Monday, November 29, 2010

The Death Angel

            I came across this nugget from the pen* of the late Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal, FIRST THINGS. 
            Dr. Joseph Mengele was a Nazi war criminal.  You may have heard of him.  He was known as the "Angel of Death."  For years, at the Auschwitz concentration camp, Mengele tortured prisoners. He cruelly performed "scientific" experiments upon them. Many died from Mengele’s torment.
            After World War Two, Mengele fled to Argentina.  During the early 90s, the new democratic government in Argentina opened up their previously sealed files on the Nazis, who had fled to Argentina. Guess how Dr. Mengele made his living in Argentina? As a doctor who performed abortions.
            Does this subliminally speak to us about the nature and practice of abortion?

*Source: FIRST THINGS, March 2009 issue, p. 66.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Read Buster Olney’s, HOW LUCKY YOU CAN BE; THE STORY OF COACH DON MEYER a couple of weeks ago. It is the story of Don Meyer, one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history. Meyer lost a leg in a horrific automobile accident in 2008. During that ordeal, he was discovered to have cancer. In 2009, ESPN awarded him the Jimmy V (Valvano) award for courage.
            I found the book interesting because Meyer coached for 25 years at David Lipscomb University (now Lipscomb University)—my mother’s alma mater.
            The book reads quickly. Olney, who is now employed by ESPN, has a reputation for being a strong sport’s journalist. Still, he is an admitted admirer of Myer, who he got to know when Olney was working for the NASHVILLE BANNER back in the late eighties.
            I suspect because Olney is a journalist, Meyer’s Christian faith is treated from a respectful distance. Olney summarizes Meyer’s devotion to God and the impact of the church in his life, rather than celebrate it. For this reason, any secular person would feel comfortable reading this book.
            On a personal level, I enjoyed reading behind-the-scene stories about Meyer’s relationships with other coaches. He is highly respected in the coaching world, even though he has not gained the notoriety others have.
            I also was fascinated in the behind-the-scenes aspect of the most glorious moment of Meyer’s coaching career—receiving the Jimmy V award. Olney takes you onstage, backstage, and in the audience. In a celebrity driven culture, it is neat to read of celebrities being impacted in such a positive way by a courageous, Christian coach.
            I definitely give this book a thumbs-up. 

2. Do I really want to preach REVELATION in 2011?

3. Kellen Moore, quarterback of the Boise State Broncos—you have been glorious the past two seasons. It was not your fault your team lost.

4. Taking my son, Timothy, deer hunting last Friday and Saturday reminded me how much I enjoyed hunting growing up. Thanks, Mike Warner, for showing us a good time. I told my church about our adventures. I may need to blog on it sometime. I can say this, though--the Deer world is still safe from Mark Edge.

5. Judy finally gave me permission to show the 1953 version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL Thursday night to our family. The kids survived. I love that movie. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


Take a glass. Put it in a bowl. Take a water pitcher. Fill it with water. Pour water from the pitcher into the glass until the glass overflows with water. Let the over flow fill the bowl. Drink water until your thirst is quenched. If you drain the glass and are still thirsty, fill it again from the pitcher.

After your thirst is quenched, pour water from the overflow (in the bowl) into the glass. Chances are, the overflow will not satisfy like that first drink did from the pitcher.

The gap between having a need and satisfying it can be great. Meeting that need can be a very fulfilling experience—maybe even a very happy one.

Once that need is met, the gap between satisfying a need and receiving emotional blessing is small, maybe even miniscule. You can keep drinking water from the overflow, but it is not going to be an immensely fulfilling experience. (Filling, yes, but not FULfilling.) It will not add greatly to your happiness. It may even create discomfort.

Ever hear that you are supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day? I have rarely tried to do so, when it was not an experience of discipline--even suffering. Some days, I could not even attempt it, unless, I knew I was going to be near a bathroom. My body, after glass three, would say, “Enough of this.” I would feel bloated. Not a good thing.

Now, on a hot summer day, after mowing, I might drink four glasses of water. I needed that much to meet a need. And, oh, did it feel good. Once that need was met, satisfaction dwindled.

You may own one home. If it keeps you dry and comfortable, that need is satisfied and you can’t do much better. Donald Trump owns a few homes—maybe five or ten. Donald Trump is not five or ten times more happy than you.

You may need a billion dollars in the bank, and you may have a billion dollars in the bank. Bill Gates has $55 billion in the bank. I assure you, Bill Gates is not $55 billion happier than you.

Here is my point. Jesus promised us that God would take care of our basic needs and to not worry about them. Most of us, when we worry, are not worried about basic needs; they are being met. Instead, we are worrying about the overflow of blessings God provides.

