Monday, June 27, 2011

What a game

My niece Haley said it best in her tweet a few minutes ago. She said, "This is why there's nothing better than college sports. Especially in the #SEC. #hurryupfootball".

Tonight's college baseball game between South Carolina and Florida had it all. Drama, great plays, unbelievable intensity...and we got two extra innings of it to boot. (For details, here's a link to the game story.)

I won't deny the outcome was part of why I enjoyed it. I never cared much for Florida and also the Gamecocks are wearing a sticker on their helmet in recognition of the tornado tragedy in Alabama. But really - no matter how that game turned out, it was awesome competition.

There is at least one more game in the series tomorrow night. If you're free, do yourself a favor and catch it. And anytime you have a chance to watch SEC teams square off, watch! Even if it's a game of

'Cause there really is nothing like college sports.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One year ago today...

June 26, 2010. A date that changed my life forever. One year ago today, my niece Brooke and I arrived at the Atlanta airport to begin an amazing adventure in obedience to God. We were about to spend two weeks in Ethiopia and Uganda, loving children that most of the world has forgotten. It was difficult in so many ways, but rewarding in so many more. When you let go of the things you have been clinging to, it's amazing what God can do.

We met some incredible people in the process...pictured above. Three of them we met in Atlanta and became friends with them several hours before we met any of the others. As we all gathered at the gate in Dulles airport, it seemed like we had known each other forever. Many of these former strangers are now friends whom I love very much.

So here I am a year later. How much difference did that trip really make? Let's see. Most of us are now sponsoring children in a program that barely existed a year ago. One of us is leaving today, returning for a long term commitment through Project World Mission. Another, who just graduated from high school, is traveling with her to be there (I think) until her freshman year starts. Another is about to adopt her third child from there. And many more have traveled back for additional short terms.

Which brings me to this: Next weekend, I am returning for a week. I will get to meet my sponsored children. I will get to work for several days at a place I left my heart. I will get to see 5 members of last year's team, as well as friends who live there. And I will be part of a brand new team from whom I will probably make even more lifelong friends. I absolutely cannot wait! (But, as I like to say, I'll have to, right?)

I ask for your prayers for my friend who leaves today. And pray that as I go about my business this week my heart will be prepared to be open to what God wants me to do there.

What an awesome God - he can accomplish his purposes however he chooses, and yet he has allowed me to be a part of it. I'm overcome with praise and thankfulness. And counting the days.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A blog reference: "God and Culture: Falling Skies"

Every now and then I read a blog post so good that I have to point others to it. The one linked below says more than I could possibly have to say myself tonight. I love good stories, especially stories that address the deepest questions of life. After reading this post, I have decided to try the new TNT show Falling Skies for myself.

So here it is, a blog post from a friend of a friend (I've never met Ms. Andres). Hope you enjoy it as much as I did...and maybe you'll want to try the show too.

TV Snapshot: Falling Skies and Stories

Monday, June 20, 2011

One of those days

There I sat at my desk, responding to an email. Just to my left, the was scattering of coffee beans all over the floor of my office. And then a co-worker walked in and had a little something to say about it. But...let me back up.

This morning I woke up a little late and had to scramble to get ready for work. Not unusual. I left with plenty of margin for getting to work on time - and by " plenty" I mean maybe five minutes. As I backed out of the driveway and then put my car in drive, there was the warning light on my dashboard: Check tire pressure. I pushed a couple of buttons and saw on my display that the tire pressure in my right rear tire was only 4 psi. Not good - that's pretty much a flat tire. Dang!

To make a long story sho...well, not quite so long, I pulled over and started to change the tire. A neighbor came by and offered for me to use their portable air pressure device, and - yay! - it worked for me. I had a slow leak so I was able to put enough air in the tire to get to the shop. They found a nail in it, plugged it, and I was off. An hour and a half late for work, but hey, at least I got there.

When I got to work, I found a plethora of frustrations waiting for me. (That's right, I said "plethora". I don't get to use that word much.)  There was a 10:00 meeting coming up and I was not anywhere close to being prepared for it. I had been trying to set up and afternoon meeting and I was discovering that almost nobody who I needed to be there was going to be - which was going to affect my whole week if I couldn't find an alternative. I then stuck my head in a colleague's office to discuss a matter and, well, got my head bit off. When I got back to my office, the the carafe was out of coffee. Nooooo!

