Thursday, February 28, 2008

BREAKING NEWS on Wall Street

This just in The Wall Street Journal:

WSJ Headline

Right Thing To do?

I just read this entry on a bulletin board that I frequently read. I'm interested to hear what you think about this.

We’ve all littered at one time or another. Back in the 80s and early 90s it seemed much more common until the world started getting more eco-friendly and the more refined realized that it’s probably not a good idea and it’s certainly not pleasing to the eye to toss a candy wrapper or can out the car window.

I pride myself these days on never littering in a place that is not my home and recycling paper and plastics when I can.

Obviously, there are still a lot of people and maybe more so in Alabama that throw and dump garbage where they shouldn’t.

Here’s what happened: I was sitting a left turn lane waiting on a red light and sitting behind a red mustang. I just happen to be looking at the mustang when a hand comes out the driver side window and a bottle comes flying out and lands on the grass median to our left. I was shocked. well, I got out of my car, picked up the beer bottle and went and tapped on the girl’s window. She rolled the window down and I handed her the beer bottle and said, “I think you dropped this.” She, naturally, was dumbfounded. She said something like “Uh, Uh gosh, thanks.” I got back in my car and when the light turned green she did a U-turn and rolled her window down and called me an a**hole. I chuckled.

Did I overstep my bounds? Should I have done nothing? We weren’t in the country. We were basically at the Dauphin St. exit of I-65 in Mobile, AL. In case you don’t know, this is pretty big exit.

I know I could have done nothing and moved on with my life. What say you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's in a Name?

Today, my buddy Matthew (should I start calling you Matt? I think I'm now the only person on the planet who calls you Matthew. I'll bet even your mother calls you "Matt" ...) blogged about a web site where you can learn fun facts about your name. Here's what I learned:

- Etymology (word origins)

First Name:
Origin -- Greek (Root: Phillip)
Meaning -- Lover of Horses

Origin -- (Origin Scottish Locality) A district in Ayrshire, Scotland. The name signifies the dwelling of the chief or king, from the Saxon, cyning, Dutch, koning, a leader or chief, and ham, a house or town.

- "31% of the letters are vowels. Of one million first and last names we looked at, 74% have a higher vowel make-up. This means you are modestly envoweled."

- "According to the US Census Bureau, 0.197% of US residents have the first name 'Philip' and 0.0545% have the surname 'Cunningham'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there are 322 'Philip Cunningham's."

Among these 322, here's what I've found:

An Assistant Professor of Meteorology at Florida State University

A Human Rights Activist who, formerly exiled from the U.S., is now a visiting fellow at Cornell University in New York.

• A member of the U.S. bishops’ Advisory Committee on Catholic-Jewish Relations (Source)

An Assistant Basketball Coach at Mississippi State University.

A Photographer

• From outside the country, A Scottish Folk Music Composer

• And finally, a California pastor of a Baptist church who allegedly embezzled from the church he worked for.

Yeah, that last one isn't creepy at all.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Favorite Quotes About Heaven

I like to collect quotes. I used to be more deliberate about filing & organizing my favorite quotes, but I still enjoy finding good ones. So, the following are quotes from song lyrics, Scriptures, movie quotes, or other sources that say something interesting about Heaven -- what the world thinks, or what I find profound.

We all wonder about Heaven. For something that seems to be such a big part of our future, the Bible spends very little of its text trying to describe Heaven. So I like to listen to how others imagine Heaven. If you have any good ones to add, leave it in the comments section.

(From the movie "The Green Mile")

Arlen Bitterbuck: Do you believe that if a man repents enough for what he done wrong, than he'll get to go back to the time that was happiest for him and live there forever? Could that be what heaven's like?

Paul Edgecomb: I just about believe that very thing.

Arlen Bitterbuck: I had a young wife when I was eighteen. We spent the summer in the mountains, made love every night. After we would talk sometimes till the sun came up, and she'd lay there, bare breasted in the fire light... that was my best time.

(From the movie "Field of Dreams")

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?

Ray Kinsella: It's Iowa.

John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.

[John starts to walk away]

Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?

John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It's the place where dreams come true.

[Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]

Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.

(From Mercy Me's song, "I Can Only Imagine")

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.

(From Romans 8:18-25 [NIV])

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

(From 1st Thessalonians 4:17b)

And so we will be with the Lord forever.

(From Bebo Norman's song, "Rita")

But the finest moment that no man can measure
Is to look your Savior in the eyes

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


And the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you

(From Jennifer Knapp's song, "Visions")

They're looking for the peace that passes all understanding,
In a world crazed with fear.
They say that I am much too demanding
To want a better place than here.

So I'll go unto visions
The prophets gave to me
And I'll dream of Heaven
The promise in which I believe.

(From U2's song, "Where the Streets Have No Name")

I want to feel, sunlight on my face
See that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name

(From Ephesians 3:20 [NIV])

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

(From Revelation 21:4 [NIV])

There shall be no more pain

(From John 14:1-3 [NKJV]... my personal favorite...)

1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mi Amor

And even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter’s night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might

And I can’t fight this feeling anymore!

