Friday, December 31, 2010



It was a year of change, a year of joy, a year of struggles, a year of memories.  Yes, much like every year.  In short, it was the latest of the small number of years God has granted us to live on this earth.  We need to savor every one of them.  With that in mind, here is a short list of things that stood out to me about the year that just ended.

  1. Africa.  For two weeks this summer I entered a world that my imagination could never have done justice.  I learned so much from the kids and people we met there, and I have been changed forever.  A part of me will always be there, and I know God wants me to permanently be a part of bringing his love to the people there, and also orphans everywhere.  I'm still learning, but that two weeks changed my life.
  2. Pasadena.  I was blessed to begin the year by traveling to Cali with my nieces, dad, and a very good friend.  I love Alabama football and the tradition of excellence it stands for.  To experience a national championship in the place where the Tide's championship tradition began, and to do so with those close to me, was unforgettable.  "Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then."
  3. Europe.  Remember that cloud of volcanic ash that shut down airports over there for about a week?  Yeah, I was one of those who got stuck.  (And yes, I know there are worse fates.)  I will tell the whole story on this blog one day, hopefully soon.
  4. Tuscaloosa.  I spent more time than usual there the first half of this year, because of a relationship with an amazing woman there.  I leaned alot of from that time, and wouldn't trade it for anything.  I also spent time there doing some calculus with my niece who, as an environmental engineer,  will one day save the world from unsafe water.
  5. LOST.  The television show I consider to be the greatest in history came to an end, and for me, it did not disappoint.  The thing that caused this to make the list however, was not (as awesome as it was) the show.  It was an amazing evening as friends and family gathered at my house for a big finale party.  That was a night to remember, and I'll always be glad I shared it with y'all.
  6. Facebook and Twitter.  Yeah, I know.  Waste of time.  Scrambles our brains. Scourge of the earth.  All that may be true (and definitely is if we don't keep in moderation), but I have so, so many friends that I would be out of touch with without these tools.  Let's face it - ten years ago, when a friend moved away, most of the time we would drift apart.  Not anymore, at least for me.  So to all my online friends, I am grateful for you and your daily encouragement.
Yes, it was a great year.  And I am not even touching on all the things that make my life great year after year: my awesome family, my church, my career, and of course God's love, mercy, and grace.  Those things are constants, and 2010 was no exception.

So goodbye 2010.  Welcome 2011.  I can't wait to see what you have in store.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On their way...

Tonight my heart and mind is in Washington, D.C.  No, not because of concern over our country's leadership.  Or because of the Biblical command to pray for our government.  Goodness knows those are good reasons, but tonight, it's something else.  You see, I have friends who are there as a stop on their way back to Africa.

A  mere six months ago, my life was changed by two weeks in Africa.  I met some amazing people who made up our team.  We met and loved on children, most of them orphans, who needed to see God's love in the flesh.  It's a mystery how a short time with these children can make a difference, but I can attest that God used our team in amazing ways.  One of the best accounts of what he taught us is in this facebook note. Yes, he planted in our hearts a love for Africa and his children there.

None of us will ever be the same.  One is moving rapidly toward going back there permanently.  Another, not yet out of high school, has plans to spend several months there next summer.  At least a couple more believe God's plan for them ultimately is a life serving him overseas.  Another is adopting a second child as a result.  I am planning to return next summer myself.

But tonight, I have five good friends on the way, and another leaving tomorrow.  (This is the trip I was referring to in the next-to-last paragraph of this post.)  So, I ask you to join me in prayer.  Pray for Elissa, Jennifer, Nathan, Rachel, and Chip -- members of our summer team who are on their way back.  Pray for Frank, a friend of 25 years who introduced me to Visiting Orphans and is leading a second team leaving tomorrow.  Please pray for them to have strength, patience, good health, enthusiasm, and most of all that they would make a difference in the life of every child they meet.

