Monday, August 31, 2009

Power 12: Kickoff Week Edition

1.) Florida
2.) Texas
3.) Oklahoma
4.) USC

That's the elite. Big drop-off from those teams to the next tier. At least until we see one of the following teams take it to the next level on the field...

5.) Boise State
6.) Georgia (wayyy under-rated by the experts. I expect a post-hype bumper year for the Bulldogs)
7.) Alabama
8.) Virginia Tech
9.) Ohio State
10.) LSU
11.) Oklahoma State
12.) Georgia Tech

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Various Annotated Quotes

I love good quotes. I've just encountered quite a few quotes this weekend that have struck me as profound. There's so many of them that I felt moved to write them all down in one place so I don't forget any of them. So, think on these things with me...

"My son has seen enough death to understand the value of life."

From the movie "Traitor," which I just got the chance to re-watch for the first time since earlier this year (you may remember how I had told all of you how much I loved it).

But that's a true quote. I know in my experience, it took losing someone I really cared about to make me appreciate life even more. And by that I mean life in every sense of the word: from how life should be guarded from evil-doers, to how life should be enjoyed & soaked up while we have it. There's something about experiencing death that heightens your senses to the value of life.

"Nobody is dragged into a street fight."

Another poignant line from "Traitor." People choose their battles, especially ones as messy & violent as street fights.

I guess this quote, Green Day's song "Know Your Enemy," and Rob Bell's quote about fights & not being in one (from the Nooma video "Store") are all swimming together in my mind right now waiting for the right sermon to spring them in.

"A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this. That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O' Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. 'Is gossiping a sin?' she asked the old man. 'Was that God All Mighty's hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?' 'Yes,' Father O' Rourke answered her. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.' So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. 'Not so fast,' says O' Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.' So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. 'Did you cut the pillow with a knife?' he says. 'Yes, Father.' 'And what were the results?' 'Feathers,' she said. 'Feathers?' he repeated. 'Feathers; everywhere, Father.' 'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,' 'Well,' she said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.' 'And that,' said Father O' Rourke, 'is gossip!'"

From "Doubt." Don't gossip! ;)

"There are people who will go after your humanity, sister... that will tell you that the light in your heart is a weakness. Don't believe it! It's an old tactic of cruel people that kill kindness in the name of virtue. There's nothing wrong with love.

Another doozy from "Doubt." I suppose you have to see the film to understand how well this statement summarizes Father Flynn's antagonist, Sister Aloysius Beauvier.

"In Ancient Sparta, important matters were decided by who shouted loudest. Fortunately, we are not in Ancient Sparta."

Or perhaps we are, Sister Beauvier. It seems the tradition of Sparta lives on in America's Congressional tradition of the townhall meeting.

Our's was postponed from last night until another night a few weeks from now. Locals objected to the format of the meeting: a format that was designed to ensure civil dialogue & informed conversation. That format apparently has been scrapped for one that will allow people to yell & carry on to their heart's content. Unfortunate I think.

"…you have always been there. Every graduation, every big decision, every trouble, every sad and every happy day. On you, the carefree youngest brother, fell a burden a hero would beg to be spared. Sick parents, lost children, desolate wives. You are a hero. Everyone is going to make it because you are always there with your love."

From the eloquent pen of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Speaking in a letter to her former brother-in-law, Edward, about his generosity of spirit in the midst of so many painful life experiences.

There were lots of kind gestures expressed about him this week. I haven't had a chance to hear them all. Jon Meacham, who always seems to have his finger on the pulse of matters, expressed sentiments similar to Jackie's: "Ted Kennedy (played) a role that would grow all too familiar: that of the survivor, soldiering on, assuming the burdens of his fallen brothers, always with an eye on caring for the family his father had built."

Strong words. I can't help but think how gratified I'd be if someone uttered those words about me after my life has finished. Great epitaph words there.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Last Final Goodbye Kiss

So it strikes me that, as fans, our relationships with athletes are fleeting. They don't last. It is impossible for them to last. Athletes grow old & they retire. Unless, that is... well, I'll spare you the token Brett Favre joke.

These relationships with athletes are going to occur over a set period of time. And some of these relationships may be incredibly thrilling! But they will end.

