Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Am A Rock...I Am An Island...

There are days when I want to be alone...not just in a room with nobody in it but me...just alone...I am not depressed...I'm not being particularly anti-social, though I am painfully shy at times (even though it goes against the grain of my vocation)...Today was one of those...actually the last several days have been like that and I don't want to talk on the phone or write e-mails or sit and visit. I heard a commercial today by McGruff the crime dog saying that in the past the police have told citizens to go inside and lock their doors to be safe...now they are realizing that a much better solution is to open your doors and get to know your neuighbors because then you create a community that watches each others back...or back doors and front doors, and windows...you get the idea. Community...it is not just the name of the finest coffee in the world...it is, as Bishop Tutu expresses in this interview with Brad Pitt, the "essence of humanity".

The interview starts with Tutu explaining the African concept of ubuntu...
Brad Pitt: What is this concept of ubuntu I keep reading about?
Tutu: "Ubuntu is the essence of being human [...] we say a person is a person through other persons. You can't be a human in isolation. You are human only in relationships. [...] So we say that 'I need you to be all of who you are in order for me to be all that I am.' Because no human being is totally self-sufficient. In fact, a self-sufficient human being is subhuman." [...] If you want to be human, we are not going to be able to be human in isolation. It will be that we are human together."

So I get it...I really do...I still tend to be fairly uncomfortable in large gatherings...and being in front of big groups, but you do what you gotta do, right...especially when your job is teaching and being in front of people...but it is bigger than that...and I know that community is more than just crowds, it is relationship and support and accountability...and really good coffee.

"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community."
- M. Scott Peck



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Close...But No Cigar! Cleveland Loses!

The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
Robert Ingersoll (1833 - 1899)

Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. William Faulkner (1897 - 1962) The Sound and the Fury

"If you ain't first, you're last." --Ricky Bobby, "Talledega Nights"

Congratulations are in order for the Boston Red Sox who won game seven tonight, defeating the Cleveland Indians and heading off to the World Series to face the upstart Colorado Rockies. After rattling off three consecutive wins, the Indians allowed the Sox to do the same and take their place in the Fall Classic beginning next Wednesday. The Red Sox are a wonderful organization with great athletes and great fans, and while the young Indians acquited themselves well, the Sox did what good ball clubs do...they take advantage of breaks and skill and impeccable timing and get the job done. Still, losing in this competitive culture, one that worships winners, gives them product endorsements, puts their pictures on Wheaties boxes, and sends them to Disneyland and the White House (those are two different trips, by the way) is so disdained that while we cry out publicly against steriod use, we privately wrestle with whether we would succumb to the temptation to juice if it meant the difference between winning and losing. Not coincidentally, Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd...one of the few veterans on this baby-faced team...a smallish 35 year old with a Kelsey Grammer face, an old school two-armed pump wind-up and a fastball that wouldn't break a window at point blank range will be investigated for using Human Growth Harmones. Byrd, who originally signed with the Indians after a solid college career with the LSU Tigers and then proceeded to bounce around for several years with the Reds, Braves, Phillies, Royals and Angels before resigning with the Indians last year, has been linked to shipments of needles and HGH shipped to the stadium and to his home using his credit card (so if he's trying to hide something he needs to take some cheating tips from Barry). He had a doctor's prescription for it all with a validation that these drugs were used to bring abnormally low levels up to normal and not to give him an unfair advantage. In an interview last night before the game he said..."I wouldn't cheat. I speak to kids and groups all over the country about my faith in Christ and I don't want folks questioning my message because I was doing something illegal. ESPN The Magazine interviewed him recently about a manuscript for a book he's written on his faith and his career in baseball called "The Free Byrd Project". When asked about how honest he was about his past and how his faith impacted that he responded, "Religion can go over into every area, like whether I should cheat out on the field. I write about the desire to just make money at any cost. I share about my temptation to spit on the ball, put KY jelly on it or scuff it, to win more games and make more money. That's a big temptation for me, being a guy who throws 82, who relies on movement. You have a pull, because you have a certain window up here that stares you in the face. Are you willing to take steroids? Because that's available. People viewed that as me being weak. Like, "This guy doesn't want to win."

"This guy/gal doesn't want to win"...to an athlete, to a salesman, to a rock and roll band, to a politician, to a CEO... to most of our culture, those are major throw-down words. They question our toughness, they question our character, they question our courage, and they question our understanding of what is important in the world. It is one of the reason some friends of mine don't climb on the Jesus wagon. Their words..."Sorry, anybody who says that you gotta lose your life to save it, that you have to put yourself last to win and that the one who serves is the greatest of all is completely out of touch with the way the world works." Perhaps...for those who can't distinguish between playing a game and the way you order your life...hmmmmmmmm, that might have been a little harsh...or not...at any rate, I'll keep loving the game of baseball, pulling for the Cleveland Indians, and doing my best to live out the words of that loser Jesus...



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jonatha - "Because I Told You So"

UN-Conditional Love...

Nothing clever or profound to set this up...I was just listening to my old Jonatha Brooke, "Ten Cent Wings" CD and was transported back to a place of deep sadness and joy when the downbeat of the first note of Jonatha's Because I Told You So was played.

If I gave you the sky
If I laid down my life
would you believe me then?

If I promised to change
If I carried the blame
Would you believe me then?

Could you see it like me
And believe what I see
Could you listen, and remember that I love you
Because I told you, because I told you so

If you told me you lied
But I stayed true and tried
Would you believe me then?

