12.30.2009

New Website


I’ve done a pretty terrible job blogging lately, but part of the reason for that is because I’ve been pretty busy redesigning our church website.


There’s still some work to be done and some content to add, but for the most part it’s finished.

Hopefully this means more blogging in the near future.


12.16.2009

Tiger Lets Us Down


Few people have fallen as far as quickly as Tiger Woods has the last couple of weeks.

What started as a simple car accident has grown and morphed to the point that Tiger has lost endorsements and has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the sport which he has come to completely dominate over the last several years.

America is absolutely obsessed with the fall of major celebrities, and the press coverage centered on this issue since it happened has been overwhelming. Much of the coverage has focused on how surprising this whole turn of events has been—how we apparently didn’t know Woods like we thought we did.

And I admit that I was a little surprised myself, especially as the number of women who came forward claiming relationships with Woods continued to grow. After all, it’s one thing for a person to commit a one-time indiscretion (apparently, this is the new term for adultery—the basic problem with cheating on your spouse is that it’s not very discrete), and another thing for someone to carry on several extra-marital affairs at the same time.

So Tiger Woods let us down (and more importantly, let his family down) in a very public and painful way.

But I think the story of Woods serves to illustrate a very important point—people always let us down. If you know someone long enough, they’ll disappoint you in some way. Hopefully it won’t be in as painful of a way has Tiger has disappointed his family, but it always happens. Given time, people will always disappoint us, because people are imperfect, and they make mistakes.

Don’t put too much faith in other people. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t put any faith in people or that we should avoid relationships which require us to trust one another. Instead, realize that other people mess up just like you do, and be open to forgiveness when (not if) they disappoint you.

And put your true faith in the One who never lets us down, and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13.8).

12.08.2009

London


So there are several reasons why The Doc File has been pathetic lately, but one of the major ones was that for the week of Thanksgiving I traveled to London with my family (the week before London I was busy trying to get things done so I could be gone, and the week after London I was busy catching up with work that I missed).

It was an incredible trip. I had never been to London before, but it was quite a bit like I expected. One thing I expected but still couldn’t really get over was how much history there was all around you.

In the town where I live, buildings from 1900 are preserved for historical value and schoolchildren visit them on field trips. In London, we randomly stumbled upon a cathedral that none of us had ever heard of which dated back to the 12th century.

A non-exhaustive list of places we visited and things we did:
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and Mueseum (not the original, it’s been rebuilt)
  • Southwark Cathedral
  • National Library (Codex Sinaiticus and two 1215 copies of the Magna Carta)
  • Natural History Mueseum
  • Edinburgh Castle (we took a train to Scotland one day)
  • The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
  • Jack the Ripper walk (this was really cool; I’m kind of obsessed with Jack the Ripper)
  • City of London walk (Big Ben, House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace)
  • Trafalgar Square
  • National Gallery (Rembrandts and Van Goghs)
  • Evensong in Westminster Abbey
  • Tower of London and Tower Bridge
  • Harrod’s
  • Stonehenge
  • HMS Victory in Portsmouth (Admiral Nelson’s flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar where Napoleon was defeated)
It was kind of an exhausting trip with all the stuff we squeezed in, but you don’t get to go to London whenever you want to. I hope to upload some pictures to Flickr later this week.

11.10.2009

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


I took this picture at the gas station down the street from my house.

I think it does a better job of summing up why I hate the lottery than any essay could.

10.28.2009

Facebook Theology

First person’s status:
“Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life.”
Second person’s comment:
“Jesus doesn’t kick field goals bro. He goes for the touchdown on 4th down, he makes it, and then he goes for the freakin’ sweet 2 points afterwards.”
There’s actually something significant there, I think.

10.08.2009

Be More Like Thomas

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Caravaggio

Doubting Thomas.

That’s what we call him. That’s what he’s remembered for. When the rest of the apostles told Thomas that they had seen the resurrected Christ, he didn’t believe them. He said that he wouldn’t believe until he had some tangible proof, until he had placed his hands in the wounds of Jesus.

Then he does get to see Jesus, and he immediately believes. And Jesus rebukes him mildly, saying that those who believe without having to see first are blessed.

And for this exchange, Thomas goes down forever as Doubting Thomas, as if that were the defining, overarching characteristic of his life.

But that doesn’t quite seem fair to me.

First of all, I think you could argue that Thomas didn’t show any less faith than the other apostles.

John 20 records that Peter and John believed after entering the empty tomb and seeing Jesus’ burial linens piled on the ground. Later, in John 20.19-24, Jesus appeared to Peter, John, and the rest of the apostles except Thomas. The rest of the apostles had the benefit of seeing first hand the type of tangible proof that Thomas was seeking, while Thomas just had to rely on the testimony of others.

Should Thomas have believed the other apostles? Sure, but the fact that he didn’t doesn’t automatically make doubt the primary characteristic of his life. Like the rest of the apostles, as soon as Thomas saw the evidence for himself, he immediately believed in the resurrected Lord.

Another, more admirable picture of Thomas that is often forgotten is found earlier in the Gospel of John, in chapter 11. Here, Jesus receives word that Lazarus is gravely ill, so He decides to return to Judea to see him (and ultimately raise him from the dead).

The problem is that Jesus has just come from Judea, where the Jews had previously tried to stone Him. The disciples try to talk Him out of His plan, but Jesus is determined, and Thomas bravely speaks up to the other apostles, saying, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

I would argue that this picture of Thomas—a man of courage and determination—is the defining characteristic of his life, and it is also supported by extra-Biblical historical accounts. Following the Great Commission of Jesus to make disciples of all the nations, Thomas is believed to have evangelized in the Malabar coast of India. Strong early tradition holds that he was martyred by spearing in Madras in 72 AD—he died for Christ, just as he was willing to do so many years before.

It’s not hard to find Christians who, like Thomas, experience moments of doubt. After all, until the hope that we have in Christ becomes reality, I think some degree of doubt is an inherent part of faith. And while Jesus did take a hard stance against the willful unbelief of the Pharisees, He seemed understanding of genuine doubt (see His reaction to John the Baptist in Matthew 11).

But Thomas overcame his moment of doubt, and once he made up his mind on what he believed, it seems clear that he stood by his convictions and devoted his life to following Christ.

Unfortunately, I think it’s much harder to find Christians who also possess that characteristic of Thomas—the courage to follow through with our convictions, and the willingness to live our lives for Christ and, if necessary, to die for Him.