We are not worrying about getting the drink of water from the glass. That is being provided. We are worrying about the overflow of water in the bowl. 

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Dallas Cowboys, I hardly known ye.

2. As I posted on Facebook, the weekend before Thanksgiving begins my favorite six-week period of the year.

3. I saw Edmund Morris last night on C-Span. I cannot wait to read COLONEL ROOSEVELT. I was a senior in high school when he published the first volume of the Roosevelt trilogy. Now I am fifty. Amazing.

4. Way to go ETCA girls’ basketball team. You are undefeated. Samantha Phillips, you are an amazing player.

5. Congratulations to the ETCA girls volleyball team for your awards. Parental pride: my oldest daughter, Haleigh, was named first team all-state.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventure with the Clock

Douglas Southall Freeman wrote two Pulitzer Prize winning works on the lives of Robert E. Lee and George Washington. Today, they are still considered the definitive biographies of these extraordinary Americans. Freeman was also the award-winning Editor for several decades of a major newspaper, the RICHMOND (VA) NEWS LEADER. Add to these responsibilities, two daily radio broadcasts, memberships to various boards and civic organizations, as well as, church and other extracurricular activities, and one must ask—how did Freeman do it?

            Part of the answer is found in the biography of Freeman written by his grandson, David E. Johnson. Johnson’s work included the typical daily schedule in Freeman’s later years, as witnessed by a writer from TIME magazine. Johnson called this chapter “Adventure with the Clock.” Here is the schedule:

2:30 A.M. Awake.

2:30-2:44 Dress, shave, devotional.

2:45 Downstairs to kitchen.

2:45-3:08 Prepare and eat breakfast, walk to car.

3:08-3:25 Drive to RICHMOND NEWS LEADER office.

3:25-3:29 Park, walk into building, up to office.

3:30 At desk, Associate Press wires in hand.

3:31-7:58 Read wire dispatches and morning paper, write editorials, mark items for index.

7:58-8:00 Walk to WRNL studio.

8:00-8:15 Broadcast.

8:15-8:17 Walk back to office.

8:17-8:32 Morning staff meeting.

8:32-11:58 Attend to duties of editor. Answer mail, receive visitors, attend meetings, check first edition of paper, block and set editorials. (In his later years, Freeman would, at times, take a brief nap at 11:00 A.M.)

11:58-12:00 Walk to WRNL studio.

12:00-12:15 Broadcast.

12:15-12:17 Walk back to office.

12:17-12:30 Complete last details of day ad prepare for next day. Walk to car.

12:30-12:47 Drive home.

12:48-2:00 Lunch with his wife, Inez, work in the garden, walk the grounds. A less structured time.

2:00-2:30 Nap.

2:30-6:30 Work in study on historical projects.

6:30-8:45 Dinner; evening with family.

8:45 Retire for the evening.

         I have known a number of people who have slept the same amount of hours per night as Freeman, but few have been so focused. Johnson’s book entitled DOUGLAS SOUTHALL FREEMAN, is a fascinating read of a marvelous historian, as well as, one of this nation’s most influential leaders in the media. Freeman died over fifty years ago, but his influence lives on.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. After what happened to the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns, and with TCU probably not even receiving a shot at the National Title, I refuse to become emotionally attached to a Texas team this football season. I cannot take the pain.

2. Jerry Jones is a nice George Steinbrenner.

3. At last, it feels like autumn.

4. No one wants to fulfill someone else’s vision.

5. Finally, and most importantly, the older I get, the more I love my wife.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Preparing for Launch

