Sunday, November 29, 2009

Power 12: The Thanksgiving Leftovers Edition

1.) Alabama : poor ol' Alabama... just slogs through another victory... have to go up against the mighty Gators and the Author & Perfecter of the Gators' perfect season, Tim Tebow... I don't even know why they'll bother to show up next week (g)
2.) Florida
3.) Texas
4.) Texas Christian : The Nebraska bandwagon has a bunch of folks in purple on it
5.) Boise State
6.) Cincinnati
7.) Oregon
8.) Georgia Tech
9.) Ohio State
10.) Virginia Tech
11.) Pitt
12.) Oregon State

Dropped Out: Ole Miss

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Power 12: Rivalry Week Edition

They say throw out the record books for these games. Instead, can we throw out the cliche's? The best teams usually win these games, right? I can name only three times in the last 20 years where the best team going into the Iron Bowl didn't win. It's probably about the same for Florida & Florida State.

Both are dangerous games this year. Both underdogs have just enough offense on their good days to scare you. Both teams will be loose & can throw the kitchen sink at their rival in terms of tricks. But also, both have a penchant for beating themselves. Should be good games.

1.) Alabama
2.) Florida
3.) Texas
4.) Texas Christian
5.) Georgia Tech
6.) Boise State
7.) Cincinnati
8.) Pittsburgh
9.) Oregon
10.) Ohio State
11.) Ole Miss
12.) Virginia Tech/Clemson : couldn't decide

Dropped Out: LSwho?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Power 12: The 'This is Getting Boring' Edition

Survive & advance. It's a 12- or 13-game playoff, and you just gotta keep showing up and winning every one of them.

Blah blah blah.

The top teams keep on grinding out victories: some of them tough & hard-earned, some of them comfortable. And of that top echelon, the NCAA appears very top-heavy this season. It's been a somewhat boring season this year (aside from the September upheval) because there aren't any earth-jarring upsets that shake-up the top of the rankings & foretell BCS doomsday scenarios. We've still got undefeated teams galore, and some very Championship-worthy one-loss teams.

1.) Alabama : defense dominated the Dan Mullen Spread. Hmmmm...
2.) Florida : the OBC made them sweat. But Florida's killer instinct is impressive.
3.) Texas
4.) Texas Christian
5.) Georgia Tech
6.) Boise State
7.) Cincinnati
8.) Pittsburgh
9.) LSU
10.) Stanford : 3 losses, but they rolled up 50+ points in back-to-back weeks against the Mighty Ducks & the Men of Troy. They're playing as well or better than any of the other also-rans.
11.) Oregon
12.) Ohio State

Dropped Out: Iowa and Miami

Monday, November 09, 2009

Nobody Wants To Die

I'm going to meander for a little bit here to begin with. But stick with me.

High School Reunions are kinda strange. Mine was a little extra strange. The weekend of my high school reunion, my old campus ministry group ALSO decided to have a reunion. So it was reunion weekend for me back in September. I ended up doing both, even though I missed out on a lot of the fun both groups had.

One of my good friends from college is named Missy. Missy is simply a great woman. A Proverbs 31 woman. One of the ladies that still gives me hope for the female gender. (g) Anyway, in the midst of planning the college part of my reunion weekend with Missy, I got to talking with her about my High School Reunion as well. Being a couple years older, she related her experience to me.

Missy told me, "Oh, mine was so strange. The first thing that happened is that a bunch of people made a beeline for the bar. I felt bad for them, because it seemed like the only way they could cope with stress was to get some alcohol in them. And the other big thing is that the people I knew had changed so much that I couldn't even hardly relate with them. We had nothing in common. But there were other people that I'd hardly known in high school that I got along with great! And I almost felt sad, wishing I'd known them better in HS so that we could've been better friends."

It's pretty incredible how accurately Missy scripted my High School Reunion experience. After hearing Missy tell me about it, it was amusing to watch people do just what Missy said they would do: sign in, get their name-tag, and then square their shoulders & head directly to the bar to get a drink.