I think it’s safe to say that the Church, and the world, could do a whole lot worse than to have a few more Thomases running around.

10.02.2009

Gus Malzahn Is A Genius


Here’s a good article from Sports Illustrated which basically describes how Gus Malzahn, the current Offensive Coordinator at Auburn and formerly a high school coach in Northwest Arkansas, is a genius when it comes to running an offense.

This comes as no surprise to me; I’ve been saying it for a long time.

Thanks to Jared for the article link.

9.30.2009

“Cancer In The Clubhouse”

For those of my readership who are ultimate frisbee players, this is a really good article about Kurt Gibson, a key factor in the dominance of Florida ultimate over the last few years and one of the elite ultimate players of today.

9.29.2009

Darwin And Irreducible Complexity


In On The Origin Of Species, the work in which Charles Darwin first put forth the theory of evolution, he wrote:
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
Had Darwin lived an additional 120 years or so, he would’ve become familiar with the compelling argument of irreducible complexity, which basically demonstrates that, indeed, there are many complex biological systems that “could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications.”

And I’d like to think that Darwin (unlike many of his scientific successors) would be intellectually honest enough to not just ignore the implications of such an argument.

9.28.2009

Observation #6

In a pennant race, there’s a fine line between reeling someone in and just reeling.

9.16.2009

Junk Mail

Of all the different forms of “junk” correspondence that I encounter, I would submit that junk faxes are the most annoying.

The somewhat ironically-named “courtesy call” on the phone is annoying, but you can always just hang up when you realize that’s what it is. It’s pretty easy to sort junk mail from the other legitimate stuff that comes to your mailbox, and it’s easily thrown away as well. Junk e-mail really isn’t a problem as long as you have a decent filter in your email system.

Junk faxes are the most annoying though, because in addition to wasting your time (which all the above examples do as well), they also waste your resources. Every time we get a junk fax at the church office, a sheet of our pristine 8 1/2 x 11 Office Depot copy paper is wasted. That might not seem like a big deal, but since we seem to get a couple of junk faxes per week, when you multiply it out over the course of a year, that’s 100 or so sheets of paper. Which still isn’t a major expense, but it is certainly annoying.

Most of these junk faxes offer cheap insurance rates, or inform me that I’ve won free vacations, or tell me that I’ve been selected for some version of “Who’s Who.” But one time a while back, I got one that was a little more interesting:
Dear Personnel Manager,

If there is a piece missing from your organizational puzzle, I believe my background and qualifications will fit perfectly with your company’s needs.

I am a results-oriented, seasoned professional who regards principle, balance, and professionalism as strategic components of my business philosophy. I have a proven ability to reach targeted goals and have gained diverse experience in sales, management, and marketing. I believe I can be an asset to your firm.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to explore how my experience could best meet your needs. Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Some Random Guy Who Apparently Didn’t Realize That The Service He Subscribed To Would Also Send His Resume To Random Churches
Attached to this cover letter was a resume that contained the following highlights:
  • Over 10 years experience specializing in Sales, Account Management and Business Development.
  • While working at a parts store, was instrumental in the successful acquisition and assimilation of two competitors.
  • Also while at the parts store, developed a culturally diverse marketing strategy for the location capturing 75% of the established Hispanic market and 95% of the established Asian market.
So after originally lampooning the idea of us receiving this guy’s resume, maybe I need to give him a call.

If hiring him would help us with the successful acquisition and assimilation of our “competitors” and also help us to capture the local established Hispanic and Asian markets, he’d be worth anything we could pay him!

8.21.2009

A Prodigy


prod·i·gy (noun). 1. A person with exceptional talents or powers. 2. An act or event so extraordinary or rare as to inspire wonder.

Usain Bolt is a sprinting prodigy. I had never really heard of him before the 2008 Olympics, but then I sat back in amazement with everyone else as he blew away the field in the 100m and broke what was thought to be an unbreakable record in the 200m as well.

This week at the World Championships in Berlin, Bolt once again won the 100m and 200m, and shattered his own world records in the process: a 9.58 in the 100m, and a 19.19 in the 200m. These times are so extraordinary that they absolutely inspire wonder.

To me, what’s even more impressive than the numbers Bolt is putting up is the distance between himself and his competitors. He’s not racing against a local high school track team or a bunch of fairly-athletic guys. He’s competing against the very fastest men in the world—athletes who spend all of their time honing their craft and trying to shave hundredths of seconds off their times.

And it’s these men that he’s blowing away in competition, in the case of the 200m, by more than half a second.

That’s a prodigy.

8.19.2009

Church Signs


Of my many work-related responsibilities, one of my least favorite ones is being in charge of changing the message on the church sign we have out front. People who go to church where I do could probably guess that this is something I don’t like doing much, because it gets changed very irregularly.

It’s somewhat of a pain to drag the ladder outside, pull down the old letters, come up with something new to put up, make sure we have enough letters for the new message, pick out and arrange the new letters and put them back up on the sign (which is partially broken and therefore makes the process somewhat more difficult).

Really, though, it’s not that hard to do, and I would probably change it on a (more) regular basis if I was convicted at all that it was important—if changing the sign out front actually did any good or was worthwhile.

Instead, I tend to think that church signs do more harm than good—someone driving by is more likely to be turned off by a hokey saying than they are encouraged by a thoughtful one.

For example, one local church that I drive by regularly recently proclaimed the following message on their marquee:
PRAYING IS BETTER THAN TEXTING
While I agree with this message, I’m not really sure that I would include it in the thoughtful category.

On the other hand, maybe the person who put it up was having trouble coming up with new ideas and decided to embark on an ongoing series. If that’s the case, they may have discovered a gold mine. Just consider the possibilities:
PRAYING IS BETTER THAN FACEBOOK

PRAYING IS BETTER THAN BLOGGING

PRAYING IS BETTER THAN MYSPACE


PRAYING IS BETTER THAN TWEETING
You don’t even have to stay mired in the world of technology, because this is a very versatile theme:
PRAYING IS BETTER THAN VEGETABLES

PRAYING IS BETTER THAN TELEVISION


PRAYING IS BETTER THAN MCDONALD’S


PRAYING IS BETTER THAN READING CHURCH SIGNS
Well, you probably get the idea, and I’ve spent too much time on this anyway. There’s other stuff I need to be doing—like changing our church sign.

8.14.2009

The Return Of Michael Vick


The news came out Thursday that the Philadelphia Eagles had signed Michael Vick to a 2-year contract, and little else has been talked about on ESPN since.