For the very BEST of these athletes, it's like dating an incredible kisser. It's a THRILL to be with that person, because they deliver knockout kisses. Unbelievable kisses. Long, wet kisses that you just lose yourself in. But, also, there are issues with this person that prevent this relationship from ever lasting. You know that the relationship isn't going to last. Still, you try to savor each kiss along the way, because they are such a thrill.

And so that's why, to me, Big Papi's walk-off homerun last night at the Fens (the 10th of his career) felt a lot less like old times and a lot more like one last final goodbye kiss. And that from one of the best kissers of all time.

Thanks for the memories, Papi. I love you, big guy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ordering Private Worlds

The church that takes seriously the fact that Jesus is Lord of all time will not just celebrate quietly every time we write the date on a letter or a document, will not just set aside Sunday as far as humanly and socially possible as a celebration of God's new creation (and will point out the human folly of a seven-day working week), will not just seek to order its own life in an appropriate rhythm of worship and work. Such a church will also seek to bring wisdom, and freshly humanizing order, to the rhythms of work in offices and shops, in local government, in civic holidays, and in the shaping of public life. These things cannot be taken for granted. The enormous shifts during my own lifetime, from the whole town observing Good Friday and Easter to those great days being simply more occasions for football matches and yet more televised reruns of old movies (with, often enough, no sign in the television schedules of anything remotely to do with Jesus or the gospel!) are an index of what happens when a society loses its roots and drifts with the prevailing social currents. The reclaiming of time as God's good gift (as opposed to time as simply a commodity to be spent for one's own benefit, which often means fresh forms of slavery for others) is not an extra to the church's mission. It is central.

N.T. Wright, from his excellent book "Surprised By Hope," challenged me this week to think about how I order my own life. Or more specifically, how I let external forces order my own life.

Why is it that Holidays like Thanksgiving & Christmas are spent around the television screen watching football games? And when we're not there, around the dinner table gorging ourselves?

I guess I've really been re-thinking priorities & order lately with the recent collapse of the Red Sox in the AL East race with the Yankees. It almost feels like an annual tradition now: the Red Sox collapse in August or September, and they scratch & claw to hold on or at least win the Wild Card.

I'm sick of it. No, not just of how pitiful the Sox close seasons. But of how much I invest in hoping that they somehow find that mojo & pull their way out of their hole.

I guess I really started thinking about all of this last summer when I was trekking around on my Ballpark Pilgrimage. The more tickets I purchased, the more disgusted I was at how much it costs to go watch a professional baseball game. It is obscene. That's not hyperbole; I think that's the best word to describe it. It is OBSCENE how much money baseball franchises and athletes make off of ordinary Americans who enjoy baseball & want to take their families to the ballpark.

And why do I love baseball so much, anyway? Is it because of MLB's savvy marketing that they hooked me when I was a kid? I loved Craig Ferguson's remarks on marketing & youth in a comedy sketch he performed last month.

So why do I love ball? And give it so much in terms of fanhood & devotion? Is it because the game is pure? No, it's certainly not that anymore. Is it because the players are more noble & play for the love of the game? Ticket prices made me re-analyze that concept. Is it because the people who run baseball love America & love their fanbase? Let me go on record: I feel a lot of animosity toward Bud Selig. We'll leave that at that. So what is it, then? Is it just because (as Craig Ferguson suggests) I loved it as a kid and feel manipulated to fulfill loyalty to a brand?

Maybe so. It is still a fun game, though. I love the game. I'm just not in love with the state of the game at the very top anymore.

And its really kind of a shame that it took ALL OF THAT to call into question for me why I'd invest more and more time & money & passion into that enterprise. Because it should have been my faith! It should have been my own sense of what's really important stemming from my worldview & my commitment to the Kingdom.

Our Church family just had Revival last week. It was an encouraging experience. But in many ways the experience is over. As much as we enjoyed the spiritual high, you can't capture & bottle all that emotion forever. So after that wonderful experience last week -- and after reading some N.T. Wright -- I got to thinking about, "After the Mountaintop experience, what then?"

Thankfully, a Randy Harris sermon came to mind. I remember him talking about Abraham & Isaac up on Mt. Moriah, as recorded in Genesis 22. What a mountaintop experience that must have been, huh?

But what happened after that emotional experience? Well, they had to climb down the mountain I guess. Right? Set up camp. Fix breakfast -- Isaac keeping one eye fastened on his Dad, just in case he got any more ideas.