There were even a handful of folks that I had known pretty well that I had a hard time connecting with that evening. One of them, in fact, I've known since we were toddlers. Our parents were friends, and there's a picture of us somewhere from when we were 5 years old on Halloween (him as Superman, me as He-Man). And no matter how cordial or amicable I tried to be, that guy in particular was pretty much a jerk to me. It didn't exactly hurt my feelings. I just found it kind of bizarre.

But then there were others, like Emily and Josh. I didn't know those two as well through high school, but I left the Reunion event that night wishing I had. Great folks. Encouraging to be around. And fun! Josh is a minister, and is working toward a theological degree so he can teach in Seminary one day. And Emily is a home-maker who likes to line dance to Shania Twain in her kitchen.

Wait... did I just say that out loud? Darn. Sorry Em. See, all that self-disclosure catches up with you.

Anyhow, those two & I have a lot in common. They work with a small congregation where Josh is the preaching minister. Kinda like me. I have lots of friends in ministry in different places, but not many of them in the lead position like us. It is different from being an associate minister. And slightly more pressure-packed in a number of ways.

Really, I'd say it's too big a bite for us to chew off sometimes. I was mentioning this to Emily the other day... consider this: we're in our 20's, and we're looked at to be the most mature people in the places where we work & worship. We're to be the most mature people among folks who can be 1-to-5 decades more experienced than us! That is insanely demanding.

It feels pretty wild sometimes. The challenging element, I think, is the constant responsibility. And it's interesting how folks -- even people 50 years your senior -- feel comfortable enough to be irresponsible at times trusting that you will be responsible enough to carry their slack. And over time, this is grating.

I can't imagine what it's like for Josh and Emily with kids. God bless you guys. Because I'm not sure it's the responsibility that gets on our nerves (it's not like we want to be IRRESPONSIBLE... not at all) as much as it is the constancy of it (and especially so for them). There never seem to be quite enough moments where you get to be the irresponsible one. Where you can be like the kid, and someone else can be the grown-up. Where you can let your flaws hang out, and other people have to be the understanding ones, and other people pick up your slack.

Generally, responsibility is burdensome. And ministry isn't the only phase of life where this principle proves true. It's burdensome to be the designated driver for a bunch of drunks. It's burdensome to be in a higher tax bracket & pay a painful percentage of what you earned to Uncle Sam. But it's not really going to "Uncle Sam," is it? At least it doesn't feel that way to people who see much of it go to entitlement programs for other people who don't have to pay any of those taxes. And that's why Republicans, generally, complain about taxes. It's not that they hate to write that check to the U.S. government because they're unpatriotic. Or that they're thinking of the sweet boat they could buy with that money that they're sending away. It's that they're thinking about how burdensome is the price of responsibility. A price that not everyone has to pay.

And it does kinda make you stop & re-evaluate what it's all for, right? Why be responsible in the first place? And then we remember: it's because we've been blessed in the first place. Luke 12:48 -- "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

God has not withheld anything from us. He's promised us everything: even, in fact, a reality we call Heaven. And yet, oftentimes (strangely enough), we're not too fired up about doing what it takes to reap what he has in store. A song that my Dad loves reminded me of this. I'll let Loretta Lynn sing it for you.

Now that's some good theology, huh? I pay for books $19.95 at a time that don't do a whole lot better than that.

Responsibility is burdensome. And you know what else? Constant responsibility is a cross.

I may have said this here before, but it bears repeating. The more I mature, the more impressed I am with the day-to-day life of Jesus (e.g. living in the flesh, dealing with all we have to deal with, PUTTING UP WITH PETER!) than I am with the event of the cross. The cross was impressive, no doubt. But his life took much more endurance, and perhaps more strength. And I would even insist that it was His life that prepared Him for the cross.