Vick became the ultimate athletic taboo when he got in trouble in the summer of 2007 for his involvement in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring. Since that time, Vick has served 23 months in prison, declared bankruptcy, and is now on the verge of re-entering the NFL.

I was never a huge Michael Vick fan in the first place—I thought he was overrated on the field and had somewhat of a “character problem” off it—and like everyone else, I was disgusted by his treatment of the dogs that he fought.

That being said, I really thought the public outcry against Vick was (and, judging by the reaction of many to his signing with the Eagles, still is) excessive. What Vick did was wrong and abhorrent, but at the end of the day, he killed dogs, not people. Meanwhile, Donte Stallworth kills someone while under the influence, and the response of the media and the public is nowhere near as hostile as it was for Vick.

Vick showed a lack of humanity in his treatment of his dogs, and he paid for those actions by serving two years in prison, having to declare bankruptcy, losing two seasons in the prime of his career, and falling far from the summit of the athletic world where he had been.

Now having paid for his crime, he’s been given a second chance, and I wish him nothing but success as he tries to make the most of it.

8.05.2009

A Most Unpleasant Way To Start The Day

I am a morning showerer. I have to start off each morning with a shower, or I just don’t feel like I’ve really woken up.


But on rare occasions, I shower at night, and when that happens, I’ll sometimes skip my morning shower so I can sleep in a little bit longer. However, if I don’t shower in the morning, my hair is out of control, so I’ll still go wash my hair in the bathtub (which takes much less time than a shower) to make it more manageable.

Last night, I showered after playing ultimate, which means that this morning, I slept in a little bit and then went to the guest bathroom to wash my hair. I was bending over the bathtub, with my head under the faucet and the water running,when it happened.

A snake came out of the drain, about six inches from my face.

After realizing that I wasn’t hallucinating (I had just woken up after all), I jumped up, shocked and speechless. Unfortunately, I had no snake-killing device in hand, and since I’m not Bear Grylls, I wasn’t about to grab it with my bare hands.

After a few seconds, the snake went back down the drain, and I haven’t seen him since.

We called a plumber, who basically said that it wasn’t all that uncommon, that there was nothing they could do, and that we should keep the drains closed and toilet lids down and eventually the snake would leave.

This seems like a less than ideal solution to the problem—anyone have any better ideas?

I guess the good thing is that I discovered the snake rather than Caroline—if that had happened, I’m pretty sure that we’d be moving.


8.04.2009

New Pictures

I’ve been gone a lot this summer, and I finally got some pictures up from some of my travels.


I am cautiously optimistic that my hectic summer will now begin to slow down, and that this post will signal an end to what has truly been a pathetic few months of blogging.



7.22.2009

Cry, The Beloved Country

I read Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country at the beginning of the summer and meant to write about it long before now, but then the summer busyness that comes with youth ministry set in and I’m just now getting around to it.

Simply put, this is one of my all-time favorite books. I love Paton’s poetic style of writing, and I thought the story was incredibly moving and powerful.

Cry, The Beloved Country is set in South Africa in the late 1940s, before apartheid, but certainly in a time of profound racial strife.

The main character in the book is Umfundisi Kumalo, an elderly Anglican priest (“umfundisi” is Afrikaans for “parson”) who leaves his native village to go to the great city of Johannesburg in search of his son Absalom, who he hasn’t seen or heard from in a long time.

Kumalo has never really been away from his village before, and the old priest is completely overwhelmed by the size of the city, and the different customs and behaviors he sees there.

The book touches on several heavy themes—racism, theology, politics, the breakdown of the native village, crime, environmental concerns, and others—but I just want to focus on one quote that I really liked.

While in Johannesburg, Kumalo becomes close friends with Umfundisi Msimangu, a younger priest who helps him in his search and comforts him as he endures one heartbreaking discovery after another. Time and time again, Msimangu goes out of his way to help Kumalo in any way that he can.

At one particular moment in the book, the old priest is so moved by the overwhelming love and kindness that the younger priest shows him that he begins to pay him a compliment. Kumalo tells Msimangu that he has never known anyone like him, but before he can go on, the young priest interrupts his compliment and rebukes him, saying, “I am a weak and sinful man, but God put His hands on me, that is all.”

I think there’s profound meaning there. Often, I think the world can be put off by Christianity because people assume that Christians consider themselves to be better than everyone else (and certainly some do).

Instead, we should have the attitude of Msimangu. He wasn’t willing to take credit for his good deeds, but instead said that it was God’s influence in his life that made those deeds possible. That’s how we should be. We should strive to show the world that any difference or “betterness” on our part isn’t because of us—it’s because Jesus changes our hearts and allows us to be different.

“I am a weak and sinful man, but God put His hands on me, that is all.”

7.14.2009

Francoeur Sent To The Mets


So I’m a little late in commenting on Jeff Francoeur being traded to the Mets, but better late than never, right?

I, like virtually every other Braves fan, became a big fan of Francoeur during his rookie season in 2005. Francoeur started off on a tear, hitting over .400 for his first month with prodigious power and he also threw people out all over the basepaths. He seemed too good to be true.

And, well, he was.

Opposing pitchers began to figure out that Francoeur would swing at anything, and that if they didn’t throw him fastballs down the middle of the plate, he was a pretty easy out. And since then, to put it mildly, he’s struggled. Without going into the all-too-brutal statistics, over the last two seasons, Francoeur had devolved into one of the worst everyday players in baseball, and was showing no sign of turning things around this year.

Overall, I guess I’m not sad that the Braves traded Francoeur, but I am sad that he never turned out to be the player that we hoped he would be.

I hope he beats the odds in New York and reclaims some of the considerable potential that he seemed to have back in 2005.

7.06.2009

Flea Market Find

I spent most of last week in (or en route to and from) Denver, Colorado for a wedding.

One of the undoubted highlights of the trip was visiting a flea market and finding an affordable ($12) 1950 Bowman baseball card of Preacher Roe, the only Harding University alum to play in the Major Leagues.

I’ll be in town for the next several days, so hopefully that will result in a little more activity on the blogging front.

6.30.2009

Little Things


I’ve always taken great joy from the “little things” in life and also from watching other people.

These two elements combined the other day while Caroline and I were eating at a Mexican restaurant.