Uh oh. What's going on here? Has your beloved blog writer found himself smitten with a female?

Not quite. Although, Valentine's Day was involved...

On February 14th, pitchers & catchers reported to spring training this month. It is the Groundhog Day for baseball fans everywhere. It means that baseball is coming back. When the rain & cold weather would wither my soul away to nothing, a crack of warmth creeps in when I remind myself that the boys of summer are right around the corner.

I love baseball. I love the sounds and the smells. I love the simplicity & complexity. I love playing fantasy baseball, and I love watching baseball when there's nothing on the line. But I especially love it when something is on the line.

I love watching Josh Beckett carve up a line-up. I love watching Jose Reyes stretch a double into a triple. I love the drama of a late-inning nail-biter. I love watching David Ortiz step to plate in those kinds of games. I love Big Papi's pre-hitting routine of spitting on a glove and slapping his hands together.

I just love baseball.

There is something elemental about the game. Maybe it's just because it was the first sport I ever really fell in love with. But it's a great game on so many levels. Despite all the hullabaloo over performance enhancing drugs, the game is good. It is uncomplicated; it makes sense. While there are a lot of things in this world that confuse me, baseball is a comforting constant to return to. And existentially, it represents so much of who we are -- where we've been, who we are, and what we are becoming.

I welcome you back, America's pastime. I look forward to our next few months together.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Movies for Old People

I didn't watch SNL last night, but I caught this clip on the web site's highlights & thought it was hilarious. It starts a little slow, so give it a little while.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fred Couples

Way back in the day, B.T.W. (Before Tiger Woods), golf wasn't cool.

Fred Couples
The Coolest Golfer Ever
But even before Tiger made it popular to play golf, there a guy who made it fashionable. This man was Fred Couples. He's beginning to show his age now, but back then he was "the man." He was the epitome of the saying, "Every woman wanted him & every guy wanted to be him." He looked like Don Johnson, and walked like he didn't have a care in the world. He had this very unorthodox swing, but it was silky smooth. And if any one word defined him, it was that last one: smooth.

A few years ago, my Dad & I traveled to Pinehurst, NC to watch the U.S. Open Golf Tournament live & in person. One of the treats of that Sunday round was walking the course in the crowd almost alongside Fred Couples. You'd just have to watch him walk. He's so... smooth. As smooth as watching liquid chocolate being poured out. It was a fun experience. The other cool thing -- this guy's nickname is "Boom Boom." It's because he's such a long driver of the golf ball. At the time, his sponsor was Bridgestone. And there were these hot blond girls in the crowd that Bridgestone paid to follow him around & wear these cute outfits that said "Boom Boom" on them. Now THAT is cool!!

There are a few athletes that come along from time to time who just seem to be "favored by the gods." Like, Sandy Koufax or Gale Sayers. Fred was one of these. Lucky things would happen for him on the golf course that don't happen for anyone else. Extremely fortunate events. Like (in the video at the bottom, starting at time-marker 0:36) when he holed out from the roadside bunker at the 17th hole at St. Andrews after leaving it in on the previous shot. That is, without question, the most difficult bunker shot in all of golf. And he holed that sucker out. Or, (starting at time-marker 2:00) when he hit his approach shot short at the par-3 12th hole at Augusta in the final round of the Masters Tournament that he went on to win, and it DIDN'T go in the water. It held up on the slope. That NEVER happens! Never has, and likely never will again. But Fred was touched by the golf gods, and he just sort of acts like that's par for the course.

Fred Couples
The Achilles of golf
But as the myth goes with those who are touched by the gods, other gods become jealous that a human would be favored above them. And in their envy, these gods act out on their vindictive natures by striking down the favored human. And so, the greatness of these individuals once touched by the gods is only fleeting. Sayers tore ligaments in his knee, and Koufax walked away before he blew out his elbow & ruined his quality of life. For Couples, it was his back. He's always struggled with spasms & back pain that kept him from playing and practicing at an elite level for an extended period of time.

Anyway, this is a compilation of some of Freddy's best moments on the golf course. My favorite moments are from the the 1996 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship. He won that tournament. This is the tournament where they have that island green par 3. The first highlight (starting at about the 4:15 mark) is where he put it in the water on his first shot, re-teed it up, and then holed his 2nd try for a par. The second moment is from the final round of that '96 tournament on hole #16, where he sunk a long putt for eagle. And the final moment is also from the final round of that '96 tournament, where he sunk a long putt for birdie.

REVIEW: American Gangster

American GangsterJust Watched:
American Gangster

My Rating:
3½ Stars

This film is based on the true story of Frank Lucas' heroin distribution organization in New York City from 1969 until the mid-1970's. Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, is a Johnny Come Lately drug lord who becomes THE player in the mob business. Detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, is a cop with integrity who is tasked with taking down the big fish drug dealers. To actually do this job, Roberts puts together an investigative team of other trustworthy cops (very reminiscent of Elliot Ness & his Untouchables). The drama happens when both Lucas & Roberts receive pressure from the established oligarchical power in their respective businesses (Lucas from Italian mob bosses; Roberts from dirty cops in on the take) to quit messing with the status quo.