If you want to follow them, I have a feeling there will be posts whenever possible here on the VO blog.  The internet service over there is very spotty, but I will be checking the blog frequently hopeful of updates.

God tells us the reaching out to widows, orphans, and the oppressed are the true expression of our faith.  For the next two weeks or so, I can do that by praying for my friends.  Join me, if you will.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The greatest story

No, the Bible isn't a book of rules or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a story.  It's an adventure story about a young hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It's a love story about a brave prince who leaves his palace, his throne, rescue the one he loves.  It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life.  You see, the best thing about this story is, it's true.  There are lots of stories in the Bible but everything is telling one big story: the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.  It takes the whole Bible to tell this story; and at the center of the story, there's a baby.  Every story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle, the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together; and suddenly, you can see a beautiful picture. (Andrew Peterson, opening narrative, Behold the Lamb)
 As we prepare the celebrate the birth of the Christ, I wish every reader the most joyous of times with your family or friends.  I wish you comfort for any pain that comes from loved ones whom you may miss this holiday season, either because of schedules or loss.  I pray that you will receive the joy of knowing that others love you enough to bless to bless you with gifts, and the greater joy that comes from giving them something that makes them happy.  But most of all, I pray that you will know fully the joy that comes from responding to the Hero's love in the true story that dominates history: God's pursuit of us to redeem and rescue us.

I heard the narrative above last Thursday while attending a performance of Behold the Lamb with friends.  Friends that share a passion for being God's hands and feet in rescuing his children.  It was followed by what may have been the most compelling musical telling of history's story that I've ever seen and heard. Amazing.  It traced the story all the way from Abraham to Jesus...and then to us.

At the emotional heart of this telling is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.  Sung from Mary's point of view, it reminds us that Christmas is not all angels and singing and a happy nativity scene.  It is the God who made the moon humbling himself to a very difficult birth in very difficult circumstances, because he loved us that much.  And, as Mary learned that night, obedience to him is not always easy, but it's worth it.

It's just below; as you watch the video and listen, may God bless you with an new awareness of how much he loves you, and how much he wants to bring us all home.  Merry Christmas!

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas dedication

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out,“Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6)
Yes, Christmas is about God sending his Son so that we can receive adoption as God's children through him.  Without Christ, we are all orphans.

So the video below is dedicated to Chip and Susan, who recently brought home a little girl from China to be theirs.  To Frank and Robin, who are doing a wonderful job raising their daughter Ella Grace, also from China. To Tymm and Laura, who are raising a daughter from Ethiopia and will soon travel back there to bring home another child.  To Corey and Sumer, who are in east Africa making sure many children (including my sponsored kids Brouk and Hagersaw) are in school for the first time this fall.  To Amanda and all my friends who are part of Visiting Orphans, bringing love to children all over the world.  And to countless others who live out God's heart, some of whom I'm sure I should be mentioning by name here.

This song is for y'all.  Merry Christmas!

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow

But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
And we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his life
And prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with him above

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No longer strangers

Today I met Jack, Mary, and their son Jacob.  I shared some appetizers and about two hours or so with them.  And I left convinced that this sort of thing does not happen enough.

As you must know, I am a college football fan.  There's nothing like it, and that includes the NFL.  But since I do love football, I watch the NFL when I have time, and I even pick some teams to root for.  What are my criteria?  Well, the first and most consistent is this: on what team do my favorite former Alabama players play?  (I remember being a Jets fan because of Joe Namath and then Richard Todd.)  Then, I root for the teams that my football-loving nieces like.  (These are usually determined by their favorite QBs: Patriots, Vikings, Chiefs...they ARE young women, after all. :))  Finally, having something in common with friends is important.  Based on all three of these, the Kansas City Chiefs are currently at the top of my list. (Four Bama players, Haley [Brodie Croyle], and four friends in the KC area)

What does this have to do with Jack and his family?