Two young men, probably in their early 20s, were eating in a booth adjacent to ours, and when one got up to use the restroom, I noticed a mischievous grin appear on the face of the other. Once his friend was out of sight, he reached for the salt shaker, started cracking up, and poured a generous amount of salt into his companion’s drink.

After stirring it in, he apparently decided he hadn’t added enough, and then added a second helping. He then sat there, eagerly watching the restroom for his friend to return.

When he finally did return, the look on his face after drinking his salty beverage and his friend’s reaction to that look were absolutely priceless.

The whole episode made my day.

6.15.2009

1984

After planning to do so for a long time, I finally got around to reading George Orwell’s 1984. I must say, I was disappointed.

I realize it was written in the late 1940s and that this was a scary time, but Orwell seems more than a little bit pessimistic.

On second thought, considering the clothing trends, popular music and hairstyles of choice of the 1980s, maybe Orwell’s prediction was somewhat rosy by comparison.

6.09.2009

I Have A New Dog


Technically, it’s Caroline’s dog. She had been wanting a puppy for quite a while, and I told her that once she was out of school for the summer we could get one. So yesterday, we drove to Harrison, Arkansas and adopted one from the animal shelter there.

This is Jasper. He is a border collie/lab mix, and although he was very shy at first, he has warmed up to us pretty quickly.

So far, he seems to be pretty smart. Not only has he already taken interest in playing frisbee, but last night he somehow figured out which room was ours and whined and yelped outside our window all night. Good times.

6.04.2009

Glavine Gets The Axe


So the Braves have now parted ways with Tom Glavine as well, deciding to release him yesterday.

I’ve been a Braves fan for as long as I can remember, so I hate to say this, but after his dealings with Andruw Jones, John Smoltz and now Glavine, it’s really starting to look like Braves GM Frank Wren is a heartless jerk who has no sense of history or loyalty.

Of course, he is trying to paint a different picture:
“It’s not a business decision from our perspective,” said Wren, who watched Glavine in Class AAA Gwinnett last Thursday. “It’s a performance decision.”

Glavine, who had season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder last August, has acknowledged that he has pitched with shoulder pain since spring training, when the velocity on his fastball was only in the upper 70s. He had been reaching the mid-80s in his recent outings, according to scoreboard readings.

But Wren said those scoreboard readings were inaccurate.
While the result of Glavine’s six scoreless innings Tuesday night were good, Wren said what Braves scouts have seen was not.

“In low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out,” Wren said.


When asked why the Braves just didn’t break ties in spring training, Wren said, “We were very hopeful there would be a different outcome. We were hoping Tom Glavine would pitch for us.”
It’s hard to take Wren’s statements at face value.

First off, there’s the issue of Glavine’s velocity. Scoreboard readings indicated that it had improved from its low point in spring training, but Wren dismissed those readings as being inaccurate. How convenient. It’s also worth pointing out that Glavine’s fastball was always laughable and was never what made him a good pitcher. It seems a little disingenious for that to be such an issue here.

Also, Wren said that the fact that Glavine pitched well in his rehab starts (throwing scoreless innings, retiring 12 consecutive batters, etc.) didn’t matter because “…in low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out.” That does make some sense. After all, Tom Glavine will probably be able to strike me out with regularity when he’s 65, but that doesn’t mean he’s big league material. Of course, that doesn’t address the fact that in his previous rehab start, Glavine threw five scoreless innings at Class AAA Gwinnett, which isn’t low-A ball.

Maybe the worst thing that Wren said was that bit about how the Braves were hopeful that Glavine would pitch for them. Really? A guy who has won 300+ career games on guile and a mediocre fastball did the same thing in his rehab starts, but that wasn’t good enough. Seriously, what were you “hoping” for? That Glavine would start hanging out with Roger Clemens and suddenly develop an upper 90s fastball? That he would discover that he could throw a devastating screwball with his right arm?

Look, I don’t know whether or not Glavine belongs in the major leagues anymore. I honestly thought he should’ve retired last season after his injury. Maybe the Braves shouldn’t have even signed him this year.

But they did. They signed him to an incentive-laden contract, which didn’t guarantee much, but indicated he’d be given a chance if he performed well. Fastball velocity aside, I think Glavine earned that chance, pitching well in the rehab opportunities that he had been given.

Frank Wren disagrees, but his treatment of the whole issue seems more than a little shady.

Further reading: Buster Olney echoes many of my own sentiments.

6.02.2009

I Used To Like Summer…

So The Doc File has taken a backseat the last few weeks as I have been swamped with other things including work, travel, and a few computer projects that have eaten up much of the free time that I usually use to blog.

As a youth minister, summer is always a busy time for me, and the “summer grind” seems to start earlier every year. That being said, I am hopeful, maybe unrealistically so, that things will improve in a few days, and then I’ll have a chance to write about some of the things that have been floating around in my head.

5.22.2009

The Summer Of Weddings

One of my good friends is getting married on Memorial Day, so tomorrow Caroline and I will pack up the car and head to Nashville, Tennessee, and The Summer Of Weddings will begin.

I call it that because, by my count, there are at least five weddings between now and the end of July that I am expected to be at. Three of these weddings are out of state, and combined, will represent almost 4,000 miles of car travel. I’m not a big fan of car travel.

Oh, and while I’m complaining, I forgot to mention that weddings are undoubtedly one of my least favorite things in the entire world.

Oh well, at least this wedding should involve seeing a bunch of friends and playing a lot of ultimate.

Happy Memorial Day.

5.20.2009

Waterboarding And Abortion

Ken Blackwell has written an interesting article pointing out the irony that the same Obama administration that claims to be morally horrified at the idea of waterboarding mass murderers also approves of Partial Birth Abortion.

A couple of interesting tidbits:
“The purpose of the Geneva Convention was to give warring nations a strong, positive incentive to behave according to international norms and not to engage in conduct that “shocks the conscience.” When we give Al Qaeda or Taliban terrorists prisoner of war status and Geneva Convention coverage—without demanding anything of them in return—we abandon one of the great achievements of the Geneva Convention.”

“Our new president abhors torture, unless it is the torture of the unborn. In that case, it is not torture at all, but simply inducing fetal demise. This great international uproar over what is and is not torture has been generated because of the treatment of three known mass murderers. The slaughter of innocents in their thousands elicits no international outrage. This is part of what Justice Breyer sees as evolving international standards of decency.”
I’m not dismissing the torture of captured terrorists as a non-issue (although I think the discussion of whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture is a valid one).

