Monday, November 28, 2011

I Broke my Brother-in-law's Collarbone for Thanksgiving— What Did You Do?

           “So what did you do on Thanksgiving?”
            My answer would be–break my brother-in-law's collarbone. Let me explain.
            For some reason, early Thanksgiving week I had the bright vision of playing a touch football game on Thanksgiving. I envisioned all of us old uncles playing our young nephews. Most of our nephews are in high school or in college. I figured we old folks could take them on. I miscalculated.
            First of all, most of the old uncles did not want to play. They all wanted to sit, digest their turkey, and wait for the Cowboys to come on TV.
            Only one fellow competitor dared to dream as I did. David Denman, my wife's brother, had been thinking exactly the same thing I had. He thought it was a marvelous idea.
            The other problem was this–only two of the young whippersnappers wanted to play. The others muttered excuses such as, “I don't want to get hot and sweaty and come back and watch the ballgame.” So, it was my brother-in-law, two faithful and godly collegiate nephews-- and my wonderful, loyal eight-year-old son, Timothy, who finally motored over to the Cleburne High School practice field to play.
            It was a nice day for football. The wind was blowing pretty hard, but that did not seem to be much of a problem. We did note that our footing was not sound, since the field was very slick after some recent rains. That fact would come back to haunt us.
            Since there were five of us, we decided the two old guys would take on the two young guys, and Timothy would play center and pass receiver on both teams.
            The slick field gave us old guys an advantage because the speed of the younger folks was somewhat negated. However, I probably should have sensed we were in trouble when, after the first pass play, my brother-in-law came back and said to me, “I think you need to run a pattern. I twisted my knee.” Plus, he was pretty tired.
            I ran two patterns. After the second pattern, I returned to the huddle drenched in sweat. I practically looked like Jennifer Beals in FLASHDANCE after she poured a bucket of water on herself. Walking on the treadmill does not equate to running pass patterns against college kids.
            In order to prevent our lungs from exploding, David and I decide to take turns playing quarterback. It also helped that Timothy could catch and run well.
            I must confess, initially I viewed him as our liability. Ultimately, I viewed him as our salvation.
            We had a nice game going, and except for those passes that I threw to the ground when David and Timothy were open, I felt I threw the ball fairly well. (Strangely enough, I seemed to throw better when the receiver was covered.)
            This leads me to our finest hour, or our moment of tragedy, depending on how you want to view it. David decided he would run a “streak” pattern down the left sideline. (A “streak” is running in a straight line as fast as you can toward the goal line.)
            He was well covered by one of our nephews, so I threw the ball about the only place I could throw it. It was catchable, but it was by necessity pretty far ahead of David. This kept the ball from being intercepted. David, running full speed, made a great catch. Unfortunately, his momentum carried him to the ground.
            He rolled on his right shoulder. He came up and very calmly said, “I think that's it. I think we're going to have to stop.” 
            I asked him if it was his knee. He said, “No, I think I broke my shoulder.” Considering how calm he was, I was hoping that he had misdiagnosed his injury.
            We immediately got inside his vehicle. I drove us to the emergency room of the hospital in Cleburne. Incidentally, if you ever need to go the emergency room, go to that one in Cleburne on Thanksgiving Day. There was absolutely no one there when we arrived except for hospital personnel! 
            David was immediately escorted to the x-ray room. We waited there for x-rays to be processed. Medical personnel cut David's shirt off for him. This caused me to experience a flashback:
           When I was a sophomore in high school, I was headed for a touchdown when a linebacker caught me from behind, jumped on my back, and rode me to the ground. (I never said I was fast.)
             I saw a bright light and heard my collarbone break. One of our coaches and a player helped me walk off the field to the bench.
            The coach asked me where I was hurt.
            I told him, "I think I broke my shoulder. You're going to have to cut my jersey off."
            With deep compassion, my coach said, "Edge, that jersey cost a lot of money. We ain't cutting that jersey off."
            By golly, they didn't either. They tugged and pulled until that thing came off. 
            The diagnosis was that David's collarbone had a terrible break. The ends of the bones were shattered. They had to do surgery on Friday. He has to miss six weeks of work.
            David has been a real trooper throughout this ordeal. He does not blame me. In fact, he says I threw a good pass to the only place I could have thrown it.
           The doctor told David to retire from football; he cannot afford any more broken bones. While I have not heard him say he considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, I have heard him say he has no regrets.
            Besides, David says the doctor has not told him to retire from basketball….
            What have I learned from this? I don’t know.
            I don’t want to be stupid, but I don’t want to quit living, either. Seems like when people start trying to live cautiously, the process of dying accelerates. Most people I know who have broken their hips have done so trying to be careful.
            I just hope my exit injury is less catastrophic than David's—like, say, a pulled hamstring. Maybe there is something to be said for getting so old, no one picks you to play on their team. That's it--forced retirement!