Well, today after church I went out to eat with some of my family and then went home hoping to watch the Chiefs game.  It was a huge game with playoff implications and I thought it might be on.  But instead, as usual, they just had to feature Peyton Manning.  (Don't get me started on Peyton Manning!)  So after trying to keep up with the score for a while, I headed to a local restaurant that has lots of TVs with every NFL game.  I planned to at least see the second half.

I got there and the KC game was on only a couple of screens.  I secured a table with a great view of one of them and settled in to munch on some chips and salsa.

About five minutes later, in came this family, a couple and a young man who appeared to be around 20.  The older man (Jack) was wearing a Chiefs jersey.  The best they could do was a table next to mine.  Immediately he started leaning waaaaaay back trying to see the TV directly in front of me.  So, of course, I invited them to sit with me so he could watch his Chiefs - after all it was why he came there.

Folks, the next two hours were remarkable.  The family lives in our area, but are obviously huge NFL fans.  Jack likes the Chiefs, his wife the Steelers, and their son the Dolphins.  We simultaneously watched our Chiefs win a crucial game, while Jacob watched his Dolphins get eliminated from the playoffs be missing four field goals.  Joy and pain at the same table, but all in fun.  We talked about what we were watching.  About other games and playoff scenarios.  About the huge contingent of Eagles fans over in the bar area.  And yes, a little about life and our families.  It was a great afternoon, and we departed as if we were old friends.

You know, I have heard my parents talk about the old days, before air conditioning and television.  It's hard to believe, but I think everyone did know their neighbors because in the summer they had to spend time outside in the shade to keep from burning up.  What do we do?  We go to restaurants, movies, sporting events, and even work with tunnel vision.  It's a wonder sometimes that we ever get to know anyone new.  How are we going to live out the gospel in our world if we never get to know anyone?

I caught a glimpse today.  No, we didn't have any deep conversations about spiritual matters.  Or really about anything else.  But for just a little while, we connected.  I met some folks and actually shared a meal (sort of) with strangers.  Or former strangers.  And I found out that it's not as uncomfortable as we make it out to be in our minds.  And maybe, just maybe, something about the way we related will make a difference with them.  As you can tell from this post, they definitely made a difference with me.

I'm glad I met Jack's family today.  They're pretty cool.  I pray that I'll remember the experience and be less consumed by living in my own little world.  If that happens, I won alot more than a football game today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oh the irony...

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
And isn't it ironic... don't you think
(Ironic, Alanis Morissette)

Let me tell you a story.  There once was an actuary who had worked at the same company for 23 years.  Over those 23 years, he had worked hard to build a rep.  It was his hope that people would think of him as hard working.  Fun. Compassionate. A decent communicator.  A good department head.  Someone who makes his boss look good.  But more than anything else, he expected that people would think he was good at math.

Why would he think that?  Well, if you didn't check out the link on the word actuary above, here's the short version: an actuary is a math geek who analyzes risk - usually for insurance.  That's right, a math geek.  So yeah, an actuary should be good at math.

Ok, now...check out the picture at the top of this post.  Look at it real close.  That's right -- at the bottom it says, "800 / 400 = 4.0".  WHAT?????

Our actuary used this chart in a presentation this morning.  In front of his boss, you ask?  Yes.  In front of his staff?  Oh yeah.  In fact, it was part of a presentation he was making to his company's monthly staff meeting -- an audience of over 100!  Yep...over 100.

So how ironic is that?  An actuary, whose primary job description is doing complex math, messes up a simple arithmetic calculation in front of everyone.  In writing!  No way to cover THAT up!

Well, by now I'm sure you've guessed that I'm the actuary.  It was pretty embarrassing.  Still is.  The only saving grace is the fact that I'm such a ham, and I'm always looking for chances to entertain.  So I latched on to the irony and commented, "There's nothing worse than an actuary who's bad at math."