They had to do regular stuff! The mundane! You know, about 95% of life consists of the mundane. Of commutes, and cleaning dirty dishes, and everything else that has to be done. They're important things. But they're also mundane. And we want more EXCITEMENT in our lives. So sometimes we begin to neglect the important things because they feel mundane, and we waste our time on silly things because they feel more exciting. And in the end our life gets out of order. And then it's amazing how we begin to wonder why we're so spiritually empty.

I'm convicted about this. As a Church, we have to establish for ourselves appropriate rhythms of worship & work & rest. I think, like N.T. Wright does, that this should be a hallmark of the Church: that people look at our lives & see healthy rhythms. That we bring wisdom, and a fresh order, wherever we go.

It's a fight to order your own private world.

And here's the real sinister reality: if you don't work to order it yourself, it will be ordered for you. And I'm sure whoever establishes that order for you will be happy to rake in your money. Whatever it is that is YOUR over-indulgent pleasure: whether MLB, or Mafia Wars (or Farmtown, or World of Warcraft, etc.), or shopping, or whatever it is.

I guess I just don't like the idea anymore of the principalities & powers (Eph. 6:12) setting my daily agenda for me. I hope you don't, either.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Have You Called Your Mama Today?

Apparently this was a pretty legendary commercial about 30-35 years ago:

I have just a few reflections. For one, I love how Alabama's coaches have had low, booming voices. In fact, if Nick Saban lacks in anything, that may be the only thing. But Gene Stallings & Coach Bryant just had great voices. I think Coach Bryant came by his by smoking his unfiltered cigarettes.

But also that personal touch at the end of that commercial. Boy that hits you doesn't it? And I guess I decided to post this tonight so that you'll be moved to call your Mama. Because I'm with the Coach on that one: I sure wish I could call mine.

Monday, August 17, 2009

'Turn or Burn' at the Jr. High Dance

I was just reading an excellent little essay from my brother in ministry Jonathan, and it got me to thinking about evangelism & how we do it.

At least, it reminded me of something I've already been thinking about. You see we're having Revival at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ this week. And I'd say it's not even limited to this week, because there's been a 3-week build-up of prayer & preparation for the event of Revival meetings we're having this week. I've gotta say that it's been really encouraging.

Last week, though -- in leading up to this week -- we talked on Sunday morning about Junior High Dance. Can you remember your's? I'm not talking about HS dances like Homecoming or Prom, where hormones are just pulsating out of control when you hold each other close. I'm talking about Jr. High Dance -- the one where you had NO IDEA what kind of culture you just stepped into when you walked in the door.

For one thing, there weren't really dates, right? I mean, there might be a couple people who are "going together," but everyone else is pretty much a free agent. And so how it worked when you walked in was that there were special lights flickering, and there was loud music blaring, and it was clear that this was a whole new environment. Maybe the first thing you see is the big table with the gigantic punch bowl. But it doesn't take long to notice the segregation that's happening in this place. ALLLL the boys are standing up against one wall like duteous wallflowers. And allll the girls are sitting in chairs, all dolled-up & looking good, way on the other side of the dance floor. Ohhh, and the tension... it's so real that it's almost like you could touch it.

Now, I want you to imagine that one of those boys worked up the gumption to go ask one of those girls to dance. And when he walks over there to her straightway, he says the following, "Well hey there! You know what? You look nasty tonight. I'm serious: just downright disgusting. But I'll tell ya what: if you come dance with me, it will make you look a whole lot better. Whadda ya say?"

Now, I don't imagine we'd expect that proposal to work very well. Sadly, I suspect a few girls with low self-esteem might accept, but that's about all.

But then why would we expect that this approach would work with sharing our faith?

Because that's the way we did it in our fellowship by and large. We see a flaw in someone's life -- maybe they drink alcohol, or engage in some other supposedly "big sin" -- and we essentially tell them that they look revolting. Or maybe it's just the whole idea of sin that we explain to them: they're covered in it, it's hideous, but lucky for them we've got the keys to the special door where they don't have to be hideous anymore.

And this is how evangelism was done in our fellowship for decades. Poor us. I guess it's just the best idea we had at the time for sharing our faith. But there are certainly better ways.

Let me share with you another way. At least the way we chose to do it at the Lynn Haven Church this past week. We had this Revival coming up, and we had friends we wanted to invite. And that can be really awkward -- kinda like asking a girl to dance in Jr. High. So here's how we did it. We printed out cards with the following message:

Dear (Blank)

I want you to know about something I did especially for you, and to tell you about something special that’s happening soon.