Five Things I Think I Think
(with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Was that Case McCoy I saw lead the Texas Longhorns to a big win in the last minute of the ballgame against A&M Thursday night? Or was it Colt McCoy?
2. I finished reading over the holidays the book America's Quarterback: Bart Starr and the Rise of the National Football League by Keith Dunnavant. I am normally a big fan of Dunnavant-his biography of Bear Bryant was excellent-and I enjoyed this book. However, I found this work at times to be more hero worship than biography.
            Don't get me wrong; I love Bart Starr. I find him to be as decent a human being as there is, but he is human. Indeed, Starr himself went into much more detail about his humanity in his autobiography than did Dunnavant. Nevertheless, Dunnavant did break new ground--thanks to the dozens of interviews he conducted.
            Best of all, I think Dunnavant provides intriguing statistical material making the case that Bart Starr is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. Some of the material was gathered by resources such as
            This book is available on Amazon and in Barnes & Noble stores.
3. Making a movie? Want to get the best bang for your buck? Well, according to the latest FORBES magazine, Shia Labeouf is your guy. For every dollar you pay him, he will bring in $81. Anne Hathaway is next: $64 for every one dollar you pay her. The worst deal? Drew Barrymore brings in forty cents for every dollar paid. Incidentally, I was surprised that Will Ferrell was third on the worst list: $3.50 for every dollar paid.
4. Why did I get suckered into watching the second season of 24 by my oldest daughter? We have a few episodes to go, and we will have to wait until Christmas before watching them because she had to return to college.
5. I enjoy religious author Calvin Miller's non-fiction writing more than I do his fiction.