There really isn't, is there?  As a pastor who did our staff devotional commented at breakfast, "It's like a preacher messing up reading John 3:16." But I am good at math.  I really am.  (Macy, don't stop asking me questions about your calculus!)

But sometimes, you just have to laugh.  Isn't it ironic?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All part of the experience

Not all Christmas traditions are family traditions, are they?  Of course our earliest ones are.  As children, we had no idea how much joy it brought our parents to see us excited about Christmas.  As they took around to look at lights, decorate our tree, and of course saw us open our presents, they would glow just watching us glow.

But over time, we develop more traditions, and one of my favorites is tonight.  Ever since my friend Tommy came home to Montgomery to lead YoungLife, he and his wife Andrea have hosted a Christmas party for YL leaders at their house.  He cooks very spicy and delicious chili - as I am only an hour or so from eating it, I can almost taste it now.  Grilled cheese sandwiches.  There are the usual delicious Christmas treats.  We talk, play games, and just hang out as a leadership team, and I always look forward to it.  And then, we always top off the night with our annual viewing of Christmas Vacation.

It's a classic and leaves me in stitches..  Along with Elf and It's a Wonderful Life, it is a must-see for Christmas season.  Fortunately, because of our tradition, I don't have to worry about when I'll fit it in.

So, as I head out for Tommy's house, I'll leave you with a quote from the movie:
Ellen: Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down. 
Clark: That's all part of the experience, honey.
Yes, it is all part of the experience.  And I love it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where did THAT come from?

Church Christmas musicals...a time-honored tradition.  I have been singing in them and going to see them ever since I can remember.  They are a huge part of getting into the Christmas spirit.  Christmas carols.  Trees.  Riding around looking at decorations.  Giving and receiving gifts.  Christmas Eve communion.  Nativity scenes.  Watching Christmas Vacation with friends.  All bring vivid feelings of the season, but the Christmas musical can hold its own with all of them.

Last night was the first of two presentations of this year's Frazer musical, The Bell and the Rose.  We presented the same program last year, and it went so well that we are doing it again.  (I personally think it's such an awesome story that we could make it a tradition.  My two cents.)  Instead of presenting a nativity scene punctuated by music, it tells a very moving story of how a child and her family found the meaning of Christmas in the midst of great sorrow.

I have rehearsed this musical many times now.  We performed it twice last year.  We had full run-throughs Wednesday and Friday.  I think I know it well enough to sing it in my sleep. And so I was blindsided by what happened last night.

It was about 3/4 of the way through the program, and we were singing Star of Bethlehem.  Out of nowhere, I realized that my eyes were welling up.  There was surge of emotion that I did not expect, especially because I was already so familiar with the music, the script, and the wonderful good news behind the story.  Where did THAT come from?

As the program proceeded and I sang with even more passion that usual (I do get into it), I began to realize where it did come from.  The message of the gospel was digging into my heart as well as my mind.  You see, I suddenly was identifying with the characters in our story.  Like the child character Caroline, I have seen sadness in the midst of the season's joy.  There was the first Christmas after my sister's death.  There was the Christmas five years ago when my mother was very ill and we had to have family Christmas Eve at the hospital.  Then, on December 13, 2006, she went to be with the Lord.  That's four years tomorrow.  Finally, I felt my mind drifting to a close friend who is dealing with some very heavy burdens this Christmas season.

So, like Caroline, I have been there.   Questioning God.  Angry.  Sad.  Holding it in because I'm supposed to be strong.  And I see friends in exactly the same place.

And it moved me.  Suddenly, the good news was not something I knew, it was something I felt.  Yes, the Christmas story is much more than angels, shepherds, magi, and a baby in a manger.  It is a child who grew up to die for me, and so he does understand all my pain.  And he came to give me hope and a future.

What an awesome story!  And what an amazing thing to celebrate!

Yes, Christmas is a tough time for alot of people - I know, I've been there.  I didn't know, but it must have bubbling below the surface for me last night.   I am thankful that God doesn't leave us in the sadness, but with a Savior who grew up to give us a life full of meaning and hope.

