Last night (11-25-08) Loyola (Md.) was crushed in basketball by Davidson. Now, this was actually the anticipated result considering Davidson has the top scorer in the country (averaging 35 ppg. and has only ever not reached double figures twice in his career) and has a significant size advantage over Loyola. According to the article, the story isn't the win but how it happened.
A common defense utilized by teams when playing a team with a player that is heads and tails above the rest is a box-and-one where four players are in a zone defense and the "one" is playing a denial man defense against the star player. Loyola took this concept even further and decided to double-team Curry. Now, typically a double-team would consist of one person permanently guarding Curry and the other defenders covering him as well when he enters into their specific zone. It takes a lot of work for the defenders but it is designed to leave the farthest area of court unguarded... the area least likely to have a scoring opportunity at that particular moment. But Loyola's coach simply put two men on Curry and told them to stay with him. Early in the game, Curry was frustrated since he had trouble getting the ball through two defenders, but quickly he realized that this wasn't a match-up zone or a box-and-one but that he was simply being double-teamed.
So, what did the top college player in the nation, most likely the number one draft choice, do? He stood in the corner... literally. He would play hard defense and then, when he team would take possession, he would jog down the court and camp out in the corner, taking his two defenders with him and leaving a 4 on 3 advantage for his other teammates.
For the first time in his career, Curry was held scoreless for an entire game. His team won by 30 points. That is selfless. That is teamwork. That is leadership.
Whether or not I am the one who breaks the tape is irrelevant (although it always increases the desire to think about winning), the fact that I will finish is what matters. As long as I can honestly say I didn't hold anything back and I virtually collapse on the other side of the finish line, I will be more than satisfied.
I was on the Track and Field team all four years in high school. I was more there for the field events (specifically high jump... personal best was 6'3" in case you were wondering), but because Madeira (Home of the Mustangs!) was a small school we had to pitch in where we were needed. My senior year I was tapped to be a part of the 3200 meter relay. This is where four people run two laps (800 meters) each, passing a baton after each leg. An 800 is one of the hardest races in track since it is right at the break between a distance race and a sprint. Basically, you are sprinting a long distance... it sucks. But, I have always been sort of competitive so I tried to take it seriously. I was given the third leg to run.
The first meet was a tri-meet where one of the schools was our rival. Turns out, I knew the guy running the third leg for them. We competed against each other in football, basketball, and even (**NERD ALERT**) Latin competitions ("Certamen" if you will). So, I wanted to beat him. Unfortunately, when I was handed the baton, we were in last place by at least a quarter lap. So, I took off. I ran as hard as I could. At the halfway point I had caught the other two runners. By the end of my leg, I had gotten us a quarter of a lap lead. My time was 2:04. I threw up on the infield as soon as I stepped off the track.
Sadly, our anchor was not as "into it" as I was. He showed up wearing high tops for crying out loud! He lost the lead I had gotten and we lost the race. I was pissed, but I also knew I had left everything on that track... and so did my coach.
That is how I want to finish school. That is how I want to finish life. That is when the Father will say, "Well done good and faithful servant."
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is supposedly built on the spot of the tomb that Joseph of Arimethea owned and gave for Jesus' burial, from which Jesus rose a few days later. During a meditation service, a fight broke out amongst the different Christian monks (Orthodox and Armenian mostly).
A man has become increasingly angry over the years to the point that anger and rage are the only emotions he experiences anymore. These emotions have been manifesting over the years through him yelling at his students (he is a professor), berating his wife, and throwing or kicking or hitting objects in his home that don't respond the way he wants. For example, a rug in his home slips under his foot so he kicks it across the room. The pencil tip breaks so he throws it against the wall. You get the idea. Well, his wife has finally decided to leave him.
Meanwhile, a science professor friend of his tries to share a theory that he has come up with. He suggests that the emotions of anger and rage, when constantly expressed, are absorbed by the objects (be they human, animal, or even inanimate) around them. He worries about his friend. He seems to think that his friend is in danger from his own home retaliating against him. He theorizes that the objects in the house will sort of come alive and end up treating Chris (the main character) the way he has been treating them. Well, SPOILER, they do and the house ends up killing him in the end.
The story got me thinking about how much I complain. When people don't meet my expectations or if I feel slighted by someone else, I want to vent or yell or tell my wife or confront them or...