Monday, November 21, 2011

“Unity–not uniformity” or… What Gay Marriage has to do with the Church

           Okay. Just so you’ll know. My wife hates this title.
           She thinks I ought to dump it.
            I hope by the time you read this blog you’ll know why I chose it.
            A phrase I have heard all my life has been this, “Unity–not uniformity.” Usually, 
that statement is said in the context of passages such as Ephesians 4:1-16 or Rom. 14-15 
that talk about the importance of church unity.
            What this statement means, of course, is that members of the church do not have to 
look alike, act alike, or even think alike. As a matter of fact, the appeals in Scripture for unity 
imply that Christians are often extremely diverse, different, and divergent in their cultures, 
attitudes, and views. Otherwise, there would be no need for a call to unity.
            I am fascinated by how we accept that humanity’s most fundamental relationship-
outside of one's blood family-is based upon the biblical presupposition that two humans 
will enter into it as different. The two will enter into it totally distinct in terms of genetics, 
culture, and gender. I am of course talking about marriage.
            In marriage, you have the union of a man and woman. Typically, this is a collision of
temperaments and hormones, ambitions, and hobbies. Anatomically, they were even built by 
God to be fundamentally different.
            Yet, a man and woman in marriage are called by God to build unity through their 
relationship with Christ. Is this difficult? Well… yes! In spite of this, God builds this challenge 
into His call to creation.
            When a man and a woman pull marriage off, it is a beautiful thing. And the more 
diverse, the more beautiful.
            Again, we Christians assume the difference of the sexes, but it is fun to see a couple 
harmonize hobbies and sleeping schedules, thermostat settings and toothpaste caps (on or 
off?). I especially enjoy watching a couple cancel out each other’s vote in an election—each 
one a member of a different political party.
            An even more critical community is the church; for it is within this community that 
Jesus has chosen to express His saving work (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:25-28.) Keep in mind, 
before God established the church, he established the community of Israel to call lost people 
all over the world to find a relationship with Him through His group of “called-out” ones.
            God specifically instructed the members of His community to be a light to the world. 
They were called to call foreigners to join their community and find God.            
            But foreigners were so enormously different! Yes; still, God issued that call.
            Unfortunately, Israel would not tolerate the difference. To put it in fancy terms: Israel 
did not want heterogeneity; Israel wanted homogeneity. That is to say, Israel would not 
accept diversity. Israel insisted upon uniformity—to her own peril.
            Sadly, early in the first century, the community that we know as the church suffered from
 the same problem. Jesus told his disciples that they were to take His message of reconciliation
 to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to all corners of the earth. God had to allow persecution to 
arrive before those Jewish Christians would be willing to begin doing His will.
            Even after that, the Gentiles entering into the Kingdom created a crisis for the Jewish 
Christians. Many seemed culturally and temperamentally incapable of welcoming Gentiles, 
unless the Gentiles agreed to buy a view exactly like the Jews. This especially meant Jewish 
customs such as observation of the Sabbath and diet.
            Now, don't miss this. In the critical communities-marriage, Israel, and the church-
God consistently calls his people to relate in community with those who are different. 
Behold – the pattern!
            Paul fought many battles against those who refused to fellowship with Christians who 
were different. Again, to put it in fancy terms: many Christians, especially Jewish Christians
did not want heterogeneity; they wanted homogeneity. That is to say, they would not accept 
diversity. They insisted upon uniformity—to their own peril.
            It was this battle that motivated Paul to write letters such as Galatians, Ephesians, and 
Romans. Over and over again, Paul argued that through creation and community, God has 
called people to engage in relationships that create unity in spite of diversity.
            Indeed, God’s presupposition was that there would be no uniformity, only unity (see 
Eph. 2:11-22.), just like in marriage.
            It's funny, today so many in the Christian world disagree with gay marriage on a 
fundamental level. I certainly join with them in this opinion.
            Gay marriage goes against the creative work of God. In gay marriage, people do not 
seek heterogeneity; they seek homogeneity. They celebrate homosexuality instead of 
heterosexuality. This is wrong.            
            In gay marriage, two people are attempting to construct the most fundamental of 
relationships on the basis of uniformity. This move is a perversion of God's creative work. 
Anatomically, they are uniform. Hormonally, they are uniform. In terms of the culture of gender, 
they are uniform.
            This was not the way God intended it. We get that.
            Nevertheless, some church members who blanch at the subject of gay marriage, 
without irony, fight tooth and nail for uniformity in a community in which God did not call for
uniformity–the church. These members want homogeneity not heterogeneity.
            God calls people of different races, languages, cultures, genders, and political positions 
to come to the cross and form a unified community. Yet, there are Christians who would pervert 
the gospel by insisting that Christians eliminate differences.
            In some extreme cases, the call is to eliminate different races within the same church. 
In other cases, and this is more prevalent, it is the insistence that members hold the same 
positions on as many issues as possible—even those that are opinion issues. ESPECIALLY 
            Uniformity! With it–there is no need for unity.
            With uniformity (homogeneity), Christians are attempting to enjoy the love of God as 
expressed through people in His church in a way that is artificial. Anytime we force members 
to be uniform, we do not experience the real thing. It is a shallow, sad imitation.
            Many Christians, who are physically repulsed at the thought of same-sex marriage are 
totally oblivious to the fact they are trying to achieve the same thing on a spiritual level: they 
are trying to force community through uniformity (forcing homogeneity instead of heterogeneity.)
            I wonder if God is spiritually repulsed by that?
Five Things I Think I Think
(with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. For some reason, I can’t get fired up about college football this year. The BCS race just 
doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it has something to do with the Southeast Conference West having 
the top three teams.
2. Still, I wish I could have seen the Baylor/OU game Saturday night. Robert Griffin III is a MAN.
3. Nice to see Vince Young enjoy some success again. That was a crucial drive he led against 
the Giants last night.
4. Haleigh is in town, so we started over the weekend watching the second season of 24 on 
Netflix. What do I do this? I’m going to bed so late every night. I can hear Haleigh’s voice 
reverberate in my head, “Oh, come on! Let’s just watch one more episode.”
5. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Be safe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Serendipity of Compliance