Denzel Washington
Denzel always walks tall
My main draw to this film was the acting. This part is right in Denzel's wheelhouse, and he pretty much delivers. When it comes to playing the thoughtful, strong presence who takes control in every scene, Denzel does it every time. He's typecast in that sense -- I'm not sure if I could see him portraying weakness on screen. Russell Crowe can do both, though. Still, despite how much I like Crowe, he was just sort of there. He didn't do a bad job, but he didn't really knock his role out of the park. I can't help but think that this role wasn't really for him. I think it would have been more captivating if, and I'd have rather seen, a more diminutive man take Crowe's role: say, Ed Norton or Sean Penn. Not Mark Wahlberg, though. Would have to be an actor that conveyed depth.

A warning: if you can't handle National Geographic-style nudity, then I would recommend completely steering clear from this film.

Not sure there's a unique message to this film. "Pride goeth before the fall," maybe. "The good guys always win" ... something like that perhaps. It's really just a good story told pretty well. There were a few odd tangents in the movie, and it took way too long to get to the meat & potatoes. This one could have been better. 3½ stars.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Paragon of Sophistication

That's right: ME!

Here at this blog, I try to bring you my thoughts on a myriad of subjects. In a way, it's sort of a cross-section of my own mind -- what I'm thinking about & the opinions that swim around up there. I try to make it smart & true-to-life. In a way, I recognize that this place is a representation of me to the world, so I try to make it as mature & appealing as possible.

And, yet, sometimes the kid comes out.

I can't help but share something with you all that has brought me much laughter in recent weeks every time I visit this web site. Have you ever been so bored that you typed random things up in the address box of your web browser? That's how I found this a couple weeks ago. So, at the risk of ruining my reputation with your all, here it is:

Click Here

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Barbershop Culture

Even though I grew up in the town I now live in, I still make discoveries. Today I ate lunch at this NY-style pizza joint that everyone has been raving about lately. I thought it was nasty.

But one of my more favorite discoveries recently has been a barbershop near my home. It has a bit of an off-putting name: "Unisex." Sounds like some kind of a retro, new-age hairstyle joint. But it's the total opposite: an old-style barbershop. Allow me tell you about this place...

When you walk in, unless you get there at just the right time, you're going to wait. And wait and wait. So far, I've had to sit there & wait an average of a half hour to get a haircut. But it is worth it. Obviously, these folks are good with hair -- I've never left the place with a bad haircut. But there is more than that. After the cut, they give you a hairwash. Then a blow-dry.

Then, there is this divine experience called a head massage. The hair artist slips this machine on their hand that vibrates violently, and then they run their hand across your head for about 3 minutes. I know it sounds a little risque when you put it into words; just trust me, it's fine. It looks like this. Friends, there are no words to describe how wonderful this head massage feels. I feel like I want to stick my tongue out like a dog being petted. It is heavenly. If Heaven is better than all we can ask or imagine, I just can't wait to taste the goodness that is better than this head massage.

OK, then, after the head massage, the barber gets some warm lather & spreads it on the back of your neck. And with an old-style razor, he/she shaves your neck so that it feels baby's-bottom smooth. Then, they tease your hair just right, put a little gel in, and you're good to go.

And how much does this royal treatment cost, you ask? SIX BUCKS! I know. It is outstanding!

But there's one other thing I appreciate about the experience: the long wait. This is not a "get in, get out, get on with your life" kind of place. This is a "slow down & smell the roses" kind of deal. And there are all kinds of folks there waiting for a haircut. It's a great way to be in the community, meet people, and be a positive representative for Christ. Lots of times, the folks are talking politics, so I always get to be "the preacher" in the conversation, which gives me the opportunity to show that not all believers are fundamentalist, compassionate-less know-it-all blow-hard's. It's fun to surprise people & subvert their expectations.

Anyway, it's nice to be forced to slow down from my normal frenetic pace. To sit. To listen. To chew the fat. To savor. To get a crock-pot-like haircut instead of a microwave-like trim. I like barbershop culture. It's almost like a little piece of the 1950's preserved right here in the 21st century. And sometimes a dose of that old way of life isn't so bad for us.

Monday, February 18, 2008

You just got PUNKED

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick gets pranked by his team-mates, his manager, and the front office. They make him believe that he's getting traded for a "Kobayashi" ...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Frivolous Saturdays

WARNING: Surfing YouTube can be Hazardous to your Time Management. ;) Another of one of my all-time favorite commercials...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jon Stewart on Clemens

There's a little bit of Jon Stewart's brand of liberal tripe, and a little bit of bleeped out language, but I found his take on "the Roger Clemens Hearings" before the House Oversight Committee hilarious!

Taming the Ferocity of the Urgent

"If I changed the life of one person...just one person...well, okay, one is aiming pretty low. Let's say I change the lives of five thousand people...ten thousand...okay, five thousand, I'd be satisfied for starts...”
-Michael Scott

What a dunderhead.