I’m sure you already know that I’m a member at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ. We’re a small family of faith, but we’re big on doing God’s will & caring for each other. I’m proud of my church family, and I’d love to share them with you.

Why? Because I care about you. That’s also why I prayed for you in a special way this week. This past week I prayed for you by name for some very specific matters: for your family, for your job & finances, and for your spiritual well-being. You matter to me.

So that’s also why I’m inviting you to some special meetings we’re having at my church this coming week. We’re calling it a Revival. I need a Revival in my life, and I’ll bet you could use one, too. I’d love for you to come! I’d love to introduce you to my church family. But mostly I’d like to share my Heavenly Father with you.

So here are the times & the dates…

I’ll be praying that I see you there, and that we can find Revival there together!

And then there was space for people to write a personal note. We challenged each other to think of three people in our lives that we knew needed Revival, to pray for them, and then hand the invitation card to them & let them know you care about them.

So that's one way. I know there are other ways to do evangelism, many of them more trendy & popular. But that one is working for us.

There's another way that evangelism is like Jr. High Dance, though. I think about the duteous Wallflower boys & the dolled-up girls in their chairs, and it's just a painful image. Why? Because they should be together! They belong together. But the boys are terrified; and the girls don't know what to do, either. And what's funny about the whole scenario is that if the boys knew just how much the girls wanted to be asked to dance -- how desperately they wanted someone to notice them & to compliment them by inviting them to dance -- I think those boys would be a whole lot more eager to go ask.

The world is literally dying for good news. We have something to offer the world that nobody else does. And sure, our reputation has been sullied in the world's eyes a little bit by decades of asking people to dance by telling them how ugly they are. We'll have to negotiate over that hurdle in the minds of some. But people want what we've got. Love, and peace, and joy. And all the rest of it. We should be bold in taking the initiative & inviting our friends to share in our faith.

Oh -- and one day, the dance is going to end. Let's hope we don't go home with regret, wishing we'd asked someone to dance & but didn't. How AWFUL to live in eternity with that kind of regret.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Rising sophomore receiver Julio Jones gave Tide fans a lot of thrills last season. He really had his first "Hello World" moments when the Tide put up 35 points in the first half against the then #1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Athens last season. Then he made the catch that essentially beat LSU in Coach Saban's return to Red Stick (that's the French translation of "Baton Rouge").

But perhaps none of those was even his most impressive moment of 2008. A 'Bama beat reporter just discovered that Julio played over half the season with a sports hernia that required surgery after the season ended. Which makes this highlight from the 2nd quarter against LSU just seem out-of-this-world incredible to me:

That clip makes me so happy. :) Football draweth nigh!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Vince Vaughn captures my sentiments, and probably those of just about every Red Sox fan, right now following the 4-game molestation at the hands of the Yanks...

... minus the vulgar mouth, of course. (g) Except for the rest of Red Sox nation: they're mouths are probably much more colorful & coarse.

So baseball season is over me now. I'm gonna throw myself into 'Bama practice reports. I've only played 3 rounds of golf this year, so it's probably time to hit the links with a vengeance. And I'll probably be avoiding Yankee fans as I fill out my foursome.

But I'll be back after September. I love the playoffs too much. And I suspect that there'll be plenty of Yankee-hating to indulge in.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Haven for the Broken

I think I love just about everything about this news story here: you've got ministry, BASEBALL, the little scrappy guy who's the underdog trying to run with the big dogs, the guy who takes his fortune & does something honorable with it. This is GREAT!...

I wish there were more efforts like this. I just love this. I know that we've got a couple kids in our church family who came from a background like a lot of those kids: beaten up, abused. You just wanna love on 'em & build them up so that they'll have a chance at life.

Point of fact, one of them was baptized just a couple weeks ago at church camp. We're so excited for him.

Anyway, that story warmed my heart. I had to share. That's Kingdom work happening right there. And I wanna say that you don't even have to mortgage your home or max out your credit cards to do it yourself. Just look around & see kids down on their luck, and love on them. It'll do you a world of good.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Soldier Turns to Faith

Just saw this on CNN. It came from an embedded reporter in Afghanistan. A soldier on the front lines decided he wanted to give his life to God.

I guess he'll be the guy at the home Bible study with the cooler baptism story than EVERYBODY else... (g)