Thursday, January 29, 2015


Recently our dog got out because someone left the side gate at the house open.  We, of course, hired an independent counsel to do a full investigation to make sure we found out exactly who did it so proper blame could be assigned and we could all feel better about ourselves, even if we did nothing to make sure it didn't happen again.  And, since it seems we had to, we added "gate" to the end of the name to make sure everyone understood the seriousness of the situation.

Obviously this is a little satirical, although not the part about the dog getting out, but can we stop making everything the equivalent of Watergate, especially adding "gate" to everything?  And how did that become the standard, or the name, by which everything was set?  Why don't we name things after abscam, or even better the Tea Pot Dome Scandal?

I understand that "deflategate" sounds better than "deflatescam" or "deflatedome" but it's a little tiresome.  It's time for the news media to begin to be a little more creative or at least more intelligent about things.  I also can't help but think that a lot of this has more to do with who did it then what was done, especially since most of the media have disdain for Bill Belichick because he has, seemingly, such disdain for them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

God's Call: Are You Serious?

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The texts were Mark 1:14-20 and Jonah 3:1-5, 10:

I like Jonah.  I like Jonah a lot, because Jonah is a lot like me, and I suspect that Jonah is a lot like some of you as well.  We really have two different call stories in the passages we heard this morning.  The first is the call story of the first disciples.  Jesus has heard that John the Baptist has just been arrested, which is the event which kicks off his ministry, and so he goes to Galilee and proclaims first a call for repentance, and then the reason, because the kingdom of God has come near.  And immediately, those are Mark’s words, a word he uses a lot in his gospel, Jesus goes to the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter and James and John and Simon to come and follow him, and they get up and go.  They leave their nets and their boats and their family behind, and they follow Jesus, immediately.  And then there is Jonah.

The passage we heard from Jonah is actually already in the middle of the story, that is why it says that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.  Now many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the story of Jonah, if for nothing else then being Jonah and the whale, although there is actually no whale in the story.  It’s a whale of a story, but there is no whale in the story.  But I want to remind us all of the Jonah story so that we can know what’s going on in the passage we heard and also to then compare and contrast it against the call story found in Mark.

Jonah is a prophet, and his story is found in the Hebrew Scriptures amongst the prophets, but the book is very different than other prophetic writings, because it isn’t a series of prophetic statements.  Instead it is a narrative about Jonah and his dealings with God, much more like what we are used to seeing in the Genesis stories, or in some of the later histories, like the stories found in kings or Samuel.  But Jonah is living in Israel when God calls him and tells him to go “at once” to Nineveh and cry out against their wickedness.  Now the city of Nineveh is said to be a great city, and a very large city, that it would take 3 days to walk across, which means that it’s about 60 miles in diameter.  Nineveh is also not a Jewish city as it’s located in modern day Iraq and is known as the city of Mosul.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was John 1:43-51:

Today’s message is going to be very different from how I normally preach, because it’s going to be focused on four stories, and it’s also a little more personal than I normally like to be because these are also my stories.  But this message has been sort of bouncing around my mind for a while now, and I thought today was an appropriate time to say it.

The first two stories are about perceptions, or we should probably say assumptions.  When I was attending Harvard, I had to go to the cashier’s office one day and there was a long line waiting to talk with someone, and in front of me there was a very large man.  He was probably 6’4” and at least 250.  His neck was bigger than my thighs.  He was huge.  Now Harvard does not offer any athletic scholarships, nor do any of the other Ivy Leagues, although they still do quite well, including being undefeated in football this year and beating UNM in the NCAA tournament two years ago.  But that’s just bragging, but anyways this guy was huge and I instantly thought, I wonder if Harvard lowers its academic requirements in order to recruit and bring in some athletes to play for the school?  Does anyone want to make a guess as to the race of this particular student?  He was African-American.  The moment I asked myself the question I realized the outright bigotry that went into it, the assumptions that I had made, not only about him but about others like him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bad Sportsmanship in "Urban" Areas

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes for winning the national championship last night.  They totally dominated the game, and you have to to overcome 4 turnovers.  The over/under on Ezekiel Elliott was 165 1/2 yards rushing.  I said before the game that if he hit the over that Oregon would lose, and of course he went way over.

On the same note, that was not the Oregon team I saw play most of the season.  How much of that difference was Ohio State and how much was them simply having lost too many players to injury and suspension?  Totally unknown, but the better team on the field last night won the game.  (Although it certainly looked to me like Oregon hadn't done any tackling since the Rose Bowl, because they forgot how to even attempt to do it properly, and that was not them at all.)

Urban Meyer has certainly proven that he is one of the best coaches in college football right now.  If he is not the best, he is certainly right there in the conversation.  Going into the game many commentators said they were picking Ohio State simply because of Urban, not because they thought they were the better team, but that because he would do what was necessary to win.  I think that was apparent, and he certainly earned a lot of respect from me, until the end.

Late in the game, Oregon went for it on 4th down, because they had to, and didn't complete it, giving the ball to Ohio State around the 14 yard line with what I think was a little more than 3 minutes to go. I really wondered what they were going to do, and the play calls sent in seemed to indicate that Urban was simply going to run down the clock, get a first down, and then sit in a victory formation. Because either Oregon's defense got incredibly stout all of the sudden, or Ohio State wasn't trying very hard to score.  They then got their first down, and all they had to do was kneel down a couple of times and the game was theirs.