Well, I think complaining, at least in my life, leads to anger, and then to bitterness. I am trying something that I've heard other people have done with some success. I am going to try to avoid complaining for a while. My attempt will be through the New Year (sort of a pre-New Year's resolution), and then I will see if my emotional state is any different.
I'll let you know how it goes... it's probably going to suck! Just kidding :-)
I remember on November 9th, 1989 when the people of East and West Germany were finally free to pass back and forth because they tore down the Berlin Wall. Heck, I remember movies based on the split within that city (anybody ever seen Anthony Edwards in Gotcha! because it's a horribly great movie).
I remember January 28th, 1986 when the space shuttle, Challenger exploded. We had to watch the news coverage in school (I was 9 years old).
Of course I will never forget the morning of September 11th, 2001. I got up and was on my way to the Young Life office. I got in my car, turned on the radio to what was normally a comedy show. It was eerily somber. They were reporting on a plane crash in New York City. I didn't really get what they were talking about until one of them yelled that another plane had just crashed at the same spot. Needless to say, I didn't do much work that day.
Minor events that I remember and that have made it into pop culture sort of history would be things like Kirk Gibson's home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I remember Kerry Strug's vault at the 1996 Olympic games basically done perfectly on one leg.
Last night was an historic event that I am so glad I got to be a part of. Not that racism is dead in this country or anywhere in the world, but an amazing step was taken last night by one of history's biggest proponents of racially based slavery. We elected an African American as president. I know that this country was sharply divided in this election, and this divide was evident as John McCain tried to graciously concede as well as to remind us all that we are united and that we can and should unite (as he was going to do) behind our new president elect and his supporters began to boo incessantly when the new president and vice-president's names were mentioned.
An amazing thing happened last night, but we have so much more ground to cover and more history to see being made... or to perhaps make it ourselves.
This morning, I had breakfast with my friends Guy and Tim. Typical of our get-togethers (we have breakfast just about every Saturday morning to discuss theology and politics and also because Tim is a professor at UNF who Guy and I are doing a Directed Independent Study in Biblical Greek with), we began to get engrossed into a discussion about the theology of the body and its impact on stewardship, the role of the church in the world, and eschatology. As an aside, I lost 50% hearing in my right ear at a concert in a small bar about 12 years ago and it makes it very difficult for me to make out specific words in a crowd of noise. Because of this, I tend to talk a bit louder in public places (like a restaurant with wood panel walls and no carpeting, thus causing the noises to bounce around rather than be absorbed and making it even more difficult for me to hear). These friends also talk a bit louder so that I can hear and because this restaurant can get a bit loud. Mind you, we do not shout, nor do we argue or toss out inappropriate words, we simply might get excited or might have to talk above the conversation taking place at the next table.
Well, apparently our topic of discussion this morning was too much for our neighboring table to bear. As someone who has some difficulty hearing in public, I can completely respect a request of trying to "keep it down a little," but our neighbor did not utilize such tact. Here was his statement (and I think I am quoting pretty accurately):
"Fellas, it's breakfast time in a public place, and when I can hear your conversation at my table and you are talking about religion and politics and sexuality, then it's time for you to go."
So, instead of saying, "Hey guys, my wife and I are trying to eat breakfast and have our own conversation, but it is tough to hear each other over you. Can you please keep it down a little bit?" To which my reply would have been, "Certainly. Sorry we got a little carried away. We will try to keep it to a dull roar," and maybe our neighbors and us could have had a little laugh about it. Instead, this man told us that our conversation wasn't welcome there and that we should leave! So much for free speech. We politely told him that we were going to continue our conversation and that he was entitled to his opinion. I did try to explain that I had a tough time hearing which is why we might be talking a bit loud, but the man simply responded by saying, "Well, you heard me!"
I wanted to call the man a number of names. I wanted to rip him to shreds by showing how tiny his mind must be to actually think he had any right to limit our topics of discussion. I fully admit that he had every right to politely ask us to talk quietly, but he has no right to tell us that if we are going to discuss certain things that we had to leave. We did try to talk softer because, even though the man a severe deficiency in communication skills, we recognized that we could be more courteous. However, I will not back away from an uncomfortable topic simply because it might ruffle someone's (or my own) feathers. Comfort is the enemy of growth.