Serendipity—“The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”
Compliance—“The act or process of submitting, conforming or adapting to a desire, demand, proposal, or regimen as required or requested”

Yesterday, Steve Ridgell spoke to our church. I first heard Steve Ridgell speak when he came to do a youth meeting at my home church in Winnsboro, TX back in the summer of 1978. 
I must admit, I did not want to go. This took place over the last free week I had of the summer. I had just resigned from my job sacking groceries at Brookshires–a very important job I might add–so that I might enjoy one last week of vacation before football two-a-days started. However, for the sake of compliance, I attended our youth meeting. 
The first thing I heard Steve do was teach a Bible class. I thought to myself, “Okay, this is not so bad.” 
Next I heard him preach a sermon. Then I thought to myself, “Hey, this is really pretty good.” 
Before too long, I was attending, not because of compliance, but because of desire. Through serendipity, my compliance would lead to a life changing experience. My relationship with Christ was restored; additionally, I grew to be very close friends with Steve Ridgell. He became my mentor and began to disciple me. This influence helped me decide to become a preacher, which was to ultimately become my profession. I know many in Christianity are not big fans of compliance, nor should we be. 
Sometimes, though, compliance can be a good thing. I know I am thankful that as a 17-year-old in the summer before my senior year, I was compliant. It changed my life.
Five Things I Think I Think
(with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. So, anything happened at Penn State last week?
Wow, how quickly things change. When I was writing my “five things” last week, Penn State was barely on the radar. Now the winningest college football coach of all time has been fired. How tragic it had to end this way. 
I saw over the weekend that Barry Switzer reacted in an interview in this way: “Having been in this profession a long time and knowing how close coaching staffs are, I knew that this was a secret that was kept secret. Everyone on that staff had to have known, the ones that had been around a long time.” 
I never thought I would see the day when Barry Switzer would chastize Joe Paterno on matters of morality—and be right.
I saw a story yesterday where Joe Paterno was compared to a character in a Greek tragedy. That is probably an apt comparison, but the ultimate victims of tragedy are the boys. I know my prayers go out to the families of the victims. 
2. As I've mentioned last week in a tweet, someone had a great idea for Penn State—hire Tony Dungy. That would restore respect to the University. His reputation is impeccable—perhaps greater than Paterno’s was at its peak. Not only that, I see Dungy’s hire as coming the closest to recruiting better football players than any other coach I can think of.
3. I have begun reading Walter Isaacson's biography on Steven Jobs. I say “reading;” actually, I checked out the unabridged audio book from the public library. Let me sum up in one word my opinion about 1/5 of the way through–spectacular! Just an absolutely fascinating and incredible read. 
My favorite unknown tidbit so far–as a young man, Steve Jobs attempted many faddish diets. One of them was a fruit diet that supposedly eliminated any problems with mucus; moreover, it supposedly eliminated body odor. Consequently, Jobs became convinced he only needed to bathe once a week. Furthermore, he was convinced he had no need for deodorant. 
There was absolutely no other human being on the planet who agreed with Jobs. Consistently…constantly… to his face… behind his back, people complained about his body odor. Keep in mind, this was occurring while Stephen Jobs and Steve Wozniak were founding Apple.
You think you've got problems? Consider this–you want to introduce a product that will change the world, and you've got bad body odor.
4. I find myself wanting to see the movie J. EDGAR. Perhaps if I knew more about it, I would not.
5. Thanks Steve and Marsha Ridgell for visiting us at Shiloh this past weekend. Steve, you hit it out of the park in your seminar on “Sharing our Story.” You've got a great ministry at Herald of Truth. Marsha, you've got a great ministry in the Kingdom of God.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boy and a Box

