Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Cardiac Arrest on the Field

I was casually half-watching Monday Night Football last night when there was an injury timeout. Nothing unusual about that. After the commercial break, the player was still on the field. Another commercial break. This turned out to be an extraordinary event. In a very short time, no one cared about the game. All that mattered was the life and health of Damar Hamlin.

This might be the day that changed football. 

For a few years, I've had this growing discomfort with football. I've always enjoyed the sport. I don't think I missed one game while I was in college. I had fantasy football teams for a few years (but I was not really good at it).

The sport has become more violent because athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster. They train, work out, and eat solely for the sake of football. Even the improved helmets and stricter enforcement of penalties--like roughing the passer--cannot stop serious injuries. Seems like there is a flag on every other play. Concussion protocols help prevent reinjuries, but players still get hammered.

But when you take a step back and really look at this sport, it can seem really strange. Here are grown men, using brute strength and careful strategy to push around other grown men. Rules govern the pushing and tackling, but it is inherently a violent sport. Coaches work to fire up their teams and get adrenalin pumping. Anger can be a powerful motivator. 

These men willingly do this, and the professionals are paid handsomely for their trouble. But they put themselves in harm's way for our entertainment. We cheer on the hits. We marvel at the athleticism. A few years ago a friend told me that she would not watch the NFL anymore. Although she loved the sport, she felt like the players were gladiators and she could no longer be a party to the spectacle. 

Neurologists tell us that the human mind does not develop a full understanding of risk until age 25. (It's no wonder that Olympic gymnasts are all younger than that.) Hamlin is 24. He, according to neurological science, does not yet have the capacity to evaluate the level of physical threat to his body.

But we cheer on these young men, because it's fun to watch.

Andrew Luck shocked the world of sports when he retired from the NFL before turning 30. Luke Kuechly did the same thing. 

As Bengals and Bills stood in tearful, prayerful silence last night, surely they were thinking, "That could have been me." Maybe they saw for a moment how little football matters. In terms of world history, even the most monumental sports feats will be mere footnotes. In 100 years no one will care. But maybe they will care if Damar Hamlin survives.

It will be interesting to see if attitudes toward this sport change, among athletes or fans. 

Last night's game will not soon be forgotten. But I expect we will still watch the Super Bowl.




Saturday, December 31, 2022

Auld Lang Syne

In just a few hours, we will be moving on to 2023. And I have a confession to make: I don't know the words to Auld Lang Syne. 

I looked them up, and I mostly recognize them. But, wow, we don't talk like this anymore. In my exhaustive research of about 5 minutes, I have determined that this was originally a Scottish folk song. And the language resembles what we think of as English. 

As far as I can tell, this is a conversation between old friends, sharing a drink and reminiscing. Sharing our hearts deepens our relationships. And reflecting on life helps us know ourselves. 

New Year's is a time to think about what life is all about. It's a time to get beneath the daily grind, and see what the grind is yielding. Is it worth it? Do we like who we are becoming? Are our relationships becoming more healthy? Are we learning from our hardships? Are we becoming more kind or more harsh? 

Take a cup o' kindness with a friend, and share your heart. You might slow down enough to wake up.



https://www.wesh.com/article/lyrics-to-auld-lang-syne/42373384

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne.

CHORUS

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne.

We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I'll be mine!

And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

REPEAT CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes

And pu'd the gowans fine

But we've wander'd mony a weary foot

Sin auld lang syne.

REPEAT CHORUS

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn

Frae mornin' sun till dine.

But seas between us braid hae roar'd

Sin auld lang syne.

REPEAT CHORUS

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie's a hand o' thine!

And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,

For auld lang syne.

REPEAT CHORUS

Should old acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And long, long ago.

REPEAT CHORUS

And for long, long ago, my dear

For long, long ago.

We'll take a cup of kindness yet

For long, long ago.

And surely youll buy your pint-jug!

And surely I'll buy mine!

And we'll take a cup of kindness yet

For long, long ago.

REPEAT CHORUS

We two have run about the hills

And pulled the daisies fine;

But we've wandered manys the weary foot

Since long, long ago.

REPEAT CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since long, long ago.

REPEAT CHORUS

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!

And give us a hand of yours!