I have been doing lots of things to distract myself, but it is now time to put my nose to the grindstone and go over this information so that I can get two 100% scores tomorrow. I have tried to be really consistent in how I study. Music in the background is bad for me. Television is bad for my studying. Kristy being home and awake makes it difficult. So, I am sitting at my desk at 2:30am and it is time to get going. Here I go.
This might sound strange but I am 32 years old and my grandmother is really the first death of a family member that I was close to that I have experienced. My grandparents on my father's side either died before I was born or lived too far away for me to truly get to know. My paternal grandfather died when I was 7 and I only have a few clear memories of him. But, my grandmother has been a part of my life since my birth.
Alberta Springfield was born March 18th, 1908. That's right folks, she was 100 years old when she died! She lived pretty much her entire life in Cincinnati, OH. Her father went looking for work in the early 1930s (of course she was already in her early 20s by then) and never came back, leaving her, her younger sister Georgette, and their mother to take care of each other. My grandmother embraced that role which is why she didn't marry until after her younger sister had and Alberta could be sure that Georgette was secure.
She ended up marrying a man from Alabama who had moved to Cincinnati to work for the railroad (a good job that was deemed necessary to national security, thus keeping him out of WWII). They had 4 children (my mother being the third and the youngest girl). My grandmother was an extremely religious woman. I know that in the present day and age the term "religious" is more often than not used as a negative word, but she truly loved her God and sought to serve in whatever way she was gifted.
Growing up, my parents both worked (well, at least my mother always had a job and worked) so my sister and I would go to grandma's house after school nearly everyday until I got into high school and started playing sports. I remember getting there and her having a snack of apple slices, fig newtons, or maybe even some vanilla wafers and milk ready for us. We would settle in to watch some Thundercats and He-Man (then She-Ra came on so I stopped watching and started either doing homework or playing cards with grandma). Later, she even started preparing our brown-bag lunches for us each day. Her house was on the way home for my mom so she would pick up the lunches the night before. My grandma really took care of us.
She had an enormous impact on my life. I will always cherish the times that I was able to sit and ask her questions about her life. I interviewed her for a paper in middle school on the Great Depression (I wonder if I will ever be interviewed by a younger relative about living through a similar time...) and got an A on the paper because of the amazing detail she provided. She was already a very old woman by the time I started forming concrete memories. She was 40 when she had my mother and my mom was 29 when she had me... a 69 year gap between us. She taught me how to play Canasta (my wife thinks she taught me how to cheat at it but that is just because Kristy is really bad at Canasta), she showed me that grandparents can be indulging to a point, and she showed me that God really can give us the strength to overcome.
One of the strongest memories I will always have of my grandma was how she quit smoking. I remember one day when I was 8 or 9 (she would have been 77 or 78), she finished smoking her 3rd pack in one day. It was right around the anniversary of her husband's death so I am sure that had something to do with it. She realized how addicted she was to those things and decided she was done smoking... she never smoked again! This was one of the strongest women I have ever (and will ever) known. When I was in high school, I asked her about it. She told me that whenever she started craving a cigarette, she simply prayed. Mostly the rosary or pre-written prayers, but she gave that craving up to God... much like a fast. Probably the most valuable lesson on prayer I have ever gotten.
I remember when her mind started slipping. It was scary and strange to see this woman who had always been so sharp start to forget and fade into daydreams and mix them up with reality. It was little things at first, but it eventually got to the point where the woman I had known was pretty much gone. The last 10 years or so of her life were spent in this cloud. It was heart-breaking to watch. I cannot tell you how many times I asked God why she was still here. All of her friends had died. Her sister had died. Her children had all moved away (except for my mom). She could no longer care for herself so my parents bought the house from her and moved in so that my mom could take care of her (which she did for the next 9 years). I began to try to find reasons that God was keeping her body alive. Maybe this was a lesson to me and others on how to truly love and honor our parents. Instead of just sticking her in a home, my mom dealt with frustration and heart-ache for nearly a decade just so that she could make sure her mother felt loved... even if she didn't recognize her own child anymore. Maybe it was practical since my parents and brother sort of depended on her social security check to buy food for all of them.