I’m just saying that the torture issue, in scale and severity, doesn’t compare to abortion.

5.19.2009

An Open Letter To Brett Favre

Hey Brett,

So the news outlets continue to report on the possibility of you coming back, again, to play in the NFL after “retiring.” I just wanted to write you to say—please don’t.

As you may or may not know, I vigorously defended your decision to come back last year. While you took a lot of flak in the press about how you had turned your back on Green Bay and sold out your fans, I took your side.

I pointed out that in an NFL where criminals like Pacman Jones and Ray Lewis can get repeated chances to play, and where screwups like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco continue to have the opportunity to screw up, it seemed unfair for a Hall of Fame quarterback who has always served as a good role model to take so much heat for making the mistake of simply changing his mind about retiring.

I still believe that, but c’mon Brett, enough is enough.

After spending all those years with the Packers, are you really going to play for your third team in three years? Did moving to a new team last year really work out so well that you want to do it again? Is it just that you want to go out on top? Do you really think that playing for the Vikings is going to give you that chance?

You’ve had a great career—one of the best ever. Isn’t that enough? Realistically, what can you do at this point except tarnish your legacy?

If you come back, again, I won’t root against you, or hope that you get injured while playing. I might even be happy if you play well.

Just don’t expect me to take your side anymore when everyone calls you a dork for not knowing when to call it quits.

5.08.2009

In The Midst Of A Busy Week…

The following words seemed appropriate:

“The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

—T.S. Eliot

5.05.2009

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

A while back I read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I had heard of before, but knew absolutely nothing about.


The book is told through the eyes of a 15 year-old English boy named Christopher who falls somewhere along the spectrum of autism (his exact condition is never specified). The title of the book comes from a Sherlock Holmes story, and Christopher attempts to use Holmes’ methods to solve the murder of his neighbor’s pet poodle.

For the most part, the book has received very positive reviews, though if you go to Amazon you’ll find some reviewers who are completely opposed to it on the grounds that Haddon’s portrayal of autism is grossly inaccurate and that he just adds to the unfortunate stereotypes about autistic individuals that already exist.

I think that’s a largely baseless criticism—the word autism is broad enough and spans enough conditions that an autistic character like Christopher could certainly exist, and besides, what would these critics have Haddon do instead? Even if his protagonist were based on a specific real life individual, critics could still accuse him of stereotyping since no specific case of autism will ever be representative of all others.

The real problem with the book is the fact that the plot is somewhat lacking. Christopher actually solves the murder of the dog relatively early in the book, and the rest is spent sorting through his difficult family problems. It’s not poorly written and the unfolding drama is interesting enough, but I kept waiting for an exciting twist that never came.

Instead of the great downfall of the book as these reviewers make it out to be, the character of Christopher is absolutely what makes The Curious Incident worth reading. Haddon lets the reader get into his main character’s head in a way that is both fascinating and endearing.

If you’re looking for a page-turning mystery thriller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time isn’t it. On the other hand, if you’d be interested in a pretty neat book about a really neat kid, I’d recommend it.

5.01.2009

Brief Thoughts On Swine Flu


You have to be pretty well insulated from the rest of the world to have not heard about Swine Flu…over and over and over again.

The word “pandemic” has been bandied about, schools have been shut down, some states have canceled all high school sporting events, Joe Biden is telling people not to get on airplanes—is it possible we’re overreacting a little bit?

For all of the talk and panic, do you realize that, worldwide, only 13 people have died? Now don’t get me wrong, every is valuable, and the deaths of those 13 people are a tragedy, but should we all be freaking out about this considering that the regular version flu (the one that we’re not worried about) kills 20,000 people a year in the United States alone?

It seems to me that, theoretically, this could turn out to be a huge deal, but it will have to get exponentially worse before it is.

Surely that realization will prevent the panic-mongering of the media (and even our VP), right?

When pigs fly.

4.28.2009

I Wanted The Braves To Sign Andruw Jones…


…Because he would’ve been really cheap, and I thought he might really turn it around this season.

It’s still really early in the season, and with Jones not playing every day he’s only had 27 at bats, but the numbers so far are impressive: a .370 BA, .778 SLG., and 1.292 OPS.

After his hot start, he may end up having a terrible season (and in fact, his average fell from .435 to .370 after an 0-4 performance last night), but his first 2-3 weeks sure would’ve helped a predictably anemic Atlanta offensive lineup.

4.23.2009

The Post I Almost Wrote

I almost, almost wrote a whiny post about how I’ve been super busy lately which has prevented me from blogging as often as I’d like or enjoying life as much as I’d like.

The post likely would have included some complaining about how my laptop broke recently, how I’ve had too many youth group activities scheduled lately and how my teens are getting on my nerves, and how my left eye has been twitching continuously for the last several days and driving me crazy.

It wouldn’t have been a fun post to read, because it would’ve been filled with griping and complaining.

But hopefully, if I wrote such a post, at the end, I would have looked at things from the proper perspective. I would have mentioned something about how fortunate I am to be busy with my job in the current economic climate while a lot of people find themselves without a job at all. I would have talked about how incredibly blessed I am in virtually every way imaginable, and how most of the people in the world would love to have to deal with the things I call “problems.”

Instead, I decided not to write such a post and to get back on track next week. See you then.

4.21.2009

The Shack

If you haven’t read The Shack, the wildly popular Christian fiction book by William P. Young, you’ve probably heard about it. I had certainly heard about it quite a bit, from several different sources, and finally decided to read it.


Put very basically, the story is about a father who experiences a horrific family tragedy, and whose faith in God is shaken as a result. He is invited to spend a weekend with God at a remote shack where God (personified in various forms) works on healing his wounds and his relationship with the Creator.

My reaction to the book was pretty much what I expected: The Shack is written by a well-meaning author who is attempting to help people through difficult times, but it is a book which, upon close examination, has some serious theological problems. Young seems to espouse an unorthodox view of the Trinity (the kind that makes Muslims think that Christians are polytheistic), the Incarnation (he implies that God the Father became human as well as Christ), and he downplays the holiness of God, at one point having God claim that He doesn’t need to punish sin. And perhaps my biggest problem with The Shack, at least from a practical standpoint, is that it seems to suggest that it’s necessary to have some sort of miraculous, face-to-face interaction with God to get through rough times. For people reading the book looking for comfort, I would think that suggestion would be less than helpful.

