Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Is Just Wrong

Today is American History Day at James' school. He chose Babe Ruth as his great American figure. I stand behind that choice. I really do. And he looks great in the uniform.


It's hard for me to look at.

If only Vladdy was American. If only...

Sorry about the lack of postiness lately. Ever had a kidney stone and a migraine at the same time? I have. I'll try to get back on schedule next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

God is Not a Bully

My friend, Arthur, says that and it's one of my new favorite sayings.

God is not a bully.

God does not force Himself upon us.

God chose to give us free will and He stands by that choice every painful moment of every day.

We can choose to make Him Lord of our lives. Or not. We can choose to make Him the center of our marriages. Or not. We can choose to involve Him in our decisions. Or not. We can direct our worship towards Him. Or not. We can recognize Him in sunsets and thunderstorms. Or not. We can keep Him close. We can keep Him at arm's length. Or we can ignore Him entirely.

It's our choice. It truly is.

But all it takes is a word, a thought, a glance in His direction. And He is around us, inside us, through us, speaking to us, listening to us, guiding us, helping us, supporting us. Everywhere. Everywhen.

If you don't believe me, just ask Him.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The postseason schedulers have done a supremely horrible job this year.

The ALDS was scheduled in such a way that each team only needed to carry three starting pitchers. So nobody was really playing the team that had plowed through the previous 162 games. They were only facing the top 3 guys. Ridiculous.

During the ALCS, there was an unexplained day off right in the middle. Instead of the old 2-3-2 format (which some people hate but makes perfect sense), they went 2-2-1-2 allowing an extra day to push everything back. Without that pointless interruption (and the even more perplexing change in the next paragraph), the baseball season would actually end in October. As it is, a 7-game World Series would end on November 1. I don't know much about meteorology, but I'm fairly sure that Novembers in Boston and Denver are not typically warm.

The World Series finally starts tonight, and with it comes the final change from previous years. This year, the Series begins on a Wednesday. So instead of the three middle games being played on a Fri/Sat/Sun, they will instead fall on a Sat/Sun/Mon. No big deal except for a couple of things. First, there is a sad scheduling conflict between Game 5 and Monday Night Football. I don't care, but plenty do. Second and worse, there is now a Monday game instead of a Friday game. No big deal on the west coast but plenty big on the east coast where games start at 8:30. In other words, instead of getting to stay up and watch an entire game on Friday night, many people will catch a few innings of Monday's game before heading to bed.

And Major League Baseball pays millions of dollars to try and figure out why people, especially kids, are losing interest in the great game.

Dumb. Really, really dumb.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Wedding Day

Last week was a one-post week. For the most part, the reason was that Lisa's mom was getting married Sunday and that kept us hopping. Lisa did a huge amount of work to help her mom with the big day. As usual, she did a perfect, beautiful job. The event was elegant and planned down to almost every detail. The seating arrangements were a bit off, as the bride had neglected to give herself a place to sit during the reception, but we found her a chair and decided to seat her next to the groom.

I had never preached a wedding sermon before so I kept it nice and short. But I enjoyed the opportunity. There are some mothers-in-law who would probably make this a difficult task, but I love Lisa's mom a LOT and it was such a joy to stand in front of her beaming smile and share a message about God, the Creator and Embodiment of love.

It was an exhausting day, but an absolutely beautiful one. James looked incredibly handsome in his suit and did a perfect job of walking his Grammie down the aisle. Lisa and her sister were radiant bridesmaids. The blustery wind of Saturday had dissipated and the sun shone warmly on us all. And we even got home early enough to enjoy the traditional Sunday nappage.

We had to miss church for the ceremony. Voting for the elder-nominees began yesterday and I suppose it's time I mentioned that I'm one of them (especially since Blake outed me in the comments from my last post...A's fans...what're ya gonna do?). I haven't written about it here for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I've been dreading the hard time that Cecil is going to give me. I still don't plan to write about it much, but I do have to say that I'm proud of my church for letting a divorced man get this far in the process. It tells me that we are moving away from our legalistic tendencies of the past, that we are trying to be the church God wants us to be rather than the church we think He should want us to be. Any evidence I see of a retreat from man-made laws is quite welcome.