Thank you, Father!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Bell and the Rose 2010

The Bell and the Rose promotional from Frazer UMC on Vimeo.

If you're near Montgomery, come out tonight or tomorrow night at 7 pm.  This is the second year we've done this wonderful musical to help get you in ther Christmas spirit.  It combines the warm feelings of Christmas music and images with a powerful message about God being in the midst of our struggles.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where were you when...?

I remember the night very clearly.  It was 30 years ago today, and I was watching Monday Night Football, and the New England Patiots were about to line up for an important 4th quarter kick against the Miami Dolphins.  MNF was only about 10 years old, and it was in its prime.  Then, suddenly, they interrupted their discussion of the game to make this announcement. (Please take a moment to view the video in the link.)  The infamous announcer Howard Cosell rocked the world by telling us that something more important than football had taken place.  John Lennon, "perhaps the most famous of the Beatles" (Cosell's words) had been murdered outside his New York apartment.

In a moment, a whole nation - really, a whole world - was faced with the fact that a cultural icon of Lennon's stature had been taken from us at a young age.  Senseless.  Tragic.

But the really remarkable thing about the announcement was where it came from.  You see, the story had been discovered by an ABC News reporter, and so his network had the scoop.  So the first reporting of this shocking story was from a football game.  By a football announcer.  And I was watching live.

(Side note: It was revealed later that the announcers discussed whether to interrupt the flow of the game to break the story.  Cosell expressed that he didn't think there would be a good opportunity in such an important game at such a critical juncture.  In hindsight, how dumb would THAT have been?)

It was one of those unforgettable moments -- when those occur, we all remember where we were when we heard, don't we?  9/11The Oklahoma City bombing.  The Columbine massacreOJ Simpson's car chaseThe disapperance of Flight 815 on 9/22/2004. (Ok, that last one was fiction....I think. :))

What is it about such events that make our memories so vivid?  I don't remember where I was when I found out who won the 2008 Presidential election.  I sure don't remember who won the last 10 Super Bowls.  But when there is a cataclismic even that shakes our world view, we know every detail - not just about the event, but about our own circumstances.

It's the way we were created; no doubt about that.  And I think it gives us some insight into the nature of life.  I believe God gives us an infinite number of moments that can define our lives.  For the rest of our lives and into eternity, the ones where we are really living stick with us.  If we hurry through life, just functioning, just focusing on the next task, life will speed by and be a blur.  The only moments we will hang on to will be the ones that are sprung on us from the media or through the tragic events of our own lives. will we live?  Will we just function?  Work, play, sleep....repeat?  Or maybe, just maybe, we could live in the moment, absorbing the richness of what God has provided.  Moments of just being with family.  Long deep conversations with friends.  The beauty of God's creation.  Fellowship with Him in prayer.  The joy of helping "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40).

I remember that December night when John Lennon died so vividly.  I pray that I will be intentional about making sure that my life is not made up of sleepwalking in between moments like that, but instead thousands of moments that reflect the purpose for which I was made.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas songs, part I

This is unofficially the 2,109,004th blog post in history about someone who "loves this time of the year".  But that's just because it is awesome!

One of the best parts is Christmas music.  I love all kinds,  I love music with lyrics about the miracle of God inhabiting the body of a baby.  I love songs about snow, even though we almost never get any.  I love songs about Santa, and reindeer....the whole ball of wax.

Later in the month, as the date approaches, I plan to share a little about the music I love because of the message of Christmas.  But to kick off the season, here is my favorite goofy, fun, totally-without-meaning Christmas song.  It's called Elf's Lament, and here 's a video of it, with lyrics right below it.  Merry Christmas...enjoy!