And we'll take a deep draught of good-will

For long, long ago.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

My Favorite Podcasts

I love learning and understanding, so the podcast tsunami of recent years has given me a lot to drink from. I listen to podcasts while emptying the dishwasher, riding down the road, weeding the garden, or working out. I gravitate toward info about the Bible, farming, business, science, and culture. So here are some podcasts I enjoy. Let me know your favorites, too!

Radio Lab

I like science, and these hosts playfully engage with fun questions about science.

 

The History of Rome

Host Mike Duncan takes you through the story of Rome, from the myths and legends to the fall of Rome in the fifth century. This is an old podcast, with a whopping 179 episodes, but it was good. I was so ignorant about Rome, this filled in lots of gaps for me.

 

Freakonomics

As an econ major in college, I like economists’ objective analysis of data. Not all economists are boring.

 

Gospel in Life with Tim Keller

In his sermons, Pastor Tim Keller digs into the scripture, often sharing deep insights that I have never heard.

 

Word of Life Church with Pastor Brian Zahnd

In his sermons Brian gives deep insights with his study of history and early church fathers. He gives me more appreciation for the church calendar.

 

Stetzer Church Leader podcast

Ed Stetzer interviews guests, often authors of recent books, and finds ways to apply new ideas to church life.

 

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership podcast

Carey interviews guests and brings guiding insights for leaders, including church leaders.

 

Bear Grease

Clay Newcomb digs into fascinating history about hunting and pioneers. While his episodes about straight-up hunting don’t interest me, I loved his biographies of Daniel Boone and Holt Collier.

 

Another Name for Everything with Richard Rohr

Two of Rohr’s disciples pick Fr. Richard’s brain about his ideas of the Universal Christ. I don’t always agree with Fr. Richard, but I respect his sincere love for Jesus.

 

The Bible Project

Yeah, this is probably my favorite podcast. I found it early in 2022 and I have listened to hundreds of episodes. Dr. Tim Mackie, a Bible scholar, and Jon Collins, a curios Bible student dig into the Bible as literature. “We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.”

 

Exploring My Strange Bible with Tim Mackie

Mackie served as a teaching pastor for a number of years, and this is a catalog of his sermons.

 

Thriving Farmer podcast

Sometimes there is good stuff on this podcast, and I really need to learn more about farming. It often digs into topics that are not relevant to me, but I like their bias against using chemicals.

 

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm tells good stories and always includes some unexpected angles. I like his books, too.

 

Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam interviews authors of books about the mind. Seems like humanity is just beginning to understand how we tick.  I have learned a lot about how my own brain works.

 

Norsworthy

Luke Norsworthy playfully engages his guests about deep topics. Some weeks he gives his own “rants,” some weeks he talks to old friends, and he often interviews authors. He has a gift for putting his guests at ease and asking them challenging questions.

 

This American Life

I haven’t quite figured out the vibe of this podcast, but it is one of the most well-established shows available. Some weeks the stories are great, sometimes I skip them.

 

On Script

This is a very Bible-nerdy podcast, and sometimes it has great content. It doesn’t always have the energetic tone that grips the listener, but it has some good stuff.


Sunday, October 16, 2022

Ukrainian Victory

The war in Ukraine has surprised the world.  Russia is probably more surprised than anyone. Putin apparently expected to crush the Ukrainian resistance in short order. Even the U.S. offered to help Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy flee his country. He declined, vowing to fight the invaders and restore peace to his country. His bold defiance of Russian aggression has inspired his people.

Reports today indicate that Ukraine has retaken from Russia 100 towns and villages in just 10 days. The Ukrainian soldiers are fighting for their homeland, for their families, for what is right. The Russians are fighting for a dictator who sanctions torture and destruction.

So Ukraine has truth and justice on their side. This inspires their population to fight. 

But fighting changes us. If Ukraine has been a peaceful people, they have been forced to change. They have to think in terms of violence, deception, and brute strength. I wonder if the necessary Ukrainian resistance will permanently change Ukrainian culture. 

When a society leans into violence, the heart of their culture shifts. They learn to rely on guns and force as a means of survival. When this war is over, the Ukrainian people will not be the same. Of course fighting evil is better than surrendering to evil. But they must also resist the temptation to solve future problems with the use of force. Too often humans come to embody the very evil they fight. 