The "voting" process will last a few weeks and I promise to keep my blog family informed as we go along. Above all, I pray that God puts the right leaders in place at College for this time in its life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I got a new perspective this week on the talking heads they always interview after a baseball championship. My neighbor, Chris, has been coming over to watch the Rockies games because Major League Baseball, in its infinite wisdom, allowed the NLCS to be broadcast on TBS and Chris doesn't have cable. I've enjoyed having him over for the games, although we talk too much and find that we are missing important plays.

Monday night, Chris and his wife came over to watch Game 4. Chris has known the Rockies President, Keli McGregor, since second grade. They roomed together in college. They were in each other's weddings. They're buds. So obviously, Chris roots pretty hard for the Rockies. His enthusiasm combined with the fact that the Rockies are the hottest team I've ever seen (21 and 1???) make it pretty easy for me to root for them too.

When the Diamondbacks cut the lead from 6-0 to 6-4, Chris ran home to e-mail Keli, knowing he would have his blackberry with him. During the game, we heard some great stories about pranks they played together. It's great hearing about impish deeds done by a group of guys, all of whom grew up to be either ministers, missionaries, or presidents of Major League Baseball teams.

After the game, as usual, the team heads were all interviewed. This is usually when I change channels or go to bed. But now, this is what we had been waiting for! When the microphone moved in front of Keli's face, Chris and his wife leaned forward, smiles wide on their faces. Keli praised the Diamondbacks and then shouted "Whoa whoa whoa!" when the crowd started booing. He seemed, in every way, a class act. His sheer joy in a victorious team that has been severe underdogs every year since their inception radiated through the TV, through his friends, and into us.

It's so easy to forget that everybody's somebody. The homeless guy I passed yesterday...that kid who gives me grief...even the talking heads. They all have lives. They all matter. No matter how "important" or how unimportant they seem, they all matter. I pray that God helps me to see past the surface of the people around me and gives me just a glimpse of how HE sees them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Fresno Airport

I'm getting old.

This is how I know I'm getting old. About twenty years ago, we learned that William Shatner was directing Star Trek V at a location in Yosemite. With no thought nor concern to what real obligations we had that day, two buddies and I got in my car and drove, posthaste, to Yosemite. We didn't see much...just some props, some trailers, and the Shat directing one tiny scene. He wasn't even directing one of the actors, just a Bones lookalike. Still, it was great fun and I'll always get a thrill when I see that scene in the movie (which I never do because ST V was an awful movie and I don't even own it on DVD; I go straight from IV to VI).

So when I found out that they were shooting scenes for my favorite movie franchise of all time...when I found out that the little Chandler Airport in Fresno was being redressed for Indy IV...when I found out that Spielberg and Lucas and (yes!) Harrison Ford himself were here, I blew everything off and rushed there immediately, right? Right??

You see where I'm going. At what point in my life did I become so DARN responsible? Just because I had a Calculus class and tutorial just before a big test, I actually came to work. I blew off Indiana Jones for my kids! Love or stupidity? You be the judge.

I should mention here that very few people know what an enormous Indy fan I really am. I've seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark" well over 200 times. If ever marooned on a desert island, I'm in good shape; I'll just watch the movie over and over in my head until starvation overtakes me or Jeff Probst shows up. I walked into my wedding with the Indy theme playing, fercryinoutloud!

So, it's no wonder that I'm a bit shaken today. Indy was in town. And I missed him. I comfort myself thusly: I watched the filming of Star Trek V. It was horrible. I missed the filming of Indy IV. Maybe it's a good thing.

In other news, I received an unsigned sympathy card yesterday. Postmarked Sacramento. Sent, no doubt, in regards to the Angels loss. HiLARious.

Last night at dinner, my son, my own son, my flesh and blood, looks at me and says, "Daddy, when are the Angels playing again? JUST kidding!!" Hi-LAR-ious! Lisa turned red from failing to hold her laughter in.

With friends like these...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Comment Corner

As usual, your comments lately have been far superior to anything I've written. I seldom go back and respond to them though. Rather I simply enjoy your wit and wisdom and then blithely return to my own blatherings. ("Blithe blatherings?" Annoyingly alliterative.)

In a feeble effort to make up for this oversight, I now present Comment Corner, a review of responses from recent writings.

(Forgot to turn off the alliteration machine. Sorry. Got it now.) Without further ado...

Responding to "Countdown to Sunday," timeless used the phrase "yeasty times" to describe periods of transition. I liked that. Also that it was coined by a guy named "Nesbitt," a name which will always create Monty Python pepperpot voices in my head.