Michael Scott is the fictitious boss of a paper company in Scranton, PA on the NBC hit television series, The Office. And I believe that in satire that quote raises awareness of the prevailing cultural value of accomplishment.

Our society values high efficiency & tangible results. We set goals for ourselves to lose 15-lbs. in a year, baptize 12 people in a year, or to read 24 books in a year. When we achieve our goals, we feel a great sense of accomplishment (or, in Sabanese, "personal self gratification"... Coach Nick Saban has this whole thing about not settling, or feeling content, or being satisfied. He strikes those words from his team's vocabulary, and doesn't let reporters get away with using them in press conferences. That man messes with my mind. Anyway...) But if we don't necessarily measure up with those values of accomplishment, in place of those values we mumble restlessly about how darn BUSY we are. So, if you haven't accomplished anything noteworthy or aren't busy trying to accomplish something noteworthy, we feel acutely insecure that other people may think that we are lazy or apathetic.

I am often reminded of reasons to be thankful for being single when I meet with a group of local ministers weekly for mutual encouragement & accountability. Each of the other men in our group are married. And inevitably, one of the other unaccomplished (relatively-speaking) young ministers will spatter off about how busy he is, how he's been neglecting his family, how he hasn't given enough time to study, prayer, or evangelism, or how little time he has in general. While some of this pressure is inherent, a lot of it is imposed by superiors.

For my readers who aren't ministers, this pressure is endlessly more frustrating on us ministers than you may realize. We ministers are often left with little sense of accomplishment because the nature of ministry isn't always necessarily results oriented. Rarely do we ministers get to figuratively lick the stamp, place it on the envelope, stick it in the mail, and be done with it. Ministry is ALWAYS on-going. There is ALWAYS more that can be done. There is ALWAYS one more phone call to make, one more step for a person you're working with to make, and one more hour to give to whatever necessary task. It is eternally endless.

And so we ministers feel immense pressure to measure up with the cultural value of accomplishment. And when we can't meet that imposed value on a day-to-day basis, we work ourselves to death & complain about it so that folks won't think us lazy. Moreover, we concern ourselves more with accomplishment-oriented tasks (e.g. sermon preparation) as opposed to other less accomplishment-oriented tasks (e.g. prayer... that is, unless it is part of a New Year's Resolution! Then we can justify it...) so that we will have something to show for our efforts.

And in the end, the urgent ebbs out the important.

I find this trend decidedly more culturally induced than Scripturally inspired. Even though Paul indeed accomplished a lot in his lifetime, we don't often hear of him setting tangible, measurable goals. This is a man who carried the Gospel from Judea perhaps as far as Spain in an age without planes, trains, or automobiles. He accomplished quite a bit. But he didn't set annual goals to plant x amount of churches in y amount of regions. Or to baptize z amount of disciples. In fact, his approach was maddeningly random. He would spend a couple weeks in one place, a few days in another place, 18 months in the next place -- the pattern wasn't driven by a spirit of accomplishment, but rather a Holy Spirit.

OK, here's where I'm going: the Scriptures witness to a faith that is emphasizes being over doing, but Christian leaders seem to get it so backwards. I often wonder how many of us professional ministers, who accomplish a lot, will try to plead with Jesus as he prophesied in the Gospel of Matthew: 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'

In Philippians 3, Paul rejects the spirit of accomplishment. He rejects the tick marks of Jewish achievement for a faith where he says that he has not really achieved anything yet.

Do not mis-hear me. This is not a blog entry that wishes to excuse sloth. Nor am I trying to do away with 5-year plans, which are noble. I'm merely pointing to the unfaithfulness of venerating these values over & above the value of becoming. As my esteemed blogging buddy pointed out a month ago, our divine purpose has a lot to do with one of the more under-rated verses of the Bible: Romans 8:29...

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

If all our energies should be harnessed in any direction, we should focus those values of accomplishment & doing toward becoming. And I believe that includes activities that may not lead to immediate accomplishments or results: whether that is Bible study, prayer, or something else. If we ministers are going to be leaders of being counter-cultural, then it begins with us embracing becoming over accomplishment.

I'm not going to pretend to be paragon of virtue about this. I certainly don't pray or study my Bible as much as I'd be proud to admit. But I have begun in this new year to let go of undue anxiety to find peace in being & becoming that which God called me to be. Part of what that means is blogging more. In and of itself, blogging is in fact a hollow pursuit. But for me, it flexes my artistic muscles of writing -- a part of me that I find incredibly deficient. It serves to make me a better communicator as I try to become as good a preacher as God would have me be.

To tame the ferocity of the urgent, and to lead our congregation into counter-cultural modes of thinking, I think it means for us that we embrace the simple. Write. Pray. Read. Rest. Meditate. Memorize Scripture. Smell the roses. There are plenty of directions for us to go in, but one direction we need to turn away from is that spirit of accomplishment. To put Neale Pryor's favorite verse into different terms...

