Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fatherly Thoughts 2

Here's my 2nd and probably final "Fatherly blog thought" for a bit. Connar loves to hear and watch me play guitar. He goes crazy for it. So I regularly break out the 6 string and sing to him. Or sing over him is probably more accurate.

Here I am singing Allison Krauss' "You say it best when you say nothing at all." I find that an appropriate song, though he "can't" say anything at all yet. The smile on his face lets me know that he loves me-another line from the song if you're not familiar with it. And that smile is plenty enough for the time being. Of course he could say to me, "You say it best when you sing nothing at all." But he's too young to tell my voice is bad and hasn't developed the chutzpah to say that yet.

This practice and specifically this picture (click on the picture to get a bigger and clearer image) remind me of Zephaniah 3:17

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

That's what God does to His children, and I think that is downright cool. Surprising. Counter-intuitive, but amazing. I guess to be consistent with my Allison Krauss reference, I should have just posted the verse and the picture. You write it best, when you write nothing at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The article sans Geoff

Well, it doesn't look like a lot came from my interview with the Kansas City Star Reporter. What can you do? The opportunity to be interviewed was nevertheless still worth my 15 cell phone minutes. And to hear that my readership comprises more folks than I realized was worth the price of admission. To read Rick Montgomery's article, click here. I don't endorse all that's written, I'm simply presenting someone's thoughtful reflection on faith and football. I've reflected on it enough lately, so I shall let someone else speak on it for a change.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fatherly Thoughts 1

I've learned so much about God as Father from simply being a father myself. Now I will say that the Fatherly imagery in the bible instructs us that God is far more than simply a warm, loving, delighted parent (Ancient Near Eastern "father" imagery refers to a Sovereign King), but then again, He is not less than that.

Because a Christian is saved by grace and not anything that he does (Eph 2:8-9), he/she has different motivations to live out his/her faith than a Muslim, a Jew, or "Oprah-ite." Though motivations differ from the latter (where he/she does good deeds TO get in good with God), such are actually far more numerous for the former. Motivation for a radically sacrificial life comes from the knowledge one is already saved, from the fact that good works have been prepared in advanced for Christians to do, that sin is no longer their master, etc.....

But I've really begun to experience a new motivation. There's nothing quite like watching your child grow. From laying down like a blob, to rolling over, to sitting up, and now to crawling. It brings great delight to my heart to see Connar grow.

Now I would still love him just as much if he stopped growing. But when he does grow, develop, and learn, it's an absolute blast for me as a father.
I imagine it brings God the Father great joy to see His children growing/learning/developing. Even in small steps. He still loves us when we stop growing for a time, but if we knew how much joy it brought Him to see His children growing, shouldn't we then do all that we can to put ourselves in the path of growth: fellowship, worship, sacraments, the bible, prayer?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Roller Coaster

Today was an up-and-down type of day. I had planned on doing some early morning fishing, finishing by 10 am. However Connar's teeth had other plans and he ended up staying awake from 3-4 'ish' A.M. Not conducive to a 6 am wake up time.

That's OK, because it left me more time to spend at Wachovia this afternoon, figuring out why checks I had supposedly deposited were bouncing. Of course I had never seen these checks before. Apparently someone got a hold of my account and was cashing bad checks. They call that fraud where I come from. So after an hour and a half in Wachovia, we seem to have the problem mostly solved.

Now for the "up" part. I got a call from Rick Montgomery from the Kansas City Star. He wanted to interview me for an article he's writing on God and football- inspired by Kurt Warner's outspoken Christianity. A little while ago, he stumbled upon one of my posts on scripture verses and eye black. Crazy, eh?

So we talked for about 15 minutes this afternoon, and he's going to have the article done sometime this afternoon. He may or may not quote me. But it was still cool to have a visitor to the blog who is an accomplished writer for a major newspaper. I'll post the article here as soon as it comes out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Football, Democracy, and the Huddle

One usually isn't intellectually stimulated by Sports Talk. Yesterday was an exception. Sports reporter and adjunct professor at St. Joseph's University Sal Palontonio has a new book out called How Football Explains America. He attempts to show how distinctly American football really is, even how it explains things like Manifest Destiny.