After "No Thanks Redux," Greg mentioned a urologist named P.P. Peters. Now that's funny, I don't care who you are.

The comments to "God Put A Smile Upon My Face" (and, seriously, am I the only Coldplay fan around??) were rich. Wendy quoted Chef. Paraphrased actually. But a Chef reference will always win my love and respect. Brady swore symbolically. Josh said "F'n" and worried about its appropriateness, which is a whole 'nother post. He also incorrectly predicted that the World Series would not be won by Boston. And Randy tempted me with the sin of envy with his announcement that he watched my Angels from a luxury box. Even if I could afford that, or had friends who could, there will be no Angels sightings for many months.

The post also reminded me of the following exchange I shared with James last night:

James: What's 99,000 times 99,000?

Daddy: Wow. I don't know. Something big.

J: I thought you taught math.

D: Oh, yeah, I do. Um, lemme see. 188,000 I think. (I know, not even close. I was eating.)

J: Whooaaaaaaa. That's a biiiiig number!

D: Yup. Y'know, when your uncle was a kid, he used to ask what the last number was.

J: There IS no last number.

D: (Chest puffed up. Eyes brimming with proud tears.) That's right, bud. There isn't!

J: But what's the biggest number?

After "Stay Tuned," Cecil inexplicably (and interestingly) reverted to the old tradition of turning word verifications into phrases. There can be no other explanation for this than a rift in the space-time continuum. I know this is possible because I watch "Heroes."

I did respond to a couple of comments after "Throwing Strikes and Casting Crowns," but the post is notable because it's where Blake began his annoying habit of bashing the Angels. It should be noted that the Blake in question is an A's fan. Yes, an A's fan. As in "one game out of last place and 18 games out of first."

I find this trend interesting (there's that word again, Cecil). The day after Boston swept the Angels in the ALDS, a colleague e-mailed me a picture of a broom. Ha. Ha. Said colleague is a Dodger fan. The Dodgers did not make the playoffs. A friend of mine gave me some grief about the Angels woes after Game 2 of the same series. Said friend is a Royals fan. Yes, they exist. The Royals did not make the playoffs.

The preceding sentence is the most obvious one I have ever written.

Late in the season, the Angels led all Major League teams in wins. They clinched a postseason berth with something like 10 games left to play. They were dominant this season. Yet people have prodded me about them because they didn't win their last game. Well, folks, only one team a year gets to win their last game. So

Methinks I doth protest too much. Anyway, in short, Blake, the A's are big fat losers. Nyahh nyahh.

It was Randy who wins the "Best Comment" award in this edition for his heartening response to "Sob." I quote:
"My Angels may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.-Psalm 73:26 from the NRV"

Thanks, Randy. That meant a lot to me.

After the last post, "Breaking the Rules," Greg gave me the name of a book I want to read and Brady mentioned one he was reading but neglected to mention the name (Same as Greg? Different? If you like it, chances are good I'll like it.). But this was only after scoring the "Worst Comment" award by suggesting that the Angels should sign Barry Bonds. Brady, my friend, I was there when the Lakers signed Rodman and it put me off basketball for...well...ever. Since I can't think of a way to only watch 1/18th of a baseball game, I hope desperately that your suggestion, made I'm sure in jest, falls on deaf ears.

Imagine the noise I made when Manny hit that game-ending homer. Now amplify it by about a million and you'll have my reaction to signing Bonds.

So that wraps up the first edition of Comment Corner. Keep 'em coming. There has to be some quality writing around here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Breaking the Rules

My self-enforced policy is that all Bible talk must precede all baseball talk. It's a matter of priorities. But I have to lead off today with this:

The Angels need another power hitter. And I mean right now!

Not to make excuses, but it's tough to play the best team in baseball when they have home field advantage in a short series with four (4!) of your best players hurt or sick. One more power hitter would not have made a difference in this series. But if the Angels want to change from a perennial division winner to a perennial World Series winner, they need to add one more guy.

I'm okay with A-Rod playing third for us. I really am. Note to Arte Moreno: It's okay with me.

In other, less depressing news, Sandra and Lex are home from the ZOE Conference and they got Brian McLaren to sign a copy of his new book for me. That rocks. I would love to hear McLaren speak someday. Sadly, he won't be making the trip to Fresno when ZOE comes in January. Maybe Lisa and I will be able to afford the trip to Nashville some year.