(Side note: I make my own coffee at work. Not because I'm cheap, but because I'm a coffee snob. I have a grinder so I literally grind the beans right before brewing. Sometimes I even do French press coffee.)

You can guess. This kind of stuff just happens on days like this. I got the canister with the beans out and as I was opening it, lost my grip. Idid manage to catch it before it hit the ground, but in the process I spilled a fair number of beans. As I was getting ready to clean up, I glanced over and saw an email that required my attention. Ok - email first, beans next.

And then one of our other actuaries walked in and he knew everything that had already happened. He roared with laughter and blurted out, "Your day sux!"

Thanks, Kevin. Yeah, that about sums it up. Can I do a reset?

But I did make the coffee. And it was pretty dang good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, 
   extol him who rides on the clouds[a]; 
   rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. 
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, 
   is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:4-5)

On this Father's Day 2011, I am so grateful for my father.

He and my mother instilled the values of our faith in me from the earliest days I can remember. He worked multiple jobs while I was young so that my mother could stay at home with their children (4 of us in a five year period!). And yet I never remember thinking that he was not around enough. When he was there he was there.

He began taking me to Alabama football games when I was 8 years old, something that had to be a bigger sacrifice financially than I could possibly have imagined as a child. In doing so, he gave me a gift that is with to this day, and has been passed on to our entire family. I still enjoy going to games with him.

I could go on and on. He showed how big his heart is during the most difficult times in his life, as he cared for his grandchild Holly during one period and then my mother in her last days. He gives himself completely to those he loves, and especially when they are most in need.

If I had to sum up in one word the most important image of God in the Scriptures, it's "Father". In fact, Jesus and Paul both made it very clear that he's not just our father, but he wants such an intimate relationship with us that he wants us to think of him as "Daddy". For those of us with loving fathers, that's a fantastic image.

But I have friends whose fathers are nothing like God. Abusive, distant, obsessed with work, self-absorbed, and even some who have abandoned their families. What about those people? How do they get past those things when they think about God? And how about the 147 million orphans in the world? They don't even have a father to compare to. What are they supposed to think?

I think we can find the answer in Scriptures like the one at the top of this page. When God says that he is our Father, he is not just drawing a nice, cozy analogy to give us the warm fuzzies. I believe that description is designed precisely to quench the desire that is in all of us for someone to love and protect us like a father. Even fathers who love us to the best of their abilities fall way short of God's ideal. You have a great father? Awesome! But his love for you is nothing...nothing...compared to your heavenly Father's love. So we all need God to love us, protect us, provide for us - do all the things a father does but way better.

So our Creator knows exactly what we need. He fills in the gap for us who have great, but not perfect, fathers. He pours out his love in bundles to those who have (or had) terrible fathers, providing them the love they never knew from an earthly source. And those with no fathers? Oh, they are loved beyond what they could ever imagine. Their Father has filled his Word with admonitions to the rest of us, warning us that one of the most important things we must do is to take care of them. If we are obedient to our Father, we will be part of showing his plan to be "a father to the fatherless".

God has not chosen to bless me with the privilege of being a father. But he puts people in my path every day who need to be loved. Family. Friends. Coworkers. And he asks me to expand my path and find those people. In town and around the world. It's my prayer that I will have my eyes and ears open to look for the times when he wants me to be his hands and feet as he executes his desire to show what a father's love really is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Random thoughts from O'Hare

As I approach my 5th hour sitting in the Chicago airport, I can't help but think of the 2004 Tom Hanks movie. Of course, in The Terminal he was stuck in an airport for much longer than this...but it sure doesn't seem like it. Actually, that's not true. The time has passed quickly because I've found ways to pass the the time and avoid boredom. Like taking the picture on the left about 5 minutes ago.

I knew I would be here a long time because our meeting ended extremely early today leaving me with alot of time to kill. But then, due to weather problems, it got even longer. So here are some random thoughts and observations about my day at the airport, in no particular order. I have avoided boring myself all day - I hope I can avoid boring you. (Is it too late?)