I only heard a snippet yesterday of an interview when he discussed the huddle. Other countries don't get the "stop" in the action that we call a huddle. He began to explore the formation of the huddle as having its roots in the American ideal of free association. He discussed Alexis de Toqueville's observation about how uniquely American free association is. And because of this, the huddle simply couldn't have developed in Europe.

Then he moved on to the 2nd Great Awakening and how widespread free association became as revivals and churches began to spread across the Midwest. The football huddle formed out of this environment, having not only philosophical but religious roots. One of the founding fathers of football was studying divinity at Chicago.

I can neither confirm or deny these assertions, but they sure seemed thought provoking. I will probably order this book soon, once I finish one or two more on my 'need-to-read' list. But I'm already beginning to see how football COULD better explain America.

Florida fans, you can't scoff at this book. He's been in talks with UF to get this book used in their curriculum! NFL films president Steve Sabol calls this book "an intriguing blend of history, philosophy, and football." Throw in theology (which I think he already does, and you have a grand-slam).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

51 game losing streak ended

Last night was a historic night for one basketball team from New Jersey. The New Jersey Institute of Technology or NJIT Highlanders had owned the nation's longest NCAA losing streak at 51 games. But they put together a performance for the ages and beat the Bryant Bulldogs at home 61-51. Not since 2007 had they won a game.

I can't imagine going into a game with 51 straight losses. The players at N.J.I.T. may be quite skilled, but to get that losing mentality out of their minds must have been incredibly hard. Especially since no player on their team has even so much as tasted A single victory with the school.

I think it's equally hard for churches who have seen losses in numbers to rebound and move forward in growth. Not simply because it IS hard for churches to do so, but breaking the mentality of a learned helplessness can be even harder.

Yet by being faithful in reaching out, loving its neighbors well, praying regularly, caring for and discipling its own, churches can take responsibility in doing what God calls them to do, while at the same time relax in God's providence. That's practical Calvinism: being responsible and relaxing. This ought to eliminate the fear of losing and allow the church to simply enjoy "playing the game."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fishing metaphor in context

In this Sunday's sermon, Randy demonstrated a helpful hermeneutic (method of interpretation). He reminded us not only that Jesus called his disciples to be "fishers of men," but what assumption his first century listeners would have had. If Jesus were to say "fishers of men" to me and my kayak buddies, I can tell you how I would interpret it. When I go fishing with someone else in the kayak, I can actually be a hundred yards away from that person, and still be "fishing with" that person. Not necessarily a team mentality.

But when Jesus told his disciples that he would make them "fishers of men," they obviously would not have thought of fishing in my terms, but in their terms. And they would not have thought hook, line, and lures only, but with nets and a team of people handling those nets.

I had been reminded of this "fisher of men" verse my whole life for obvious reasons, but had always interpreted this metaphor from my present understanding of fishing: which is individualistic as opposed to a team mentality. Evangelism is definitely a communal effort and this metaphor in its original context only reaffirms that truth.

Here's my biggest redfish (24'') from my kayak fishing tournament last Saturday. I think God was reinforcing a more relational style of fishing since all 5 (2 trout and 3 reds) of my fish were caught when fishing with, not "with," my buddy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Memorable Church Marquee

I don't know exactly what the purpose of church marquee signs are, so I don't know how one would evaluate if they really do or don't accomplish their purpose. If you think you know why churches put them up, I'm all ears (in an cyber-world type of way); feel free to post a comment.

This particular one had an impact on my life. So much so, that I parked, walked across the street and took a picture of it. Since you can't run spell-check (and actually spell-check wouldn't have caught this because no words are misspelled), it might be good to have a marquee editor come in behind the marquee "phraser." That might reduce the risk of this happening again.

The funny thing is that the other side has "in shape," while this side has "in sharp." Maybe they just ran out of "e's" and this was a creative way of just making do?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ding, Dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead (or rather, fired)

Well the "wicked witch" is dead. The Buccanneer ownership (The Glazers) fired yet another 9-7 coach. Perhaps it was because outside the Super Bowl year, the Bucs were an under 500 team. Perhaps it is because they didn't win A play-off game outside that SuperBowl year. Perhaps it was because no team has ever gone 9-3 since reallignment and missed the play-offs with 4 straight losses (except the 08 Bucs). Perhaps it was because Jon Gruden treated people like garbage and was about as loyal to his quarterback and wide receivers as an elementary school boyfriend.