As I said before, I think Young is well-meaning, and I tend to think that by trying to simplify the nature of God into understandable human characters, he ends up making implications that he himself doesn’t actually believe. Simply put, it’s hard to simplify the concept of God without distorting who He is in some way.

For all the negatives though, there were a few times when I thought The Shack hit the nail on the head.

On the death of Jesus on the cross (this makes more sense if you know that Young is portraying God as a motherly-type woman in this scene):
“Mack struggled for the words to tell her what was in his heart. ‘I’m so sorry that you, that Jesus, had to die.’
She walked around the table and gave Mack another big hug. ‘I know you are, and thank you. But you need to know that we aren’t sorry at all. It was worth it.’”
On how we change into being who God wants us to be:
“This whole thing is a process, not an event. All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.”
And on God causing (or not) bad things to happen:
“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.”
I probably won’t be recommending The Shack to many people, and I certainly won’t hold my breath waiting for Young to come out with a new book, but I was glad to find some good points in a book that wasn’t one of my favorites.

4.15.2009

Happy Jackie Robinson Day!


Sixty-two years ago today, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball.

Robinson’s 10-year career had an unquestioned and inestimable impact on the Civil Rights movement in the United States. The skill and grace with which he played and the way he handled himself on and off the field forced many Americans to face difficult questions about race for the first time, and ultimately resulted in the changing of the hearts and minds of millions.

I’ve written more on Jackie Robinson here, but I just wanted to take note of today’s significance.

4.08.2009

Gideon’s 300


The Battle of Thermopylae is one of the most famous military engagements in history.

In 480 BC, desperate to halt the advance of the Persian empire into Greece, 300 Spartans (along with another couple thousand Greeks who are generally forgotten about) rushed to the mountain pass of Thermopylae.

There they met the immense Persian army head on—no one knows for sure how big of an army it was, but even modern, conservative estimates suggest that it was at least 200,000 men, or a ratio of 100 Persians to every Greek.

This was possible because the Spartans were amazing warriors. From childhood, Spartan males were trained and hardened, and by adulthood, they were the world’s best fighting machines. The Spartans also employed good strategy in the battle, occupying the narrow pass of Thermopylae where the massive Persian army couldn’t overwhelm them all at once.

King Leonidas of Sparta and his men held the pass for three days against overwhelming numerical odds, but were eventually defeated when the Persians discovered a mountain path that led behind Greek lines.

Ultimately, the battle was a success—the Spartans’ three-day stand delayed the advance of the Persian army and afforded Athens the time it needed to prepare for the decisive naval battle which would end up determining the outcome of the war—but every Spartan was killed.

• • •

Some 700 years prior to the Battle of Thermopylae, during the Old Testament period of the Judges, God appeared to a man named Gideon and told him to defeat the Midianites who had been oppressing Israel for seven years.

There would be some similarities between this battle and the Battle of Thermopylae. Like the Persians, the Midianites had a vast army—as numerous as the sand on the seashore (Judges 7.12). On the other hand, the Israelite army was tiny, as God had Gideon trim it down from an original size of 32,000 to just 300.

Although the Israelite army was outnumbered like the Spartan army would be hundreds of years later, the similarities pretty much stopped there. The Israelites weren’t the world’s best soldiers—they were mainly farmers, and it seems possible that many of them had never fought before at all. Furthermore, their battle plan seemed to be lacking, as they entered into battle armed with only trumpets and torches.

But most different of all was the outcome of the battle. There was no way the Israelites should have won, but they did. The Bible says that when the Israelites blew their trumpets, God caused confusion in the Midianite camp, and they panicked and turned on each other. Israel left the battlefield victorious.

• • •

In the Battle of Thermopylae, Sparta, the world’s best warriors, against great odds managed an amazing accomplishment, but they ended up losing the battle and every man was killed in the process. Meanwhile Gideon and his ragtag army defeated the Midianites with ease. Why the different results?

I think the lesson to be learned by comparing these two stories is that human ability can lead to amazing achievement, but ultimately, it falls short.

Isaiah 40.28-31 is one of my favorite Old Testament passages:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”
When times get tough, where do you turn? Do you rely on your own strength and abilities? On other people? Sooner or later, all of those things will fail you. But if God is the source of your strength, you’ll never run out.

4.07.2009

Hansbrough Goes Out In Fitting Fashion


Last night’s NCAA National Championship game was somewhat of a disappointment, but in the end I was glad to see Tyler Hansbrough wrap up his college career with a national title.

Don’t get me wrong. With as much national media coverage as “Psycho T” has gotten over the last four years, it seems like he’s been at North Carolina since the late 90s, and I’m as ready for him to move on as everyone else.

However, it has lately become the trendy thing to do to talk about how overrated Hansbrough is as a player, and I think that’s largely unfair.

Certainly, he’s not the ideal NBA prospect. He’s not big enough to really play the 4 or 5 position in the NBA, and he doesn’t have the outside game or athleticism to play the 3. In fact, many NBA scouts have suggested that if it wasn’t for the fact that Hansbrough always plays harder than anyone else on the court, he wouldn’t really be an NBA prospect at all.

But none of that has anything to do with his abilities as a college player, and as a college player, he is absolutely in no way overrated. In fact, he’s probably one of the top 5-10 college players of all time, and belongs in the same category as guys like Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and Christian Laettner.

It was annoying to always see him on SportsCenter and to hear Dick Vitale talking about him all the time. It was annoying to see him try to take 12 charges every game, and to watch him shoot the most awkward shots imaginable and have them go in time and time again. But, as a 4-time All-American and the ACC’s all-time scoring leader, he deserved all the attention he got.

Hansbrough may never find success in the NBA, and he’ll almost certainly not find anywhere near the level of success he found in college, but when considering him as a North Carolina Tarheel, it really doesn’t matter.

He was one of the all-time college greats, and going out with a National Championship was the appropriate ending for him.

4.05.2009

Opening Day—“The Old Game”


“The old game waits under the white,
Deeper than frozen grass.
Down at the frost line it waits
To return when the birds return
.
It starts to wake in the South,
Where it’s never quite stopped.

Where winter is a doze of hibernation,

The game wakes gradually
,
Fathering vigor into itself.


As the days lengthen in late February
And grow warmer, old muscles grow limber.

Young arms grow strong and wild
,
Clogged vein systems, in veteran oak and left fielders both
,
Unstop themselves
,
Putting forth leaves and line drives in Florida’s March.

Migrating North with the swallows,
Baseball and the grasses’ first green,

Enter Cleveland , Kansas City, Boston.