What good would it be for a man to accomplish everything but what God set out for him to become?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Page 123

It is the internet sensation that is sweeping the blogosphere: page 123!! I was inadvertently tagged by one of my old college room-mates. Here's the deal:

Look on page 123 of a book.
Find the first 5 sentences
Post the next 3 sentences
Tag 5 people

The only reason I can consider that this isn't "page 535" (5 sentences, 3 sentences, 5 tagged friends) is because most folks don't own books that long. Still, if someone was geeky enough to come up with this silly little internet game, why didn't this person have an elitist "Well if that person doesn't have a book with 535 pages in it, they don't deserve to play anyway" kind of attitude? I waste time thinking about these kinds of things. And YOU just wasted time reading it. HA!

Tonight, I've selected Christ: No More, No Less by Milton Jones -- not because of any particular deep, soulful respect for the man or his work, but because it was merely the closest book to me.

"But with Paul grace is more than the message. The message is to be given with graciousness. Perhaps it will be this unique graciousness seen in relationships that will break down the walls of animosity toward the exclusive message of the gospel."

My... how strangely concise & amen-worthy.

I now tag the following individuals:


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Summary & Analysis of Today's Congressional Hearings on Steroids

Well, it was great drama today up on the Hill. Three men were sworn in & testified before the House Oversight Committee: Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee, and Charles Scheeler (Who? He was an assistant in Senator Mitchell's investigation, and today, little more than a potted plant in the room to keep Clemens & McNamee from swinging at each other). I was able to arrange my schedule to watch most of the almost 5 hours of statements & sworn testimony. The highlights in my mind:

• There is a growing mountain of evidence against the claims of Roger Clemens. Brian McNamee's testimony is supported by claims from former Major Leaguer Chuck Knoblauch & current pitcher Andy Pettitte that McNamee was indeed telling the truth about THEIR past use of performance enhancing drugs (PED's). Also, by his multiple testimonies, Pettitte is convinced that Clemens admitted his use of PED's to him almost 10 years ago. And there was medical evidence presented that the abscess that Clemens developed on his hind parts were likely caused by a steroid injection -- and that it almost certainly was NOT from a B-12 injection. There's more, but the evidence is credible, there's a large amount of it, and I believe that it is damning.

• When there are politicians involved, you know that not everything is above the table. And there was certainly a fair amount of politicking and grandstanding in that hearing today.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) grilled Brian McNamee for lying to police officers & investigators in the past. The Committee Chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), apologized to Brian McNamee in the closing statements (which included a dramatic gavel down of a Clemens interruption) for what had to be his shame over the antics of Rep. Burton. Burton's line of questioning did little more than demonstrate that Brian McNamee lies when it is convenient for him. Well, due to the plea agreement between he & federal investigators, it is nothing if not inconvenient for him to tell any lies about his history with PED's. Yes, he is a dirty person. But unfortunately, the witnesses in these kinds of cases tend not to be people with unblemished character. In this individual's mind, Brian McNamee, on the subject of Roger Clemens' PED usage, is believable beyond a reasonable doubt.

• As a moderate conservative, I was extremely disappointed by the performance of the Republican Representatives today. Almost in lockstep, they seemed to make excuses for Clemens & sought to discredit Brian McNamee. Also, again almost in lockstep, many of the Republicans demeaned the idea of even having that particular hearing today.

What was THAT all about?

This is not a partisan issue. It almost stretches the imagination in the direction of conspiracy theories. It is an election year. Is it possible that Roger Clemens promised a little cash in return for a cushioned reception at today's hearings? I'm just thinking out loud. But the behavior of the Republicans today was highly partisan, obstructed the flow of the hearing, and was just distasteful overall.

• Overall, Clemens looks like the liar. Brian McNamee proves himself better able to offer credible explanations to questions & better able to recall details of the last 10 years. Clemens offers explanations that strain credibility, and he appears less able to recall the details that are pertinent to possible steroid usage.

Also, Clemens appears to have a duplicitous nature -- that is, he appears oddly comfortable living with inconsistencies. When Clemens was questioned about Pettitte's statements, he didn't budge on the idea of Andy Pettitte always being an honest person even when presented with testimony that did not fit with his own. This is the sure sign of a liar.

As George Costanza once waxed eloquent on the hit television series, Seinfeld, "It's not a lie if you believe it." Clemens is very passionate about his version of events. But when you try to piece all of it together, the puzzle pieces don't all fit very well. We have yet to see what will come of this in terms of perjury charges and the like. But little doubt remains in my mind that Roger Clemens is a liar.

Bad Day at the Office

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One Last Spring for Dodgertown

It's the end of an era.

Mayor Lasorda will have one final spring under the Florida sunshine
The spring training home of the Los Angeles (and formerly Brooklyn) Dodgers is closing. For years, it has gone by the title of "Dodgertown." It is a monument to year's gone by. It's a relic of the good ol' days. But after this spring, Dodgertown is closing its doors & the Los Angeles ball club is relocating to a new & improved spring training home in Arizona.

(This is the part where you go, "Awwwwww." This is the part where movies like "Cars" have conditioned us to revolt against the idea of progress because of the tarnished glory of what is left behind...)