I'm teaching a class on kingdom language right now. That may inspire further posts, but what it does for me every day is remind me that I am subject to an all-powerful Lord who is Ruler of everything. He thought of it, He created it, He sustains it, He watches over it. And in all of His power and might and majesty, He still knows the number of hairs on my head. He cares when I hurt. He wants me to talk to Him. He is King indeed, but He is loving Father as well.

Sometimes it's nice to write the good stuff last.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Sad. So sad.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Throwing Strikes and Casting Crowns

Josh Beckett dominated the Angels in yesterday's series opener. While John Lackey was consistently getting strike one against the Red Sox...only to give up ringing hits later in the count, Beckett was getting strike one AND strike two. It seemed like every Angel hitter came to the plate with a two-strike count. It's very hard to win that way.

In all, the Angels got four hits as Beckett pitched a shutout. I draw comfort in the memory that we dropped the first game of every series in the 2002 post-season. It ain't over til it's over.

After the fourth inning, I set the rest of the game to record and headed to the BIG BIG BIG Fresno Fair with Lisa. In reality it's not all that big. I'm not what you'd call a "fair guy." But the weather was nice and we had tickets to see Casting Crowns.

The concert was good, but short. I think they only played 10 or 12 songs. Still, they played them well and the crowd enjoyed it. It was a nice time of worship and praise under the stars. The lead singer acted just like a youth pastor, even referring to himself as a prayer. I liked his message and his attitude. He certainly seemed authentic. He apologized for "talking at us" but nobody seemed to mind. At one point, I found out that he sounded like a youth pastor because he was one. It was obvious that he had a heart for that ministry, and a heart for God.

The concert was better than the game. But there will be another game tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stay Tuned

We all have our verbal tics, those things we say without even thinking about them. Teachers and public speakers are usually more aware of them because we talk for a living. Some people never notice how often they say "well" or "um" or "now." But I try to pay attention to these things because, heaven knows, I'm annoying enough as it is. Throw in too much verbal junk and I'll be intolerable.

So yesterday, after I ended my post with a "stay tuned," I wondered how many other times I'd done that. I knew it was quite a few. A simple "search blog" turned up my answer. I have ended seven blog posts with the words, "stay tuned." In two other posts, I ended paragraphs that way. Wow, I'm original, aren't I? Here are some things I learned from those posts.

June 18, 2007: I correctly predicted that I wouldn't blog much during summertime.

September 21, 2006: I was sick a LOT before my surgery. (Thanks, timeless.) Also, not many people outside of geekdom know who Bruce Campbell is. You're all really missing out.

June 5, 2006: I was sick (!) and yet looking forward to the Mason wedding anyway. It turned out very nicely, for the record. I still like them both quite a bit. Also, there was some sort of haiku contest. My memory is very hazy on this.

March 16, 2006: Some of my students' parents don't like me.

November 11, 2005: Apparently some kids rammed a car into my house.

May 5, 2005: Star Wars Episode III did not live up to its soundtrack. (By the way, yes I DID watch the "Family Guy" spoof. There were some very funny bits but for the most part, it just reminded me of why I do not watch "Family Guy." To quote my blog from this day, "Oog.")

April 5, 2005: Yeah, that's only one month between "stay tuned's." I wasn't as "tuned in" back then. Get it? "Tuned" in? This blog post included preaching, John Williams, Angels baseball, and Dr. Seuss. Good stuff. Oh, and it seems that I was sick.

February 8, 2005: My, but I've been blogging for a while! In this post, I was very excited for the upcoming baseball season, just as I am excited now for the upcoming postseason.

It's fascinating to look back and see how many things change...and how many things remain the same. I hope the Angels fare better this year than they did in 2005. I hope that Indy IV is better than Star Wars III. I hope my head stays clear of the gunk. I hope my love for preaching and blogging and all the other things that fill my blogbrain continues.

And I hope that I can cure these verbal tics.

Will I?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Days 41 and Following

Words cannot express how much I appreciate all of you who were praying along with me during my 40 days. I know that some of you were especially in prayer on Sunday, which was the final day.

God spoke beautifully and clearly during that time. I will only able to share a little of what I learned here, and most of that will even have to wait. Much of what came of it can't be shared in such a public forum.

Above all, He spoke His love to me and gave me peace throughout. And I was reminded Sunday that He has a great deal more to say, if I am willing to continue listening.

Stay tuned.

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