And if your beauty was gone
But my love lingered on
Would you believe me then?

Could you see it like me
And believe what I see
Could you listen and remember that I love you
Because I Told You So
Because I told you, because I told you so.

You take the wheel for now
I’m too tired to drive this one home anyhow,
For now

And when you mention my name
Let this one thing remain,
My love,
Believe me now

The reality is that most of us have few, if any, people in our lives who love us, or that we love, unconditionally...oh we have a handful who come close...probably my daughters come the closest to that for me. I can't imagine any circumstance that would deter or destroy my love for them...but then I am a fallible broken, often really stupid, human being and I am probably capable of anything. I really believe that God, as best as I understand him, loves me that way, but again, I'm accepting that on the basis of a bunch of things...and a trust in some written words a long time ago saying "because I told you so" is one of those. All of us have had people tell us they loved us and then the next thing we know we look up and they have done something that indicated they really didn't. To be fair...we have done the very same to others as well. My dad listened to mostly country music when I was growing up, and I can still hear that twangy lyric played on our local AM station, WYNK, "The Country Giant in Baton Rouge", "You stomped on my heart...squashed that sucker flat...guess you just sorta...crushed my ole aorta!" We learn that all relationships are made up of betrayal and disappointment at times...and yet there is a principle of forgiveness and reconciliation that makes them not only worthwhile, but life-giving and exciting if we are willing to ride the roller coaster of human frailty and strength. But...knowing all of that...we still long to be loved unconditionally... to have someone say they love us, no matter what...then actually love us...no matter what. The brilliant Richard Swift in his song "Everywhere I Go", says "I cannot earn your love, I cannot earn your love...you love me just the same...Hallelu, I need to sing with all I have...Hallelu, I need to sing. If I falter, if I fade, you will hold me still so close, and I need you like a Father to be with me as I go...As I go."

I don't often manage to get outside of myself long enough to love like that, but I am absolutely sure that is the model of love we are called to strive for...and the leap of faith that I take believing that I am inexplicably the unconditionally beloved child of God. Because he told me so...



Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Time To Break Up The Rockies...

Has anybody got the guts to tell the Colorado Rockies that they are not the 1927 NY Yankees? Certainly not me...Sunday night they put the Arizona Diamondbacks in an 0 and 3 hole and are one game away from making their first ever trip to the World Series. They have won a mind-boggling 20 out of their last 21 games on an unprecedented, at least in my lifetime, run to barely squeak into the playoffs, and then proceed to mow down everything in their path on there way to a spot in the Fall Classic. Their fuzzy-chinned youth and complete lack of playoff experience aside, they seem to have no weaknesses...who would have ever thought you would have uttered that previous sentence when you were talking about the COLORADO ROCKIES! Next you are going to tell me that the Baylor Bears are the lock to win the college football national championship, that the St.Louis Rams are the class of the NFL, Jessica Simpson was cast on her last movie for her superb acting chops, and that professional wrestling is a steroid free, legitimate competitive sport. Except..in this case, the Rockies seem to be the real deal...and I for one am pulling for them, unless they end up facing my own unlikely underdog story, the Cleveland Indians, who danced away from disaster and heading back home in a 0 and 2 hole against the powerful Red Sox with a Houdini-like escape act hanging on for dear life until they could walk away with the second game of the series with an 11-inning win on Saturday to head back home tied. This is why baseball is so cool... I know that it does happen in other sports...last year's Boise State performance, as well as this years upstart South Florida Bulls in college football are doing the same thing...A group of young athletes figure out a way to defy the odds, not only compete with the big boys, but manage to hold their own, and in some very rare cases even prevail...it is fun to watch...unless you are Goliath taking a skipping rock between the eyes. The Rockies and the Indians...keep that slingshot swinging...and then we have to decide which underdog has become the next Philistine giant.



Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I Hate To Say I Told You So, But...

So... all three of the underdog teams I bragged about last week advanced leaving that trio of pups and the scary Boston Red Sox (who also, not coincidentally, have their share of young talent mixed in with grizzled veterans) as the combatants in Major League's version of The Final Four. Well, even though I am relatively intuitive, fairly knowledgeable in the mystery of baseball, and devastatingly handsome (hey, two out of three ain't bad...Thank You, Meatloaf!), what prognosticators out there picked a National League championship game between two teams that get longer pregame warmups because nobody on the team shaves yet, however, also have to quit earlier so that their mommies can read them a bedtime story and tuck them in at night before the evening news? I'm just saying...Colorado vs. Arizona playing for the NL pennant...boy if you had placed a bet in Vegas on that matchup back in March, you would be a bookie disaster right now. And my Cleveland Indians, the only one of the four remaining teams to lose a game in the division series, will face the powerful Boston Red Sox. I can only suspect that the Fox Network (along with my diehard BoSox friends Christy and Milton) is pulling for the Red Sox facing off up against anybody, because a Cleveland pairing against either of the other two is probably a ratings nightmare for all of those small-market reasons we talked about, as well as the absence of nationally recognized stars.

So my druthers after the infield dust clears on this next week's series is a Rockies/Indians World Series. I wouldn't place any bets on that happening, because the smart money would be on the Diamondbacks and Sox who both have World Series rings in the last six years, unlike the Indians who don't have one since 1948 and the Rockies who have never been to the World Series...ever. But then the smart money would be swirling around the bottom of the toilet and heading south right now if you had banked on traditional wisdom. Hang on underdog fans...get those rally caps ready...it's gonna be fun!