Donald Hall, from Ken Burns’ Baseball.

4.03.2009

New Pictures

I updated my Flickr page with some pictures I’ve taken over the last few months.

Some are from a couple of mini trips that Caroline and I made, and a bunch of them are from the ice storm that we had back in January. I mainly just posted some of the prettier ones, but you can get a sense of some of the damaged caused by all of the ice.

Robinson Crusoe On Repentance


I read a children’s version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe when I was a kid, and I remembered the story being interesting enough that I wanted to try the real thing.

Considered by many to be the first novel written in English, Robinson Crusoe is an interesting tale of a man (who the book is named after) who lives for over 20 years by himself on a deserted island after being shipwrecked there.

One thing that surprised me a little bit was how much of the book was dedicated to Robinson’s thoughts on theology. He considers a few topics (sin, repentance, providence, the extent to which God reveals Himself in nature vs. revelation in scripture), and over the course of his time on the island, becomes very devout in his desire to follow God.

Unfortunately, these religious passages grow a little tedious, as Crusoe basically makes the same arguments over and over. However, I liked the following thoughts on sin and repentance:
“…I have since often observed how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, to that reason which ought to guide them in such cases—namely, that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed for the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.”
I think he’s right on target here. So often we fail to admit that we’re in the wrong because of how it will make us look. We don’t generally have the same qualms when we misbehave in the first place.

3.31.2009

Odds And Ends

A few bits and pieces I wanted to mention without dedicating a post to each of them:
  • Although ESPN isn’t announcing it yet, it looks like Memphis head basketball coach John Calipari will be heading to Kentucky. I don’t like Calipari at all, but he’s an incredible recruiter, and depending on how many of his Memphis recruits followed him to Kentucky, the Wildcats could become an overnight National Championship contender. After a down year, this is a step in the right direction for the SEC.
  • I was glad to see that Chipper Jones signed a contract extension with the Braves that will last through 2012, which basically means that he’ll spend his entire career as a Brave. Injury problems are always an issue with Chipper, but as he showed last year, he’s still one of the best hitters in the game when healthy.
  • We finished our taxes last night, and let’s just say that it didn’t go as well as last year. That “…Render unto Caesar…” verse isn’t looking too appealing at the moment.

3.30.2009

Observation #5

If America really does run on Dunkin’, that would go a long way toward explaining our considerable obesity and heart disease problems.

3.27.2009

The Worst Church Song Ever

A very long time ago, I started a series called Best and Worst, in which I examine the best or worst of all time in a given category.


Except, technically it isn’t a “series” until now, because I forgot all about it until I became acquainted with The Worst Church Song Ever a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you who have spent a significant portion of your life singing church songs, if you’re like me, you probably have your share of favorites (Abide With Me, Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, Let The Lower Lights Be Burning), as well as your share of songs that you would rather never sing again (Follow Me, Ivory Palaces).

This post isn’t about any of those songs though. It’s about We’re A Rainbow, a song that I discovered in our homemade youth song book a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, there’s no music to the words, and since I don’t know anyone who knows the song, I have no idea how to sing it, but you can read the lyrics for yourself:
“We’re a rainbow made of Christians,
We’re an army for the Lord.
We’ve no weapons that can harm you,
Christian love is much too strong.”
I don’t really even know where to begin, but I’ll try.

First of all, the song is really, really short. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to only have four lines, they need to be very good lines, and these aren’t.

Secondly, there’s no real attempt made at following any discernable rhyme scheme. I guess that’s small potatoes compared to the rest of the song’s problems, but it just helps to make the words of the song seem even more randomly chosen.

Third, a good song should convey a clear message. The message of We’re A Rainbow seems to be that Christians are a loving rainbow army, and I’m not really even sure what that means. Maybe I’d have a better sense of the message if the song itself was longer than 25 words.

Fourth, the different lines of the songs are all…wait, let’s just stop right there. I’m sorry, but I just can’t continue to pretend to seriously analyze a song that starts off with “We’re a rainbow made of Christians…”

My humble nomination for the title of The Worst Church Song Ever.

UPDATE: I recently received an email informing me that I only had the chorus to this song, and that the full lyrics are as below:
“We’re a rainbow made of Christians,
We’re an army for the Lord.
We’ve no weapons that can harm you,
Christian love is much too strong.”

So we sing in Unity,
‘Live and Love Eternally,’
so become a Child of God,
and enjoy a life of peace.

When you’re feeling sad and lonely,
and you cross is hard to bear,
come to Jesus, he will teach you,
to obtain sweet peace through prayer.”
While I still think the chorus is somewhat hard to stomach, the verses are certainly a big improvement.

My apologies for the inadvertent mistake.


3.24.2009

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

I’d heard countless references to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy during my lifetime, and I knew it had something of a cult following, but I really didn’t know anything about it until I read it a few weeks ago.

Now having read it, the only thing I can really say is:

It stinks. I think it might be the most mind-numbingly stupid, plotless book I have ever read.

It did succeed in getting me to laugh a couple of times, but since it tried to get me to laugh dozens and dozens of times, this doesn’t seem like much of a success either.

I know it’s a popular book, but really, I don’t get its popularity at all. If you’re a Hitchhiker fan, I hope I haven’t offended you, but maybe you can explain to me why it shouldn’t be considered a strong contender for The Worst Book Ever Written?

3.19.2009

The Presidential Bracket


ESPN has been buzzing the last couple of days about President Obama filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, and have been showing his picks on a segment of Sportscenter.

Leader of the Free World or not, I don’t think President Obama’s bracket is a very good one (after all, his Final 4 is identical to mine!). Nevertheless, I think it’s neat that the same March Madness that appeals to so many people apparently interests our Commander-in-Chief as well, and I think it was a good PR move for him to release his bracket publicly.

Some people are complaining about Obama taking time out from dealing with the serious issues facing our country to do something as unimportant as fill out a basketball bracket, but I think that’s a little ridiculous, considering that it probably only took him about 10 minutes.

Of course, if President Obama spends as much time watching this year’s tournament as I am planning to, then we might have something to talk about.

You can see all of his picks here.

3.16.2009

NCAA Basketball Ranting

I haven’t spent much time talking about college basketball this year, mainly because the Arkansas Razorbacks have been doing a lot of campaigning for the title of Worst Team Ever.

Nevertheless, it is time for March Madness, which, as a sports fan, is my favorite time of the year.