I think both of those are true in a sense. I also think a powerful third reason exists. Even though Alberta couldn't remember her own children, where she was most of the time, or even her own age (she would regularly get up in the morning thinking that she had to go to school) she could always remember how to pray. I was shocked one day when I went there and saw her in her bedroom with EWTN (the Catholic channel) on. The program was a Latin Mass and my grandmother knew every word... in LATIN! She never forgot how to pray her rosary or did she ever stop whispering her personal prayers to the Lord. If EVER there was an example of "pray continually", it was my grandma.
Just 5 days before she passed, she broke her hip. No one saw how it happened and the theory is that she didn't really fall, but that she stood up and her 100 year old hip just crumpled to pieces. The doctors said it was not worth it (I don't like that phrasing but I can't think of another way to say it) to do surgery. So, they tried to make her comfortable, they gave her pain medication, the nurses visited with her regularly, and my mom's office is in the same complex as the hospital so she visited her every day. They said that because she was going to be laying down all the time now, her lungs wouldn't last long. They lasted nearly 5 more days. Alberta Springfield died at 5:30am.
I am reading a book right now called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. In it, he argues that most Christians today don't ascribe to historical Christianity's teaching about death, life after death, and resurrection. He articulates a lot of what I had been learning through personal study. The hope of Christians is not that our souls would go to heaven to dwell with God in some spiritual realm for eternity. The hope is that death is truly vanquished. After our bodies die, our spirit either enters into some sort of sleep, goes to some sort of waiting area, or perhaps even does dwell with God... but for a limited time. Because, in the end, God will raise all of the dead ("resurrection of the flesh" is one of the last beliefs stated in the Apostle's Creed) but with perfected bodies. God will create a new heaven and a new Earth (and a new Jerusalem) where we will live for eternity in our uncorrupted bodies, in full fellowship with each other and with God. My grandmother prayed the Apostle's and Nicene Creed on a daily basis. This is what she believed and I know that this is where she placed her hope. Someday, I will see my grandmother again, but not as some glowing spiritual being. I will see her as she was meant to always be. Her mind will be sharp again and her body will be strong. She will be funny and insightful as well as able to run and jump and roll on the ground in laughter without any thought of her hip ever breaking again.
I love my grandma and I miss her. Even though she had basically been gone for 10 years, her death really solidified that for me. I can't wait to see her again and I thank God that her pain (physical, mental, and spiritual) is now gone and her hope is all the more closer to becoming reality.
The other day we read a very short excerpt from one of his books about how to be free from pressure in your life. While no analogy is perfect, this little concept made me think.
Larry writes that people operate from one of two "laws." First, the Law of Linearity describes the lifestyle of thinking that if I do A & B the result will be C. Apply that to a spiritual paradigm and we slip into thinking that as long as I don't: smoke, drink, have sex outside of marriage, cheat on my taxes, kick my dog, etc... or do: serve food at the shelter, support my family, lend a cup of sugar to my neighbor (literally or figuratively as long as it doesn't violate #3 in the don't list), go to church, pet my dog, etc... we will receive favor from God. That favor can either be blessings (as in health, wealth, happiness, etc.) or the big one, salvation. The Law of Linearity makes logical sense, but it also is based on performance and inherently brings pressure.
The second is the Law of Liberty. This law is not motivated by gaining C (the favor/blessing/salvation). The goal is simply to dwell in whatever God has for us... good/bad/ugly (great movie by the way). It sounds a little passive-aggressive (hence no perfect analogy) but it also takes away the idea that we have to perform. The scary part is that there is no longer anyway to be able to say with certainty that we can predict God.
For me, it makes me continue to rethink salvation. For too long I have thought of "being saved" as being so easy "a caveman could do it" (too bad there is no such thing as cavemen, right Ken Hamm? I hope you caught my sarcasm). It's as simple as ABC: admit, believe, commit and you'll be saved. Ultimately, this puts a formula onto God's actions, makes God predictable, and therefore removes the possibility that the god of this type of theology is actually God (at least in my book... which will be in stores a month from never). It is hard for me to believe in a God that I can predict. So, I think the Law of Liberty is key in truly submitting ourselves to a God of mystery, unpredictability, danger, adventure, heart-break, and the like. I want to want what this God wants. I want to move away from wanting to figure out how to get what I want. I do this in too many of my human relationships already... it's called manipulation and I am tired (literally, it's exhausting) of doing it in any relationship, let alone my relationship with God who sees right through my attempts.
Okay, so this blog entry is not meant to be political but I thought this cartoon was funny.