However, LA sports writer Bill Plaschke is glad that Dodgertown is closing its doors, and he says that it's time is coming "Not a minute too soon". Plaschke says that Dodgertown has become a relic of the past. It is no longer relevant. It has become a monument to yesteryear, but the mystique of that bygone era has not endured.

When I read this, I couldn't help but think about so many of the churches in my particular fellowship that hold on to the past. So much of the surroundings change for older folks that one of the few things they can hold onto that stays the same (and, thus, helps them feel more comfortable) is the church. And then those generations of older folks build intellectual arguments around Scripture & Restorationist pleas (e.g. "We want to be just like the 1st century church") to argue against change from tradition. And then churches become monuments instead of movements & the buildings turn into relics of a bygone era.

I had a great professor at Harding who was fond of saying, "I don't know want to be the 1st century church; I want to be the 21st century church." The past was lovely, and we should certainly respect our history. But we shouldn't re-live it, or create bubbles of existence that seek to preserve it.

As an organization, the Dodgers have struggled in part because of their desire to hold on to nostalgia to the neglect of their mission. Let's not do the same in our churches.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking Ahead to Wednesday...

It's getting difficult to keep up with the latest antics of the dueling lawyers in this Clemens/McNamee public feud. They will all meet before Congress on Wednesday, and there appear to be major developments daily! Last time I blogged about this, McNamee's lawyers had just released pictures of "evidence" they had turned over to federal investigators. It appears that these lawyers were engaging in a campaign to "return the favor" to Clemens who had publicly embarassed McNamee by some of the tactics he has employed in an attempt to clear his name in the court of public opinion.

Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Clemens' lawyers are now touting evidence that proves McNamee was lying in The Mitchell Report. Here's the key excerpt from pages 168-169 of the Report:

Jose Canseco was playing for the Blue Jays in 1998. On or about June 8-10, 1998, the Toronto Blue Jays played an away series with the Florida Marlins. McNamee attended a lunch party that Canseco hosted at his home in Miami. McNamee stated that, during this luncheon, he observed Clemens, Canseco, and another person he did not know meeting inside Canseco’s house, although McNamee did not personally attend that meeting. Canseco told members of my investigative staff that he had numerous conversations with Clemens about the benefits of Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol and how to “cycle” and “stack” steroids. Canseco has made similar statements publicly.

Clemens' lawyers now say that they have proof (in the form of a receipt from a golf course at the time of the party & a sworn affidavit from Jose Canseco) that Roger Clemens never attended this party or was a part of this meeting. ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn offers some perspective on this admission of evidence:

Also, in this case, current Major League pitcher Andy Pettitte has admitted that he did receive performancing enhancing substances from Brian McNamee. What will this committee meeting Wednesday do to his & Roger's long-time relationship? Will they be pitted against one another?

Are Clemens' lawyers over-stepping their bounds? One Congressman said that Clemens' lead lawyer Rusty Hardin better watch what he says, especially in relation to federal investigators.

Which person is lying? What will the fall-out be? This story has so many compelling issues involved with it. I can't wait to see it all play out on the congressional stage Wednesday.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Celluloid Saturday

It's a lazy Saturday. College football is over, and I'm not much of a hoops fan. And even though it's a perfect day for golf, my sinuses have me feeling yucky. So, so far, it's been a day for straightening up around the house & catching movies on cable. I saw Serendipity for the first time earlier. Cute flick. I'm not above taking in the occasional chick flick. Not bad. I like John Cusack.

On right now is A League of Their Own. Just saw the classic Tom Hanks "There's no crying in baseball" speech. What a great actor. Although his best roles were long ago. My top 5 favorite Hanks roles:

1.) Forrest Gump - Forrest Gump
2.) Jimmy Dugan - A League of Their Own
3.) Capt. John Miller - Saving Private Ryan
4.) Chuck Noland - Cast Away
5.) Joe Fox - You've Got Mail

He's gotta be among the elite actors of my lifetime.

Gotta go now. He's about to give the "Its the 'hard' that makes it great" speech.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Like the Dress? Or Like the Glove?

It is not uncommon in society for people who are in the public eye to lie. But what we are seeing right now in the public feud between Major League pitcher Roger Clemens & his former trainer Brian McNamee feels different. How often is it that we have two different personalities going to such great lengths to assure the public that the other party is lying? And not only does each side say that other side lying, but that they are in fact pathological!

This is rarefied air.

Clemens has gone to such lengths to clear his name as to appear on 60 Minutes in an interview by Mike Wallace & hold his own press conference where he played a tape of a recorded conversation (that contained little of anything substantive) between he & McNamee from a few days prior. He even waived his right to plead the 5th when he was deposed by Congress a few days ago.