But that is not what they did.  Instead they kept running the ball, scoring with only a few seconds left on the clock.  I won't write what I actually said, but it was bush-league and totally bad sportsmanship. The only thing scoring there did was to drive up the margin of victory, which didn't matter.  They were already up by 15.  If this were the NFL, you might see them do it because the NFL is about money and entertainment, so what they can do different things.  But let's be honest and say that they don't even do that in the NFL (unless the coach hates the other coach. I'm looking at you Bill Belichick).

But this isn't the NFL, and college football is supposed to be teaching these athletes something, it's that whole student/athlete thing, and one of those things should be sportsmanship. Urban Meyer had that opportunity last night to send that message and he failed the test.  He, in fact, failed miserably.

In 2010, Wisconsin was playing a game in which they were leading 20-19 and driving the ball as time was expiring.  They got inside the 10 yard line and then assumed the victory formation and they won the game. They could have scored and increased the margin of victory, but they didn't, and they still won. That is good sportsmanship.  What Urban Meyer did was not, and I have yet to hear a single commentator call him out for it which is also a travesty.

I congratulate the team for their victory, but I have lost all respect for Urban Meyer because he is not coaching or teaching his players, and those who play who watch, the proper respect for the game and his opponents.  He also needs to be careful because, as Gregg Easterbrook says, when you taunt the football gods, bad things tend to happen.

Update: Shout-out to Tony Kornhesier who is the only commentator I have heard who called out Urban Meyer for this, and Michael Wilbon, agreeing with him, said that if he did that in the NFL "he would get one of his players killed."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books Of 2014

These are the books I read in 2014.
  1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  2. A Redbird Christmas by Fanny Flagg
  3. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
  4. Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond
  5. Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill et al.
  6. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  7. Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer
  8. Basilica: The Splendor and Scandal of Building St. Peter's by R.A. Scotti
  9. Becoming Mr. October by Reggie Jackson and Kevin Baker
  10. Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of Forgiveness Instinct by Michael McCullough
  11. Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts
  12. Boys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They can Look Up Your Skirt) by Philip Van Munching
  13. Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1938 Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  14. Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman by Lee Lowenfish
  15. Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing by Norm Stamper
  16. Breakpoint by Richard Clarke
  17. By Sorrow's River by Larry McMurtry
  18. Censuring Queen Victoria: A Story of Royal Correspondence and the Creation of the Icon by Yvonne Young
  19. Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean
  20. Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most by Marcus Borg
  21. Cubed: A History of the Office by Nikil Saval
  22. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
  23. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  24. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
  25. Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and other First World Problems by David Rakoff
  26. Dying to Cross: The Worst Immigrant Tragedy in American History of Jorge Ramos
  27. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  28. Experiencing Forgiveness by Charles Stanley
  29. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase
  30. Five Practices of Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase
  31. Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York's Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh
  32. Folly and Glory by Larry McMurtry
  33. Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin
  34. Forgive for Love by Dr. Fred Luskin
  35. Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enirght
  36. Forgiveness: Finding Peace through Letting Go by Adam Hamilton
  37. Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone
  38. Frank Lloyd Wright and His Manner of Thought by Jerome Klinkowitz
  39. Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
  40. Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
  41. Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
  42. I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer
  43. I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster
  44. I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church by Paul Nixon
  45. I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon by Karyn L. Wiseman
  46. In One Person: A Novel by John Irving
  47. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
  48. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester
  49. Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis
  50. Lincoln Letter by William Martin
  51. Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  52. Making Sense of the Bible: Recovering the Power of Scripture Today by Adam Hamilton
  53. Mickie and Willie, Mantle and Mays: The Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age by Allen Barra
  54. My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach
  55. New Mexico Baseball : Miners, Outlaws, Indians, and Isotopes, 1880 to the Present by L. M. Sutter.
  56. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  57. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
  58. Partners in Prayer by John Maxwell
  59. Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff
  60. Relaunch: How to Stage an Organizational Comeback by Dr. Mark Rutland
  61. Revelation: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels
  62. Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World by Ronald J. Sider
  63. Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
  64. Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry
  65. Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson
  66. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  67. Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning
  68. The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester
  69. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
  70. The Chalmers Race; Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title that Became a National Obsession by Rick Huhn
  71. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
  72. The Deadliest Cast Member by Kelly Ryan Johns
  73. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory Freeman
  74. The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea by Gregory Freeman
  75. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  76. The Inner Circle by T. Coraghessan Boyle
  77. The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick
  78. The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth about Junia by Rena Pederson
  79. The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester
  80. The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind
  81. The Planets by David Sobel
  82. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
  83. The Reappearing Act by Kate Fagan
  84. The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's so Good about the Good News by Peter Gomes
  85. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Performance by David Epstein
  86. The Wandering Hill by Larry McMurtry
  87. The Way of Forgiveness: Letting Go, Easing Stress and Building Strength by D. Patrick Miller
  88. Tomorrow-land: The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America by Joseph Tirella
  89. Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and other Phenomenon from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory by Stacy Horn
  90. Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes-Grieco
  91. Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2014 by Bob Sehlinger, Seth Kubersky and Len Testa
  92. Way of Forgiveness: Letting Go, Easing Stress and Building Strength by D. Patrick Miller
  93. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan