables us to grow. Remember, earth not heaven!

Many Christians misinterpret Jesus' promise of the "abundant life" to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on earth.

This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment. But God is
not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, either you will become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality.

Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God's purposes, not vice versa. Why would God provide "heaven on earth" when he's planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, p. 173