            Last Thursday evening, I took Haleigh on a trip to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. She and I had never taken a trip together before.
            Her sister, Abby, and I have (one of the few things Abby experienced before Haleigh.) A few years ago, I took Abby to Houston, to NASA, for a workshop for Homeschool kids.
            Haleigh was going primarily to try out for Harding’s volleyball team on Friday afternoon. Haleigh was going to stay with Kelli Mott, one of our Shiloh Road graduates, in one of the girls’ dorms. We arrived so late on Thursday night that Haleigh missed the dorm curfew. She had to stay with me at the local Hampton Inn.
            Friday morning, I dropped Haleigh off at the dorm, and with the exception of taking her to the tryout, saw very little of her. She attended some of Kelli’s classes and met some of Kelli’s friends.
            On the way up, I told Haleigh that one of my parents’ strengths was to never be overbearing. I can only remember them visiting me at college a handful of times, but each time they did, they made sure to give me space and not make me feel I had to entertain them every moment of the weekend. (Franklin Roosevelt’s mom moved into an apartment with him at Harvard. Egad!)  I told Haleigh I want to do the same for my kids.
            Friday, I met with someone from the financial aid office, dropped by and visited my old Argentina teammate, Bill Richardson, and I checked out the Harding campus. (It had been eleven years since I had been there.)
            Friday night, one of Kelli’s roommates managed to scrounge up a ticket for Haleigh to join several of them for a performance of the musical THROROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. I know this will sound sad for some of you, but I arrived at my hotel room Friday evening, at six o’clock, and never left the room. For me, it was actually bliss. Living in a family of six, I cannot remember the last time I had so much time to myself in peace and quiet.
            I had stuck into the Suburban a couple of sacks of books I picked up at the Doctors’ wives’ book sale on Thursday. I spent the entire evening working through the sacks. I had so much fun—I never turned the TV on. I went to sleep about eleven and got me a good night’s sleep.
            We left for home on Saturday morning. On the way back, we stopped in Little Rock at the Bill Clinton Presidential Museum.
            In Friday’s tryout, Haleigh had sprained her ankle during a volleyball game with other high school students and the Harding volleyball team, but she did not tell anyone until she told me on Saturday morning. I asked her if she would rather drive on home, but she said she would rather tour the museums. This is the first president Haleigh can remember, so she wanted to see the exhibits. She put on her boots and toughed it out.
            (That night, Judy about pinched my ears off when she saw Haleigh’s ankle; it had swollen to the size of an orange. Don’t tell her basketball coach about this.)
            While in Little Rock, Haleigh and I had lunch at a classy restaurant. Then it was back on the road.
            Haleigh and I had a total of twelve hours in the Suburban together. We talked a lot, listened to a lot of music, she slept some, and we listened to Drew Brees' new book on CD. (Her choice—I had brought it to listen to when she was asleep.)
            I felt interesting emotions Friday on the Harding campus. Even though it has been thirty years since I was an undergraduate, I can still remember those days clearly. Now I am watching my oldest preparing to launch the second phase of her life. This seems real, and this seems right.
            Driving home, a voice in my mind put words to my feelings. For a long time, I have been thinking about Haleigh launching into a new phase of her life. Saturday evening, that voice told me I was launching into a new phase as well.

The Luckiest Man on Earth
            Incidentally, on the aforementioned Friday evening, I had a chance to read from my recently purchased copy of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig. I had always heard about the famous speech Gehrig made as a dying man, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this Earth…” I had never read the extensive context to that story.
            Gehrig began the 1939 season playing horribly. Everyone noticed this in spring training. Gehrig himself thought he would play himself out of it. Instead, he grew worse.
            A few games into the season, Gehrig made a routine play at first to make the third out of an inning. When he arrived at the bench, several players congratulated him for his play.
            That night, Gehrig grew more and more disturbed. Had it come to this? Had his quality of play fallen so low that his teammates felt compelled to compliment him so profusely for a normal play?
            The next morning, Gehrig approached his manager, Joe McCartney, and asked to remain on the bench, “for the good of the team.”
            That afternoon, Lou Gehrig missed his first ballgame since 1925. The story was national news.
            Of course, as you know, Gehrig traveled a few days later to the Mayo Clinic, where he was diagnosed with the disease that would later bear his name. The New York Yankees organized a special day honoring him. The ceremony took place between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators.
            The Yankees brought in old teammates including Babe Ruth. Gifts were showered upon Gehrig, including one from the archrival, New York Giants.
            Finally, all the speeches were made and the throng that filled Yankee stadium began calling upon Gehrig to speak. But he was too overcome. Overwhelmed by kindness, Gehrig stood to the side, weeping.
            After it became obvious Gehrig was unable to respond, workers began to dismantle the microphones at home plate. Then Joe McCarthy walked over to Gehrig. Whispering in his ear, the manager gently coaxed him to say a few words.
            That was when Gehrig strode to the microphones, and, head down, uttered these words, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” What I did not realize was that he went on to offer a brief, gracious speech, thanking various groups and individuals, before saying his final words, “So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.
            I’ve got to tell you, I was crying reading this account. You talk about feeling silly. Here I am, in a hotel room, reading about something that occurred over seventy years ago, and I am crying like it is happening in real time! (Who knows, maybe my emotion was a “Freudian” response to Haleigh’s visit at Harding.)
            Good stuff from Jonathon Eig.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Here’s what I want for Christmas: a TCU vs. Oregon matchup for the National Championship—an awesome defense versus an incredible offense.

2. I am happy with the Ranger season, but I can’t get out of my mind what happened to the Mavs. They came so close to defeating the Heat. They’ve never been back to the Finals again.