Elf's Lament Lyrics:
I'm a man of reason, and they say "'Tis the season to be jolly"
But it's folly when you volley for position

Never in existence has there been such a resistance
To ideas meant to free us
If you could see us, then you'd listen

Toiling through the ages, making toys on garnished wages
There's no union
We're only through when we outdo the competition

I make toys, but I've got aspirations
Make some noise
Use your imagination
Girls and boys, before you wish for what you wish for
There's a list for who's been
Naughty or nice, but consider the price to an elf

A full indentured servitude can reflect on one's attitude
But that silly red hat just makes the fat man look outrageous

Absurd though it may seem, you know, I've heard there's even been illegal doping
And though we're coping, I just hope it's not contagious

You try to start a movement, and you think you see improvement
But when thrown into the moment, we just don't seem so courageous

I make toys, but I've got aspirations
Make some noise
Use your imagination
Girls and boys, before you wish for what you wish for
There's a list for who's been
Naughty or nice, but consider the price to an elf

You look at yourself
You're an elf
And the shelf is just filled with disappointing memories
Trends come and go, and your friends wanna know why you aren't just happy making crappy little gizmos
Every kid knows they'll just throw this stuff away

We're used to repetition, so we drew up a petition
We, the undersigned, feel undermined
Let's redefine "employment"

We know that we've got leverage, so we'll hand the fat man a beverage
And sit back while we attack the utter lack of our enjoyment

It may be tough to swallow, but our threats are far from hollow
He may thunder, but if he blunders, he may wonder where the toys went

I make toys, but I've got aspirations
Make some noise
Use your imagination
Girls and boys, before you wish for what you wish for
There's a list for who's been
Naughty or nice, but consider the price
Naughty or nice, but consider the price
Naughty or nice, but consider the price to an elf

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A suggestion

Only a few short months ago, I started blogging.  In earnest.  With my own site and everything.  I had dabbled with facebook notes, and before that, myspace posts.  (Myspace?  Sounds like 8-track tapes now!)  I've enjoyed it, and hope some of you have too.

It's a pretty big commitment, if you do it right.  You want to make it interesting.  You want to write enough to keep people interested, but not so much as to overwhelm your friends.  You want it to entertain. You hope that sometimes it'll even make a difference.

My friend Hillary Kate has started a blog this weekend, and I checked it out last night.  She is a student at the University of Alabama, and is the friend and roommate of some pretty cool gals (my nieces Haley and Macy).  She is a smart, funny, interesting young lady, so I know her blog will be the same.  It has definitely started out that way.

It's called The Ginger Chronicles, and in addition to this link, it's listed to the left of the page.  Check it out - I think you'll enjoy it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's all about the process

The 2010 football season is approaching the end.  This is sad in and of itself.  There is nothing like college football, and every fall it goes by way too fast.  So as I sit here at home on the eve of the conference championship games, it's time to reflect a little.  I'm not in Atlanta as I expected to be (and expect to be most years), but I am very much looking forward to finding out where Alabama will go bowling.  And looking forward to that trip.  And tomorrow, I will enjoy a full day of watching football with friends, without the emotional attachment that comes with a Bama game.

But first...a look back at highlights (and yes, lowlights) of 2010.

The season began in the glow of last year's BCS championship, and anticipation of the possibility of repeating.  There were major obstacles, including the fact that it had not been done in the BCS era.  An inexperienced defense.  A target on our backs.  And a tough road schedule against some of the best teams in the country.  For a summary of my preseason thoughts, check out this link.

Now don't worry -- I'm not getting ready to bore you with a week-by-week account of the games.  There are plenty of professional sportswriters who can do that for you.  Instead, here are a few highlights of the season from my standpoint:

  • The thrill of entering the newly expanded Bryant-Denny stadium for the first time, and seeing almost 102.000 fans scream their heads off, creating an environment that is unmatched in college football.  It gave me chills.

  • Seeing legendary coach Joe Paterno walk the sidelines of BDS, and the classic uniforms of his Penn State Nittany Lions.  A 24-3 win didn't hurt.