I think it's our lives that are working to prepare us for whatever it is God has planned for us in the next life. Carrying our crosses -- whatever they may be, however unglamorous they may appear at first glance. And I'm convinced that if we saw our burdens & responsibilities in this light, I think we'd see how glamorous and attractive they truly are. Because we all wanna go to Heaven.

And yet, nobody wants to die. (g) Not even preachers & preachers' wives, as you can see. But we are all called to carry our crosses & go to die. Here are Jesus' immortal words from Luke 9 -- "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."

There are no thorn-less roses. And there are no cross-less Heavens. If you want to reap a reward, then you have to face those constant responsibilities of life without becoming embittered by them. And along the way, take heart in the words of Jesus when he says things like this: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

So may you recognize that your responsibilities are actually working together for good to save you. And may you, with a great deal of courage and faith, daily make the decision to go and die.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Power 12: The 'Welcome Back Julio' Edition

I almost called it the flip-flop edition, because we've got a shake-up at the top.

1.) Alabama
Here's the best way I can describe this team: they're the most complete football team that still has yet to play a complete football game. And yet, they keep winning. Woe unto the team that has to face Alabama when they put it all together.

And the reason I decided to bump them up to #1 here is that, after giving this a lot of thought, I think that the Tide match-up well with the Gators. That, and the Tide have been looking forward to a re-match ever since the tussle in Atlanta last December. I think 'Bama will want it more. So I think Alabama is going to win that game. Thus the flip-flop: it wouldn't make sense for me to keep leaving the Tide below the Gators in these rankings when I actually think Alabama will win the game head-to-head.

2.) Florida : not only am I bumping them down, but I'm putting the Gators on upset alert. In their SIXTH straight SEC game, they have to go face the old ballcoach up in Columbia. Look out Gators.
3.) Texas : they have the easiest road to the BCS Championship Game.
4.) Texas Christian : crossing their fingers for a Longhorns loss.
5.) Boise State : their win at Oregon looks less impressive after the Ducks' 2nd loss.
6.) Georgia Tech : of all the potential BCS Championship Game match-ups, this one would scare me the most. I want no part with the Wramblin' Wreck. NONE.
7.) Cincinnati
8.) Pittsburgh
9.) LSU : they've only lost to the two best teams in the country.
10.) Oregon
11.) Iowa
12.) Miami

Dropped Out: Penn State

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Power 12: The All Saints Day Edition

... because technically Halloween is over.

Not as much separation between those top 2 teams and the rest of the field now. I could see any of the top 10 teams playing for a National Championship. Those top 2 teams have been playing like they're feeling the pressure of an undefeated record. And the November slate looks tough for both of them.

1a.) Florida
1b.) Alabama : folks talk about how other teams' wins are more impressive or stylish. But there's a lot to be said for just winning. Especially in the SEC. Even with 4 BCS Champions this decade, Alabama did something last week that only one other team has done in the SEC this decade: win 5 conference games in a row. This is why the SEC gets the respect it does: because you take a physical pounding week in and week out, and it's most rare to come away with W's in all those games. You don't get to play cupcakes every other week like in the other conferences. So if you can survive the gauntlet & keep advancing, then frankly you're one of the nation's elite teams.

3.) Texas
4.) Boise State : they have the BEST win of anyone in the country. I wonder if anyone besides this silly little poll will give them any credit for it.
5.) Oregon : I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that the Power 12 had Oregon ranked higher than USC ever since September 27th.
6.) Iowa
7.) Texas Christian : only because they play better defense than the #8 team.
8.) Georgia Tech : I do love watching that offense.
9.) Cincinnati
10.) LSU : as low-ranked as they are, it's incredible to think that they control their own destiny to make it to the National Championship game if they win out. Of course, that would mean beating Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida. Tall task.
11.) Pittsburgh : best football team in Pennsylvania?
12.) Penn State

Dropped Out: Virginia Tech and USC