Jon, if you're out there reading this blog, I would like to say, "Thanks for the Super Bowl in 02." But being a jerk to everyone really only works if you're winning the big one each and every year. Otherwise, niceness goes a long way.

In the end I would prefer another more proven coach, but to have a coach that the players actually like will be a nice change of place. And to have one the fans can respect is icing on the cake. Candles would be another Super Bowl.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vision for the Community on Steroids

Over the last several years, we have done an art exhibition at Hope. This past year we turned it into a coffeehouse with music AND art. One of our main goals was to bless artists and give the community a culturally enriching experience. Besides allowing the plethora of Home-owner's Associations to meet in the church, we OUGHT to be doing things that would make the neighborhood sad if we ceased to exist.

A church up in St. Louis basically took that vision and ran with it. It's kind of like our vision at Hope on steroids (of course the legal kind, with a prescription...).

Here's what I'm talking about.

It’s Saturday night in St. Louis, Mo. A crowd gathers at a hot new venue for music, art and theater that’s unapologetically named The Chapel and sponsored by Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Tonight a punk band is playing. It could just as easily be an indie, acoustic, rock, folk or experimental group. The Chapel has featured all of these plus artists and theater groups.

The people arriving are the young and hip. Urban dwellers. Students at Washington University. Internationals. Gays. In short, people in the creative classes, the unreached populations near the church—those who Memorial set out to influence in the city by serving it. And serve it they do.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dungy's Affirmation

The NFL saw a wonderful coach and even better man retire this week. Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, retired in hopes of pursuing other ministry and philanthropic opportunities. The good thing is that he will be back in Tampa.

His influence on other coaches and players has been profound, and even Warrick Dunn who started Homes for the Holidays credits Dungy with challenging him to give back to the community.

One of the things I noticed at his departing press conference was his class and grace. He proclaimed that he had a ton of people to thank, and one of the parties was the Glazer family. They are the family who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the ones who gave him his first NFL coaching job.

True, they did take a risk in giving an unproven defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings the opportunity of a lifetime. Not to mention they were somewhat pioneering, giving the job to an African-American coach (I don't remember how few there were back in 1996-but I know there weren't many.)

So they were among those many whom Dungy thanked. But one could have easily ignored them. I mean, they did fire Dungy even though he took the Bucs to the play-offs 4 out of 6 years he coached and only had one losing season (they had 14 in a row prior to his arrival). And they did deceptively assure him his job was safe, when in fact it wasn't. And they did not fire his successor despite 3 losing seasons and no play-off victories since the Super Bowl in 2002.

If I were Dungy, I could see myself omitting the Glazers on my people-to-thank list. But he didn't. He instead affirmed what he could affirm about others. What a lesson we could all learn, especially in dealing with people whom we have "history" or disagreement.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The power of Oprah in Bradenton

While at Books-A-Million a few days ago, Amy overheard a conversation among an employee and customer that reinforced to me just how much power Oprah has. Check this out.

Customer: "I'm looking for the book Oprah mentioned yesterday on her show. Do you have it?"

Employee: "Well, if she mentioned it on her show, then we sell out such books within the first hour. So I'm sure we don't have it in stock."

How crazy is that! Oprah has got to be the most influential person in America. Now if "we" could get her to recommend The Reason for God...

"Rolle-ing" the Dice

A little while ago I included a post about a young athlete and Rhodes scholar from FSU named Mryon Rolle, who was undecided on which way to go: either the NFL or Oxford. He chose the latter. For all of those who look down upon athletes in a Hobbesian sort of way "nasty, brutish, and short" (well maybe not short, but the other two aren't out of the question), check out Mryon Rolle's decision to skip the immediate money and have two years of free schooling. At Oxford.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Playboy, Outpunting Coverage, and No Reason to Rejoice

When a punter in football kicks the ball so far and so quickly up the field, he often puts the rest of his teammates at a disadvantage. The opposing return team is then able to set up quicker and the punt returner has a better chance of getting a good return. It is called "out-punting" your coverage. The goal is to kick the ball far, but also high, and keep it in the air as long as possible. Just kicking it far can present a problem.