Mainly though, I just wanted to share why I haven't posted in quite a while. Writing here was giving me a lot of joy. It was fun to articulate things I was wrestling with and to receive comments from people who could possibly sharpen me. That joy started to become a bit of an obsession and the idea that I was sharing MY thoughts began to cause me to be a bit prideful. I began neglecting other things because I "had to do my blog entry." This is a pattern I have struggled with many times in my life.
I have spent my life making excuses. By this I am not necessarily just saying that I tried to come up with explanations of why I did something or why I didn't or why something happened. It wasn't even about pushing the blame onto circumstances or other people. Although, those things were all a part of it, the underlying reason I lived by excuses (and have died by them too) was because I felt I could always justify myself. I was always right. Even when it was clear I was in the wrong, I would find points where I was right (according to me) and focus on those. I would find anything to distract me from the things I just simply didn't want to do / didn't value / found unimportant / etc.
For much of my adult life, I have especially used spirituality for this end. If I didn't do the paperwork I was supposed to do... I would make the person confronting me guilty by saying (and usually honestly) that I was busy meeting with someone / praying / studying scripture / preparing a talk / etc. I thought all of those things far more important than paperwork and phone calls and e-mails and ... you get the picture. And, it's true, they are. Ultimately, God is not going to ask us if we (and I will use a Young Life reference here) got our greensheets in on time. God is not going to focus on whether or not I wrote my paper for my high school English class. God will not particularly care if I call you back the next day / next week / next month. God's focus is on eternal things and God calls us to focus on them as well.
So, I used this thinking and categorizing as a cop-out and excuse for not doing things that I placed little or no value in. The problem is, there are eternal elements in everything we do. I just didn't like that thought so I distracted myself from the theology of work by using (like a heroin addict) relationships (a good thing), prayer (a good thing), and the study of scripture (a good thing). The lesson though is that every good thing, when used inappropriately, becomes a bad thing. I have paid some dear consequences for my perverse use of spirituality. This blog began to become a distraction... an excuse... rather than a blessing (which it has the potential to be) in my life. My little break has given me a chance to hopefully re-focus.
I know, I know... I said I would try to have my second marriage post up by the other evening. I just haven't had the time to write it all out yet. I will really try to post it tomorrow afternoon.
That quote is from the Princess Bride. I love that movie. Anywho...
If you have never seen Time Bandits, you need to run (don't walk) to your local library/video store and get it, bring it home, and prepare to enjoy a fantastic film. Of course, this clip is a bit of a spoiler as it is the ending, but it really doesn't have a ton of bearing on the rest of the movie.
The question I am asking today is, does evil really exist? Is there such a thing as evil? Can evil ever really be "incarnate"?
I was reading a review of The Dark Knight (fantastic by the way... see it in IMAX if you can) and this was the question being asked. There is no such thing as darkness, just the absence of light. There is no "cold" only the absence of heat. Is evil like this? Does it actually not exist in and of itself? What if evil is just the absence of something else?
If that is the case, what is the "something else" that is missing when we experience things that are evil? I think "good" cannot possibly cover it. I have been in plenty of circumstances where good had no presence but I didn't experience evil. Ultimately, evil is the word we attach to anything that lacks love. Love is the thing that, when missing, makes evil seem so real.
But evil has no power of its own. Even if you think of a being like Satan or the devil as being evil, the truth is that he/she/it is actually the absence of God (who defines himself/herself as "Love"). There is no point in combatting evil. It is not a real thing. If we stop focusing on the experience of an absence and simply bring back the presence of that which is missing, evil will cease. As trite as this sounds, love really is the answer. We must choose to respond to the absence of it by bringing it with us rather than simply responding by continuing to dwell in love's absence. War is the absence of love. The way to end war and conflict is through love, not more war.
War: it's evil, don't touch it.
There are plenty more aspects to this issue than the argument between baptizing infants or baptizing "believers" only. There are disagreements over the method: sprinkling or full immersion. There are arguments about what actually takes place: purely symbolic, sacramental, or even actual forgiveness of sins (original sin included). Some even say that baptism in necessary for salvation while others would say that it is not.
For those of you who have ever worked at a ropes course or gone rock-climbing, you know what that phrase means. For those who haven't, there are two options for ropes courses. One is static and the other is dynamic.