I cheer for the defiance of the Ukrainians, but I hope they can restore the peaceful soul of their nation.



  

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A New Chapter

It has been a spectacular honor to minister in the name of Jesus in the community of Stokesdale. In 1999 my family and I moved here to begin a new church. Church planting was beginning to take off, and I was inspired to take this leap after reading The Purpose-Driven Church, by Rick Warren. New neighborhoods were sprouting up in northwest Guilford Co., and we wanted to reach them with the gospel.

We are now ready to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders at Crossroads. Our new pastor, Nick Rabah, is transitioning into the role of lead pastor of Crossroads. Over the next six months he will gradually take on more and more pastoral responsibility, bringing a wealth of ministry experience and energy.

I look forward to seeing God's work continue with Crossroads as we begin this new chapter.

Nick's first sermon as our pastor will be this Sunday, Oct. 2, and I hope you will worship with us!



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Abortion and Abuse of Power

In recent years we have heard a lot about power in relationships. The #MeToo movement revealed accepted patterns of men abusing their power with women. Parents misuse their power when they abuse their children. Elected officials routinely abuse their power when influencing legislation or policy. In nursing homes helpless residents have been abused by staff who have physical power. 

Some have called for the strong to exercise "power with" others rather than "power over" others. This sounds like empowerment and helping the weak become strong. Jesus never used his power over other people, but often shared that power with his disciples and common people. He used his power to heal, to encourage, to confront evil, to challenge.

There are many ways in which one person can have power over others. Sometimes it is positional power, as a boss over his direct reports. It can be implicit power, such as a well-dressed person may have over a poorly-dressed person. It can be power of knowledge, when an informed person can take advantage over the ignorant. It can be power of maturity, when an experienced person can out-maneuver a rookie. It can be physical strength, allowing for the kind of abuse found in nursing homes. 

Power, of course, can be used helpfully, productively. CNAs can bring comfort to nursing home residents. Police can diffuse a crime in progress with a display of force. Bosses can empower their employees. 

But power can go wrong. When the strong use their strength to harm the powerless for their own advantage, that looks like abuse of power.

Abortion always involves people with power using that power to harm the powerless. That happens every time. There may be circumstances that would justify that use of power. But too often abortion is a raw, violent abuse of power, allowing the powerful to avoid undesired circumstances. How could that be transformed into "power with" instead of "power over"?



Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Get Ready for the Test

We study for tests. We want to be prepared. We want to do well. You cram for final exams. You memorize for the driver’s license test. When you know the test is coming, you can get ready.

But some tests are sneaky. You don’t even know you are being tested. Your boss may give you an impossible task, just to see how you will respond. Could you make the impossible deadline? Your parents let you stay home alone to see how you handle the responsibility. Did you trash the house with 50 of your closest friends? These sneaky tests reveal what’s really inside of you.

The Bible (and all literature) is full of people who were being tested. Would Cain resist anger’s demands, or would he kill his brother? Would Abraham and Sarah trust God to give them a son, even though they were so old? Would Abraham trust God and follow his order to sacrifice Isaac? Would David conquer his lust or commit adultery? Would Peter acknowledge his friendship with Jesus?

All the major Bible characters were tested. We read their stories and watch them struggle. How could they be so blind? How could they not see God’s loving protection? How could they be so short-sighted? These were God’s sneaky tests for them. If they had known it was a test, they could have prepared themselves. They could have faced the circumstances from the standpoint of faith. They could have chosen to seek God’s direction and to listen to his voice.

Recently I realized that my life is a series of tests of my faith. The same goes for you. These don't have to be sneaky tests, because now we know God is watching. Will I cave in to my fears or will I trust God to take care of me? It’s all a test—every misunderstanding, disappointment, unmet expectation, broken promise, harsh word, failed attempt, accident, sickness. How will I respond?

Then again, good things are tests—every opportunity, success, happy coincidence, friendship, resource, kind word, healthy report, smiling face, met goal. How will I respond?

When I read the tragic stories, I want to tell the characters, “Don’t do it! Can't you see what’s really happening?” Now I know that I am that character. These tests reveal what's really inside of me.

God grant me the grace to trust you through the test!