Well it looks like Hugh Heffner and Playboy have "outpunted" their coverage by mainstreaming sexuality and pornography so much so that it may have hurt their market. Here is an excerpt of a thoughtful reflection on the issue, the cause, and why we don't really have great cause for rejoicing.

The economy is apparently hitting the Playboy pornographic empire, at least according to an article in December in Business Week. The magazine which was famously described as being good for women, providing that women knew what they were good for, is struggling, but before you crack open the champagne, it is no cause for rejoicing those who deplore what it represent: the problem Playboy faces is twofold -- the `softcore' content on which it made its reputation is now so mainstream that equivalent material can be found in many magazines that would never be considered pornographic; and it cannot compete with the harder, more explicit stuff that is now easily available to any ten year old child with a computer and a modem. As one pundit on Tina Brown's politics and culture webpage, The Daily Beast, asked, `Who buys a skin mag these days?'

You can read the rest of the article here. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If I only I were a "log" and not a "fan"

I've been enjoying the NFL play-off games lately. When the Bucs don't play, which is usually, since Gruden took over, I simply pull against teams I dislike the most.

Yesterday, both Carolina and Tennessee played. They both performed very well throughout the season and earned first round bye's and a home game. Both lost. So all that winning simply to lose their first game. Was it that important to win? I mean from a fan's perspective.

Was it worth it to get worked up about all of the close games? Was it worth putting all that stock in a game that I have absolutely no control over? After all, I may only get to see ONE extra game. Doesn't make a ton of sense. But then again, "fan" is short for "fanatic." I mean one who follows a sports team isn't called a "log," short for "logical."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Skimming and Reading

The other day I received a Xmas card (with actual personal writing in it; I don't "get" the one's that just have a name or two signed) AND Xmas letter. The letter was simply an update on the life of one of my good friends. Since we just got back from vacation, and had a plethora of other bills and junk mail to view, I found myself skimming the one-page form letter.

Amy came up to me about five minutes later and asked, "Did you read the letter from Troy?" "Yes, skimmed it," I told her. And she responded, "So can you believe they are having another baby?"

I had no idea. I obviously missed that part. I really missed the most important part of the letter.

With that in mind, there are a ton of details we seem to miss in the bible. And in addition to better learning the context of the individual verses, books, sections of books (Law, Prophets, even minor Prophets, Pauline epistles, etc...), re-reading the bible in a year can allow us to see things we "missed" the previous time. And if you're reading it this year, I guess you'll have to go back next year and see what you missed, eh?

Here's a link to some bible reading schedules if you're interested. At Hope, we're trying to encourage our community groups and even youth group to consider taking this beneficial challenge together. I started a few days late but can play "catch-up" on the off days.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Learning romance from a 98 year old basketball coach

Are you as romantic as 98 year-old basketball coach? I think this dude is a good challenge for all the fellas. Here's an excerpt of an interview with former UCLA ball coach John Wooden from Sporting News magazine. He is considered by most to be the best coach of all time but his legacy goes beyond way beyond sports.

SN: "There is much love in this house, isn't there?"

Wooden: "Yes there is. My late wife (who died in 1985), the only girl I ever dated, the only girl I ever went with, picked it out out to be closer to our daughter...."

SN: "Many things are just so: the books, the photographs. And also many things that belonged to Nell-even the little things, like her lipstick. Are you holding on to her still?"

"Yes. All the things that she used, like her makeup. And her side of the bed. Her gown is stretched out on her side of the bed since I lost her. And once the sheets are changed, then we put everything back on the same way. So I wouldn't want to leave here."

SN: "Your family speaks with emotion about the letters you write to Nell every month, a simple act that is profoundly touching and romantic. How does it make you feel when you write to her?"

Wooden: "It makes me feel closer to her. It brings back many feelings...(long pause)...that we had between us. It makes me feel better.

SN: "Will your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren read them someday? Or are they just for you and Nell?"

"They are between us."

I think this kind of love is a beautiful picture of the love a husband should have for his wife. But ultimately it points us to the love that Christ has for the church: the greater reality to which marriage directs us.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Athletes, verses, and OSU (ammended)

Last night I found myself pulling for a team I've always pulled against: Ohio State. Why you ask (or I'll ask on your behalf)?