  • A hard-fought, come-from-behind road win at Arkansas -- an Arkansas team that turned out to be one of the best teams in the country.  As much fun as the game was, the real fun was in getting to travel with my Bama-crazed nieces and getting to tailgate with my friends Rob and Lauren.  It was an awesome day.

  • On that note, getting to take five road trips with the nieces made for great fun, even though we lost two of those games.  Those weekends are some of the best time I get with Macy, Haley, and Brooke.  We all had to admit that five trips in the span of eight weeks were a little much, and we were tired.  But there were some great memories made.

  • Absolutely destroying the Florida Gators at home on October 2.  Regardless of how Florida's season turned out, that was fun.

  • Beating Tennessee.  Always a highlight.

  • Having several friends from our Africa mission team come to Mississippi State game with us.  It was so much fun hanging out with Nathan, Jennifer, Elissa, Liz, and my new friend Emily.  And again, an impressive win by the Tide didn't hurt.

  • Making the 300 mile drive last Friday night so that I could see a second rivalry game in the same weekend -- the FSU win over Florida -- with my friend Steve and his family.  The Gators have not wanted to see me around lately. :)

As you probably know, there were lowlights as well, mainly three losses in a season where we were hoping to repeat as national champs...or at least win another SEC Championship.  Allowing LSU to break out of a 3rd and 13 hole late in that game was the killer to the season.  And then we finished it off last Saturday by blowing a 24-point lead against an in-state rival -- the biggest comeback the Tide has ever allowed.  Yeah, that wasn't much fun.

So, as I look back, I'm reminded of the words of Coach Nick Saban.  He always says that his players should focus on the process, not the results.  If you get the process right, the results follow.  Of course, he's talking about preparation and hard work -- the kind that leads to a team playing good football.  But you know what?  There's another process for me as a fan, one that I also need to focus on.  It's the process of enjoying the game, the atmosphere, the pageantry, and most importantly, the people I go to games with.

I love to win.  I enjoyed the heck of out of last year's championship season.  In fact, I've enjoyed all four Bama national championships that I've been privileged to see in person.  But I've enjoyed every single season in between too.  Win or lose, there is nothing like college football.

As I said, I am excited about one more game this season, at a location to be determined.  I'm even more excited about a very talented team that will take the field next year, with an excellent chance to return to championship form.  But more than that, I'm grateful for all the memories from another fun season, loads of time spent with friends and family.

Yes, Coach Saban, it is all about the process.  Roll Tide!

A borrowed post about a borrowed life

No new thoughts from me tonight.  However, I wanted to share some fantastic thoughts from my friend Tommy, who is founder of the Trans Mission, a ministry to high school seniors transitioning to college life.  His latest blog post was a great discussion of the nature of our life on earth. So I thought I'd share it with you.  I hope it grabs you like it did me.  Here is the link to his site:

My Borrowed Life


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Next Three Days

As Clark, Brian, and I headed to the movie theater last night, I wasn't completely sure about the wisdom.  Yes, I go to late movies alot, and yes, on weeknights.  But I had gotten a short night's sleep the night before, and this 11:00 movie was schedule to run over two hours.  Would it keep my attention?  Or would it become a $9 nap?

It was no contest.  There was never a time in the course of the next 2 hours where I was not on the edge of my seat.

As the trailer above illustrates, The Next Three Days was promoted for the action and tension of an escape attempt.  Lara Brennan (portrayed by Elizabeth Banks) is arrested and convicted of a murder her husband John (Russell Crowe) is sure she did not commit.  The evidence is overwhelming, and ultimately John feels compelled to break her out of prison and flee the country.  I expected the movie to center on the action of the escape and the flight.  I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it spent most of the time building the tension as John first experienced the hopelessness welling up, and then plotted every detail of the coming escape attempt.  Some might call that slow (and some reviews did).  I call it gripping, and masterful.  I was spellbound by the script, the building pace, and Crowe's acting.