           Last month, the news reported an event that made me think of something I heard Tommy Nelson tell about in a sermon over twenty years ago.
        A church had welcomed a little six-year-old boy who had begun attending their church. Members observed something erratic about his behavior, so they decided to find out more about him.
         Some of the members asked the boy about his parents. The boy told them that his mother was dead and that his aunt was raising him.
         They asked him, "Where do you live?"
He replied, "I live in a box."
         "How big a box?"
         The boy used his hands to indicate how big the box was.
         They asked, "You sleep there?"
         "No, I live there."
         "You eat there?"
         "When do you get out?"
         "When I go to the bathroom. When I go to church."
         Now, these church members took into account they were speaking with a six-year-old. Consequently, they decided to visit the boy’s house.
         When they arrived, they found this little boy was not living in a box; instead, he was living in a casket—in a coffin. His mother had died when he was born. His aunt was granted custody. She thought that he was brain damaged.
         In her perverted way of coping with a fallen world, she purchased an old, unsold casket and made the boy live inside. She would feed him, and then she would put the lid down on the coffin. The boy never complained for one simple reason—his aunt had told him that all little boys lived in boxes.
         The story is awful; yet, like Tommy Nelson, I have met many people symbolically experiencing that life. They live in a casket—and don’t even realize it. They live life believing that once you go into a casket, you will never come out.
         They believe this is normal because they are surrounded by people, who, just like them, live in doubt and fear of death.
         I want you to know – I do not live my life in a casket! I know that even though a time will come when I will be placed in a coffin, someday Jesus will bring me out.
         Shortly before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Lazarus’ sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25.) I believe that, and I live my life without fear of death.
Five Things I Think I Think 
(with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. The event that made me think of Tommy Nelson’s story was the sad case in Pennsylvania of a mother and stepfather accused of locking her seven-year-old son in a coffin-- Regardless of what the courts determine, this is a sad event.
2. Two books I have recently begun reading, having checked them out from our local library:           
        One is by Tim Tebow—THROUGH MY EYES. It has been a very good read so far. I am especially impressed with Tebow’s descriptions of former Alabama coach Mike Shula. Tebow came within an eyelash of playing for Shula at Alabama. One reason was the basic decency and Christian faith that Shula demonstrated.            
        Whoa! Would not college football have been different had Tebow chosen Alabama?
       The other book, from journalist Jim Newton, is called EISENHOWER: THE WHITE HOUSE YEARS. Newton’s book is mesmerizing.
      Having access to some recently declassified documents, it crackles with a spirit of freshness and authenticity I have not encountered in previous Eisenhower biographies—and I have read a few. The work confirms what many historians have begun arguing a couple of decades ago. Far from being a detached president, Eisenhower was in total command of his White House and presidential policy.
3. Every time I see THE TRUMAN SHOW, I am reminded how great a motion picture it is.
4. Two years in, and I have digitalized half of my audiotape library. This is taking a lot longer than I thought. I had no idea how many audiotapes I had collected through the years.
5. Congratulations ETCA girls. Even though you lost in the state semi-finals last weekend, you have taken the program to new heights.