  • My plan to use the day to catch up on my reading is going beautifully. I am trying to read the Harry Potter books before the final movie comes out. (Thanks for loaning them to me, Macy.) I've got a long, long way to go (I'm about 100 pages into volume 4), but air travel is definitely the way to read large chunks at a time. But still, you can't just read for 8 hours solid, especially when you stayed up 'til 2:00 the night before. Heavy eyelids. So fortunately, I've been able to break it up...
  • I got a little break when I got an email asking me to check some statistics homework. So, I pulled out my Macbook, opened the email and Word document, and started checking. That helped me kill about 45 minutes, and it was kinda fun doing a little math. (Yes, I am a geek.)
  • I had hoped to catch an earlier flight, but with all the weather issues I've been listening to announcements about flight delays all afternoon. Heck, I think I'm lucky that I'm going to get out of here at all. (And I guess it still could go wrong.) Right now, we're supposed to leave a little over an hour from now. This will get home around midnight.
  • I went to get a personal size Chicago pizza a little while ago. It was delicious. There is nothing like a deep dish Chicago pizza.
  • I am so glad that I'm driving home from Atlanta instead of flying all the way to Montgomery. I would definitely have missed the connection and I would be stressing about how to get home after landing in Atlanta. I stopped flying out of the local airport years ago...and this is why!
  • While I was eating it, some dude came up to me and asked me to move so he could plug in his iPhone to charge. Yeah, I was sitting in front of a plug. That was interesting.
So I've read a little, ate a little, people-watched a little, did a little math, and started over again. It's really not so bad. People are so interesting and I've had a chance to watch them all day. An airport full of people with their own joys, sorrows, families, and priorities. I can't help but think about how each one is unique but all of them crave meaning in their lives and are made to reflect the image of their Creator. It's so easy to think of them as just a crowd. but they're not.


I'm ready to get home.

Time to get back to the book. July 15 will be here before I know it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yeah it did

Yes, Super 8 lived up to the hype. To me it's always tough to classify a movie as one of your favorites when it's so fresh because the newest movie is magnified in your mind. The good and the bad. But I really believe this one will become a classic, and will be one of my favorites.

It was both exciting and funny, as well as heart-wrenching. Amazing special effects - it had the most awesome train wreck you'll ever see on a screen. Great acting performances by very young actors. And it contained themes of friendship, grief, parenting, love, and forgiveness. And at times I found myself being glad the dark theater obscured what was going on in the corner of my eyes.

When you see it, make sure you don't leave when the credits start rolling.

Ok, I really want to touch on some of the themes and write a more thorough review, but I'll give everyone a couple of weeks to see it first. Go. And then come back later for another post.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super 8 - one more day

Ok, I am beyond excited for tomorrow. Here's why:

This movie has all the ingredients to become an all-time classic. Steven Spielberg. JJ Abrams. A trailer that gives me chill bumps. When the creator of some of the great movies of all time meets the creator of some of the greatest television ever, good things are in store.

The only danger? My expectations are awfully high.  I'll let you what I think.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Tonight a few of is went to see the new X-Men movie. First, there was some awesome Thai food from Green Papaya, then the movie.  I gotta say that I was really looking forward to it because I love the whole X-Men saga, and the other "origins" movie (Wolverine) was the best one to me. And I got a good review from a guy at work late this afternoon.

For me, it did not disappoint. It was entertaining, funny at times (just the tight amount), and even thought-provoking as it dealt with issues such as prejudice and revenge.

One of my favorite moments was when the villain Sebastian Shaw uttered this line:
"We still possess the greatest weapon in the"

One of the best things about a movie like this is looking back at a story where you already know the future and seeing a glimpse of how things got to be the way they are. That's part of why I loved the show Smallville so much. This movie was very satisfying from that standpoint, including a wonderful scene where the young characters are teasing each other about potential code names - names we know will actually stick. (There's also a very funny line from Xavier at the end, one I won't spoil.)

Finally, I thought it did a very good job of demonstrating the consequences of hate, revenge, and self-absorbed isolation. I could discuss those in more detail with a spoiler warning, but I'll hold off. Maybe in a later post. For now, let's just say that it's very effective.

It's a fun movie with interesting characters and just the right mix of humor. I enjoyed it. I suspect many of you would as well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Remembering D-Day

Normandy Beach

A little over a year ago I had the awesome opportunity to visit Normandy. It was almost surreal to see in person the place where so many gave their lives to turn the tide of World War II. I saw the beach where the troops came ashore (top left) and a massive cemetery where Americans who lost their lives there are buried. A little more detail about my visit is contained in this blog post.

Today is June 6, the anniversary of the historic day. The Allied invasion took place 67 years ago today, and the world will never be the same. Therefore I ask that you pause for a moment and think about the sacrifice that was made to maintain freedom, and to defeat the evil that was Adolf Hitler.

The world is a better place because of the ones buried here:

US Cemetery at Normandy

Thank you, Lord, for their courage.