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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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