A number of players including their All-American linebacker and freshmen quarterback had little scripture references on their "eye black" (those black sticky things they put under their eyes to reduce glare, and to look cool). Now that is not unique. Florida Gator QB Tim Teebow has "Phil" on one and "4:13" on the other. In case you're not familiar with this verse, it is the sports-ubiquitous "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" verse. I think this is a good verse to put, especially if "all things" include "being content" with a loss (as it refers to Paul being content , in essence, whether he "wins" or "loses").

But the scripture references these players were donning seemed to be less about the game itself. The QB was wearing Phil 3:14. Either he got confused and mixed up the scripture reference OR he was "....pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Wow. I thought that to be a pretty cool reference since it didn't have anything to do with the outcome of the game (unless his translation was "goal-line" instead of "goal!").

The verse that linebacker James Larunitis (whose father and uncles were professional wrestlers-seriously, remember the "Ultimate Warrior?") had was Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Nothing against Tim Teebow (seriously the dude is an incredible athlete, Christian, missionary, etc.., the Tony Dungy of college quarterbacks) but these are the verses I personally would rather see because they seem to place more emphasis on Christ and less on the actual game. That and I still can't get the taste of Evander Holyfield's use of Phil 4:13 on his boxing robe out of my mouth from the late 90's.

Nevertheless, I am thankful for all such athletes who wear their faith (literally during the games) and who will have a chance to minister on a larger platform in the NFL. Click here to see some other NCAA football players who share faith in Christ.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back From the Cruise

We just got back from a week long cruise to some Caribbean locales. At times it was quite fun and relaxing, and at other times it was quite exhausting trying to sleep in the same room as a congested 7 month old! So at times it felt relaxing, and at other times like a youth retreat. But all-in-all, we had a blast and are quite thankful for a generous family providing us with a wonderful experience.

Outside of dancing in the New Year (well as much as one could with a sleepy 7 month-old, till about 10:30 pm), two experiences really stood out.

1.) Belize City. This was my 5th time coming to Belize, with the previous 4 coming from mission trips. We took a horse and carriage ride through the city. The driver was intent on us seeing the rough parts, probably so we would feel bad for him and tip him more-he also told us that New Years Day was his birthday and that he needed money to go to the horse races.
But the city was not pretty. At all. We rode through Belizean ghetto and were welcomed by the sarcastic sounds of "Welcome to beautiful Belize..."

I found it quite ironic that many people were exiting the ship in hopes of seeing a lovely landscape. Instead many found slums and extreme poverty. For me it was strangely refreshing, coming back to the reality of the ugly effects of sin and concomitant need for Jesus in a region surrounded by such beauty in islands only 10-15 miles away.
I still love Belize even though it isn't beautiful by any stretch of the word. But they do speak English!

2.) Roatan. While this island of Honduras has its share of poverty and drugs, it is very Christianized and very beautiful and mountainous. One lady we met on the beach-who happened to be reading The Shack because a pastor gave it to her due to the loss of a daughter, took quite seriously the call to minister to orphans. She left Canada to live and work with HIV infected children. Because she was a resident, she was able to adopt several kids. You can see the picture of Connar on the beach playing with some whom we presumed were HIV positive, although I hope I'm wrong. He brought a lot of joy to these kids and these kids brought a lot of joy to him. I hope that Amy and I can continue to put him in situations where he can minister in some way to literal and figurative widows and orphans. That way, it will just be a normal part of his daily Christian life.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Some Edwardsian Resolutions

I can't say that I've ever really stuck with a New Year's resolution. I seldom make them, and couldn't tell you the last time I made one and even what it was. Now I know that you're not supposed to make resolutions that you don't have control over like "catch more fish."

I think such resolutions could probably introduce some added discipline in my/our lives. And if attempted in light of, and motivated throughout by God's grace, could be extremely beneficial. Maybe one or two resolutions will hit me on the cruise this week. Please feel free to comment with your best or worse New Year's resolutions.

Anyhow, here's a list of resolutions by Jonathon Edwards. I only listed twenty of his. but there are plenty more that you can check out here.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.