And now McNamee has trumped everything by now possibly having provided the proverbial smoking gun. Brian McNamee supposedly kept medical materials (e.g. needles, syringes, vials, gauze, etc.) that he used to inject Clemens with steroids & HGH back in 2000 and 2001. He says that he kept these materials because he had a hunch that Clemens might turn on him one day. That's an interesting theory -- we'll see if it holds up to scrutiny at the Congressional Hearing next week. Anyway, McNamee kept all these materials in a SHOEBOX, and has now turned them over to federal investigators who will in turn turn them over to forensic scientists to determine if they can find trace amounts of Clemens' blood and HGH/steroids. And supposedly, according to ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn, these forensic scientists can generally determine if the evidence is genuine or fabricated.

If these tests come back positive against Clemens, he will go down with Rafael Palmeiro ("I never used steroids -- PERIOD.") and Bill Clinton ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman") as the biggest liars in recent memory. And maybe even worse, because federal authorities now have his denials under oath. He might go to jail for perjury. In fact, it could be argued that Clemens has a lot more to lose than McNamee right now. This is a dangerous game he's playing here.

Everything really rests on this new evidence now. Will this shoebox full of needles be the downfall of Clemens as was Monica's stained blue dress for President Clinton? Or will it go down with evidence like O.J.'s bloody glove as clues that don't stand up well to scrutiny?

I know this much: I'll be glued to whatever CSPAN channel is carrying this hearing next week!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kingdom of God Consumerism

Found this article at the Leadership Journal site last night. It addresses the possibility in the future of the franchised church.

They already exist. Rick Warren argues in The Purpose Driven Church that this is exactly what denominations are -- simply different flavors of Christianity that suit different personalities. And also, now, there are Purpose Driven churches, Willow Creek churches, & Northpoint-style churches. Is this like having McDonald's vs. Chick-Fil-A?

The writer of this particular article asks these questions:

Is this the future of the Western church- franchised congregations of megabrands in every city with pastors serving as the local owner/operator?
What do you think? Are (these churches) and other franchised congregations the wave of the future? Are Chick-fil-A and McDonalds the right model for the church to be emulating? Are franchised mega-churches going to be the denominations of the 21st century? Or, is this consumer Christianity taken to its logical and disturbing extreme?

I have one question to add: does the 1st Corinthians passage about unity ("I'm of Apollos, I'm of Cephas, I'm of Paul, I'm of Christ...") bring anything to bear in addressing this issue? That is, in terms of churches making the statement, "I'm of Rick Warren, I'm of Bill Hybels, I'm of Christ, etc."

What say YOU?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Signing Day Wrap Up: "We're Number 1" has declared that Alabama's 2008 Signing Class is the best in the nation. also currently has Alabama ranked in the top spot. ESPN, whose ranking system is radically different from the mainstream recruiting services, ranks Alabama's class as the 4th best in the nation.

What does it mean? What is that worth? A myriad of thoughts...

• Well, it means a little positive pub for one. Alabama has long been this stodgy old has-been with dull, classic uniforms to up-and-coming players. But players like Julio Jones, Burton Scott, et. al. signal to everyone that Alabama is a happening place again.

• Long-time Alabama "recruitniks" (folks who have watched Alabama HS football for years and can thus lend perspective) are hailing this class as the greatest class we've inked in about twenty years. That class twenty years ago comprised of many of the players who went on to lead the Tide to the 1992 National Championship.

• It may even perhaps be the most talent-loaded class in the nation in recent memory. For as long as has been keeping recruiting records in their considerable & unrivaled database (back to the Signing Day class of 2002), the most 4- & 5-star players a school has signed in any given year has been 21. This was accomplished by LSU ('07), Florida ('06), Texas ('02), and Tennessee ('02). However, with this '08 class, Alabama has signed twenty-two 4- & 5-star players. And this was only Nick Saban's first full recruiting season at Alabama.

Signing Class
All Those Stars...
(Click to Enlarge)
• Since Alabama ended their '07 regular season with 4 losses in a row in the month of November, it has widely been held that what Alabama needs isn't just more talent. The program needs a psychological flush. That is, there were a lot of players who were quitters & held bad attitudes that held the team back. A normal signing class consists of 25 players. However, thanks to early entry players & non-football scholarships, Alabama will be able to bring in a few more. A handful of Alabama's 32 signees will likely not qualify. But Alabama is bringing a full class of fresh players who haven't been spoiled by the lack of discipline & bad attitudes that were allowed to exist under the previous regime. Alabama fans are not only celebrating the influx of talent, but the volume of it as well.

• Finally, a number one recruiting class means little unless you get the guys in school, develop them, and start winning championships. Also, one class alone does not a championship make. What separates the USC Trojans (who perennially sign top 5 recruiting classes) from the USC Gamecocks (who signed their first top 5 class last year, but weren't able to pull a repeat performance) is having the ability to stack this caliber of talent in classes year after year. Nick Saban has demonstrated that he can do all of these things. He developed a National Champion at LSU in 2003, and even had the #1 & #2 classes according to in the nation in back-to-back years in his final two years there (in 2003 & 2004). While Alabama's rivals may want to poke fun at claiming a "paper championship," deep down they know that a new day is dawning.

It is an exciting time to be an Alabama football fan. Thanks for putting up with my recruiting non-sense for at least this one day. ;-p


On the front page of Click the pic to see the larger version...