The most compelling scene of the movie took place in the home of John's parents, and had no action.  It was powerful, and exemplified the brilliance of the film.  It featured one of the great actors of our time, Brian Dennehy, in a small role.

(Side note:  I've always been a fan of Dennehy, but especially after I got to see him on the Broadway stage in 1998.  I was privileged to see him perform the role of Willy Loman in the stage production of Death of a Salesman.  It was magnificent.)

When I saw early in the movie that Dennehy was playing the role of John's father, I knew there would be a scene to watch out for.  You don't put an actor of that caliber in a movie just for a warm body.  The promise was fulfilled as John was picking up his little boy from his parents' house the evening before the escape attempt.  His father (Dennehy) saw the plane tickets and realized what was up.  He knew he might never see his son again.  I cannot adequately describe the power of what took place next as he came face-to-face with John, possessing that knowledge.  And I wouldn't want to, because I would not want to spoil the experience for you.  Let me just say that the movie is worth seeing for this scene alone. far would you go for those you love?  When you make a decision that will affect the rest of your life, do you count the cost?  John Brennan had to.  If you really want to know what that means (or if you just want a captivating two hours of entertainment), see this movie.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"I have no responsibilities here whatsoever."

Do you have one of those movies?  One that if you flip past it on your TV, you can't resist stopping to watch it, no matter how many times you've seen it?  And you do this even though you already own it on DVD?

Yeah, mine is A Few Good Men.  This classic legal/military drama from 1992 has one of the best scripts ever, and has dozens of memorable and quotable lines.  (Yes, 1992...more on that later.)  I drop them in conversations all the time.  Like yesterday...

I was at church in Tallahassee and had a chance to chat with Mark, the pastor and a good friend.  It just so happens that he wasn't doing the message and so he was able to just worship and enjoy the day.  He described it by saying that had "no responsibilties" for the service.  Well, I couldn't resist -- I interjected the line "I have no responsibilities here whatsoever."  If you know the movie, you know this is what second counsel Sam Weinberg (played by Kevin Pollack) said about his role in the case as he was being introduced to JoAnne (Demi Moore).

Thus began a conversation about the fleeting nature of life.  We talked about the fact that this movie was 18 years old.  18 years!  How is that possible?  Then we talked about other movies that were ridiculously old.  Later that afternoon, while on a completely different topic, my friend Steve and I reminisced Thursday night TV shows from the 80s.  Hill Street Blues. LA Law.  The Cosby Show. And the beginning of ER.

Could those shows really be over 20 years old?  Does Steve really have a daughter in college?  Has it really been 28 years since Coach Bryant's passing?  Where the HECK is the time going?

Of course, we know the answer.  From Scripture:
The life of mortals is like grass, 
   they flourish like a flower of the field; 
the wind blows over it and it is gone, 
   and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:15-16)
Or , if you prefer, from the Steve Miller Band:
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' Into the future. (Fly Like an Eagle)
Yes, life is short.  We are only here for a brief time, and the longer we live, the more we know it.  For those of you who are really young (college, high school, etc.), it doesn't seem that way yet, does it?  Just a heads-up: the more you live, the faster it goes.  I don't know why.  Maybe life is like a roll of toilet paper -- the closer you get to the end, the faster it unrolls.  (Ever notice that?)  Maybe it's math -- every year is a smaller and smaller percentage of your life experiences.  (Math geek answer.)  Whatever the reason, it's true.  Guys, it was just Christmas!  Like last week.  No?  Well, it sure seems like it.

Yes, A Few Good Men has been around for 18 years.  Tom Cruise's future wife Katie Holmes was 13 years old. (Sorry, Tom, it's true.)

So, can you handle the truth?

Life moves on.  Faster and faster.  Knowing this, I want to make mine count.  I don't have as much time as I might think.  Lord, help me to redeem the time, and use it for your glory.