But I was irked yesterday when the NCAA tournament field was revealed with only three SEC teams, and none of them seeded higher than 8th.

The SEC has had a down year, and it has no truly elite teams, but three teams, all seeded between 8 and 13? That’s ridiculous.

3.13.2009

New House: When A Garage Can Be A Bad Thing

I haven’t written about this much, but back in January, Caroline and I moved from the apartment where we had lived for the past two years to a 3-bedroom house that we are renting.

One of the more pleasant benefits of our new house is that it has a 2-car garage. Being able to enter the house basically via remote control is nice, and not having to scrape ice of your windshield in the winter is completely awesome.

However, having never lived anywhere with a garage before, there are some things about having one which I’m learning as I go.

For example, back when we had the big ice storm in January, we lost power at our house, the garage door no longer worked automatically, and I didn’t know how to get the door up so we could leave. I figured it out eventually though.

Yesterday, upon returning home from work, I had another lesson in Garage Ownership 101. On the way home, I had been listening to some talk radio, and as I pulled into the garage, I was interested in what one particular caller had to say. Without thinking, I closed the garage door and sat there for several minutes with the car running, listening to the radio.

Of course, I’ve seen enough movies to know that leaving the car running in the garage with the door down is a popular suicide method, but that didn’t occur to me until I finally got out of the car and was assaulted by a garage full of my own exhaust fumes. I began to cough and even after entering the house, felt light-headed for a while.

So here’s the lesson: apparently filling up your garage with carbon monoxide fumes really is a bad idea. I don’t recommend it. If the radio’s really that interesting, turn off the engine and sap some battery power.

3.11.2009

The Power And The Glory

The Power and the Glory is considered by many to be Graham Greene’s finest work, and after reading it myself, I can see why.

The story centers on a nameless “whiskey priest” who is being persecuted by a ruthless government in a Mexican state in the 1930s. The priest makes an interesting protagonist, and is the vehicle used by Greene to examine the nature of sin, repentance, faith and other deep issues.

If any of these issues interest you, I highly recommend The Power and the Glory. It’s great.

I’ll leave you with one quote I liked a bunch:
“It was for this world that Christ had died; the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater glory lay around the death. It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization—it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”

3.06.2009

Hope Vs. Fear


“We have chosen hope over fear.”
—Barack Obama, January 21, 2009

“A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.”
—Barack Obama, February 4, 2009

So much for hope. It was fun while it lasted.

A New Look

As you may have noticed, things are looking a bit different around The Doc File today.

I had grown tired of my old blog template and had been wanting to change it for some time, but I finally did something about it last night.

It’s not perfect. I don’t exactly like how the header looks and there are some different things that I plan on tweaking, but overall, I’m pleased. I think this template looks cleaner and, for lack of a better word, more professional than what I had before.

Let me know what you think. But before you do, remember that I spent a long time working on it last night and that I’m very sensitive.

3.03.2009

“No Longer Worthy”

Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt van Rijn


Luke 15 is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible because it contains one of the most famous parables of Jesus, The Prodigal Son.

It’s a parable that many are familiar with. It begins with a father who has two sons. The younger son demands his portion of the inheritance while his father is still alive and then takes the money he receives, moves to a distant country and squanders all he has on riotous living. With all his money gone, he is forced to take a job working with pigs until he finally comes to his senses and decides to return to his father, realizing that even the servants in his father’s house enjoy better lives than he currently has. But when the son returns home, his father greets him with open arms and celebrates his return with a feast. The older son resents the warm reception that his younger brother receives, but is rebuked by his father:
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
It’s a wonderful parable, and there are a multitude of lessons that can be learned from it: the freedom that God gives us to leave Him or follow Him, His eagerness to welcome us back and forgive our sins, the perils of being the older brother, the false promises of the “far country”, and more.

But a while back while reading the parable, I was struck by something I had never thought about before. In Luke 15.21, when the Prodigal returns to his father, he launches into the speech he has prepared:
“‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
The son describes himself as “no longer worthy.”

I feel very similar sometimes when I run from God, when I commit sin and then return to Him.

But it’s not the proper mindset to have.

Not because the unworthiness aspect is inaccurate—certainly we are unworthy of being God’s children. No, the inaccuracy comes from the words “no longer” which imply that at some point we were worthy of being God’s children, and that simply isn’t true.

The Prodigal Son wasn’t a son because he somehow earned or deserved that relationship, but because he was born into it, and his father chose to treat him as a son whether he deserved it or not.

Similarly, our relationship with God doesn’t depend on our worthiness, it depends on His love. We are not his children based on how much good we’ve done, but based on His willingness to have a relationship with us at all.

We feel guilty when we stumble, and we rightly feel that we don’t deserve a relationship with our Heavenly Father. But we must remember that we never deserved that relationship in the first place.

That’s the great thing about God—He loves us despite our unworthiness.

3.02.2009

The Catcher Was A Spy

For a while I’ve been meaning to write a post on Nicholas Dawidoff’s The Catcher Was A Spy.

The story focuses on the life of Moe Berg, a back-up Major League catcher who later became a spy for the OSS (precursor to the CIA) during World War II.

I received the book over 11 years ago on my 14th birthday (Seriously? That was 11 years ago?!), but after a previous false start back in 1997, didn’t get around to reading it until this past Christmas.

Part of the reason for it taking me so long to get around to reading the book was a poor assumption on my part. When I tried to read it the first time around, I abandoned the book at the point when Berg retired from baseball, not realizing that his work as a spy would be considerably more fascinating than his life as a ballplayer.

Rather than post a series of quotes from the book, I’ll leave off with the main effect that the story of Moe Berg produced in me.

Sometimes, I feel like I live a small life. My work can seem unimportant and unnoticed, my life unspectacular and relatively obscure. I think a lot of people feel the same way.

As a professional athlete and an undercover spy, Berg experienced not one, but two exciting, storybook careers. He was an immensely talented individual who had a number of famous friends and acquaintances and his own share of fame as well. In short, Moe Berg had the type of life that most people dream about having.

Despite all that, the portrait that Dawidoff paints is of a largely unhappy man who never really fit in anywhere and was never able to develop deep long-lasting relationships with anyone.

The Catcher Was A Spy is a fascinating biography that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in baseball, espionage or nuclear physics (Berg’s WWII spy work centered on the Nazi Atomic Bomb project), but that wasn’t why I liked it so much.

I liked it because, at least for me, it served as an invaluable reminder about what really matters in life.

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