Also, the name "Julio Jones" is the number ONE search item on Google today.

Christmas Day for Tide Fans

Today is National Signing Day for College Football. It's a big day for my Alabama Crimson Tide. A little over a half hour ago, one of the top 5 prospects in the nation, Julio Jones, committed & signed to play with Alabama...

Julio Jones' ratings according to the recruiting services:

#4 Overall Prospect (#1 WR) according to
#3 Overall Prospect (#1 WR) according to
#2 Overall Prospect (#1 WR) according to

Also, Alabama may end up with the #1 overall class according to a couple of the recruiting services. As it stands right now...

#1 Class according to
#1 Class according to

Latest Music Tastes

As I stated yesterday, I've been too serious & too political here lately. How about something frivolous! Here's a sampling of the tunes that have really caught my ear lately, in no particular order...

Nothin' Better to Do by LeAnn Rimes

That girl has some pipes! She & Mariah Carey have to be the best vocalists of my lifetime. I'm just mesmerized by that voice of her's. Listening to her sing that song is like watching Tiger Woods carve up a golf course. You know you're just witnessing a phenomenal talent.

Apologize (Instrumental Version) by Timbaland

That TV commercial for the Academy Award-nominated film Atonement encouraged me to download this song. What a captivating commercial. Anyway, it's a great sound. Timbaland surely knows how to put together a captivating sound.

Don't Stop the Music by Rihanna

Another song where the sound really mesmerizes & moves me. I haven't caught anything dirty in the lyrics yet. But it's just a catchy beat.

Sweet Caroline and Cracklin' Rosie by Neil Diamond

That guy has a great voice. Or at least had a great voice. He's old now.

"Sweet Caroline" has sort of been adopted by Red Sox fans as a favored tune to play in late innings at Fenway. So playing this song warms my heart by reminding me that baseball season is around the corner.

And They Praised God by Acappella

I've always thought that I'd like that verse on my tombstone. What greater testimony could you have? This song helps me reflect on my identity. Moving...

Bleed It Out by Linkin Park

They rock. Sometimes. I have to take them in doses.

Fix You by Coldplay

Okay, I'm a little behind I'll admit, but this song is majestic. That last minute & a half or so is just epic. It just washes over you like a comfortable wave of serenity. I don't know if I understand what I just wrote there, but it describes how I experience this song.

I'm Your Boogie Man by KC & The Sunshine Band

Hey, everyone has stuff in their iPod that they aren't proud of. I know it's not the prettiest picture in the world, but this movie makes me want to get up and, perish the thought, DANCE.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Sometimes You Can't Help Jealousy

You know, it takes effort not to envy. Whenever there are things you don't have that you want, the easy thing to do is to feel jealousy. Perhaps the most obvious example for me is being a single guy around married friends. I was with a couple married buddies last week who finally felt like they had to ask if their "marriage talk" was hard for me to handle. It's really not. I actually sort of take pride in being able to not be a third wheel. And I'm able to elevate my joy for others in place of whatever personal inadequacy or jealousy that might want to raise up.

Still, there are times where it's difficult to hold that jealousy back. This news story really got to me. A BLIND guy got an ace? Come on. I want one... :*(

(that was a tear)

The closest I ever came was a couple years ago. There's a local course at a place called Bay Point Resort that was called "Lagoon Legends." It's recently been re-named & re-designed (to make it easier), but it was at one time very difficult. It had a slope rating from the tips at over 130. There was always talk of possibly hosting a U.S. Open there. I never did break 90 on that course.

Anyway, one day right before the re-design, they were holding a special to pay $35 and play all you want. That is a RIDICULOUSLY awesome deal for this quality of course. Normal greens fee + cart for 18 holes on this course is somewhere in the $80-$120 range, depending on the time of year. We played 36 holes for $35 a piece and even got a free lunch somehow.

On the first 18, we got to this par 3 that was about 155 yards over water to a peninsula green. I dropped that ball right on the hole. I had 6 inches for the birdie, and the ball was right behind the hole in terms of direction back to the tee. I don't know how that ball ended up there, given the ball mark (directly in front of the hole). I couldn't figure out how that ball could land directly in front of the hole, end up directly behind the hole, and not go in the hole.


I've holed out from the fairway before. But never on a par 3. And I'm jealous of that stinkin' 92 year old blind guy. Even a blind hog finds an accorn every once in a while, but come on!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Pilgrimage

My friend Luke Norsworthy blogged the other day about having seen the new movie "The Bucket List." He also gave a list of a few items he would put on his own Bucket List, and encouraged others to post their lists. Then, today, one of my old college room-mates, Jamie Hooten, issued an invitation for me to visit Chicago & take in a ballgame anytime I wished.

My friends have inspired me to work toward achieving an item on my own bucket list: to visit the more prestigious Major League Ballparks in our United States. I cannot visit all of cathedrals dedicated to housing our Nation's Pastime in one trip. But I can take in a few of them!

I created a new blog dedicated to chronicling this adventure called "The Pilgrimage."

Here is the tentative schedule:

The Schedule