3. Haleigh and I have listened to almost four CDs of Drew Brees’ new book, COMING BACK STRONGER. So far, we have both been struck by Brees’ faith in God. Neither of us knew his faith was as extensive as it is. Tyndale House, which published the book, is a religious publishing company. This is a religious book.
            It is also inspiring. He has faced much adversity. I was glad Haleigh got to listen to it before she arrived to her tryout. I think it put her in a good and realistic frame of mind.
            We cannot wait to finish the book.

4. I think it is naïve to believe we will ever have bipartisanship in our Federal government. And this may be a good thing.

5. I tried something called Ethiopian coffee last Saturday. I found it to have a decent taste with no coffee bitterness. Not bad.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How To Pray

Matthew 6:9-13 is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.” Actually, as many in Christian history have noted, “The Lord’s Prayer” is probably the prayer Jesus prays in John 17. We can think of the prayer on the Sermon on the Mount as “The Disciples’ Prayer.”

This prayer has assisted me in my prayer life on and off for over 30 years. There are many nuggets here, rich in spiritual content, which give us insight into God and into people.

I like acronyms. I know there a lot of acronyms out there for assisting people in their prayer lives. Let me give you another based upon “The Disciples’ Prayer.” It's longer than most, I know, but my hope is you will find this a help.

So, without further a due, here is how to pray:

9You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name.10Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. 11Give us our food for today. 12Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. 13Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil. CEV
Deference… to God
Invite… God into the world
Sovereign… may God be Supreme Ruler on earth as in heaven
Comply… with the will of God
Implore… God to meet my needs
Pardon… others as God has pardoned me
Lead… me from temptation
Extract… me from evil

Defer. God is holy; he is sanctified; he is set apart. He is the One who, when Isaiah caught just a glimpse of His glory, was moved to proclaim that he was a man of unclean lips. When you pray, you begin by giving God glory.

Invite. This world would be a better world if God were more fully involved in it. God will not force himself into person’s life. He allows us the freedom to invite Him in.

Sovereign. God reigns in heaven. In heaven, there is no doubt who is king. May those of us on earth offer the same recognition to God that all of the beings in heaven do.

Comply. We are called to submit to the will of God. Again, in heaven, no doubt exists as to whose will, will be done. There is only one “will” in heaven. On Earth, there are roughly 6.8 billion “wills”—and counting. We pray that only one will exist on earth–God’s.

Implore. It is hard to pray for God to meet our needs when we have a pantry full of food. Yet, we should remember the biblical reminder that God traditionally taught his people to look to him, each day, for sustenance. That was all they could count on. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

Lead. We so often desire to be tempted. We often enjoy the titillation. Jesus encourages us to pray to God that He will lead us away from temptation. Our will should assert in prayer that we wish to not even get close to sin.

Extract. When Jesus led his disciples in prayer, he modeled for us a prayer that asks God to deliver us from evil. If we desire to be like Jesus, we pray to God that he will lead us away from temptation and deliver us from the impact of the work of the devil. In doing so, we become more like Jesus, which helps us fulfill our humanity.

I think it is not a coincidence that the root of the word “discipline” is the word disciple. Disciples are followers. We are certainly followers of Jesus. We desire to discipline ourselves to be what He would have us to be. Part of this discipline is the discipline of prayer. May we pray faithfully, and may God bless us as we pray.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. If you find many errors today, don’t blame my usual editor, Sherry Bobbitt. She is out today due to an injury and hopes to return tomorrow. I REALLY hope she returns tomorrow.

2. We had something happen in our AM worship service yesterday that I am sure gratified Chuck Munoz, our worship leader. He led us in the singing of “There’s a Stirring,” which is definitely a stirring song. I was watching the audience; beginning at the back and moving to the front, people were so moved they began to stand as we sang the words “rise up.” Definitely a beautiful moment.  

3. Jerry Jones is a true visionary when it comes to the business side of football. And, as an owner, I have only one criticism: he needs to fire his general manager. Over the years, his general manager has made terrible personnel decisions and, occasionally, poor coaching hires. The day Jerry Jones fires his general manager—Jerry Jones—and turns the reins over to his son, Stephen, will be a better day for the franchise. Stephen may prove to be a poor choice, but he will be better than his dad.

4. The BCS is un-American. It is the weak attempt of university presidents and football coaches to be like old Europe—to advance, you’ve got to have the right blood. Sorry, Boise State and TCU, merit has nothing to do with your chances to succeed.

5. Who do I like tonight in Game 5 of the World Series? Loyalty motivates me to select Cliff Lee and Texas. However, I really wish I had the religious acumen to perform an exorcism on the Ranger bats.