Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Africa slide show

While I have blogged several times about my trip to Africa (the great need, God's love for the people there, the amazing men and women that I was privileged to work with), I have not actually posted the slide show that I put together shortly after my return here on the site.  It has been on youtube, and I think I have may have linked it.  But to make it easier to find and watch, here it is. Enjoy, and let your heart be moved.  And, if you feel God's call to experience it for yourself, check out the Visiting Orphans website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hog Country

This weekend I did one of my favorite things in the world -- I went on a road trip to a Bama football game with my nieces.  So we hit the road Friday for Fayetteville, AR, which is at the northwest tip of that state.  Normally, that drive is waaaaa-aaaay too long.  But when traveling with this fun group of college students, not so much.  It was awesome!

First thing to understand is that music is an essential part of such a trek.  I don't know how we made trips like this before iPods, but loading an iPod with good playlists is vital.  On my iPod there is a playlist made especially for these trips, and it has been built gradually over the last five years or so.  (Believe it or not, it ranges from classics like You're So Vain all the way up to recent songs like Drake's Find Your Love.)  Or sometimes we switch to one of the girls' iPods.  (Gotta give Brooke at least a small Bieber fix.) At times we just listen, and at times we're belting out lyrics at the top of our lungs. Fun!  Of course, at times they're sleeping and I'm driving -- that's usually coming home.

This trip, being so long, featured alot of good memories.  There was our traditional stop at an Outback Steakhouse on Friday night.  (Don't judge.  We've been doing this since our first trip to Oklahoma in 2002, and we love our cheese fries and steak.)
2002 - Haley, Macy and me in Oklahoma.  Yes, I wore jorts.
We then swung by Beale Street just to see it from one end.  A couple of our stops in Arkansas were a little dicey.  We stopped for gas and a bathroom break and a guy was yelling at us -- constantly -- from his motel balcony! Yeah, dude, "you might be a redneck if....(insert your own joke)."  We had couple of other umm...interesting stops as well.

Of course, the most fun was game day.  I love road games, and not just because I get to travel with the fam.  I love seeing the atmosphere other college campuses and stadiums; I love being outnumbered and trying to overcome that.  It's all great.  And this was a big time atmosphere, probably the biggest game ever on their campus.
Stadium filling up during warmups - electric
This road game was especially fun because I got to tailgate with my friends Rob and Lauren.  They live in KC, a very drivable trip from Fayetteville, so Bama's trip there was a good opportunity for them to see the Tide play.  Tailgating with them was alot of fun and a major highlight of the trip.  And of course, their presence was probably the critical factor in Bama eeking out a very tough game. :)
And what a tough game it was!  The stadium was at a fever pitch and the Hogs jumped out to an early lead after only two plays.  It was rocking!  There was actually a point in the 3rd quarter (with the score 20-7 Hogs) that I actually had some doubt that the Tide would pull it out.  (If you know me, you know that almost NEVER happens -- even in years where we they weren't very good.)  But the team just kept doing what they do -- calmly, methodically, without panic -- and the final outcome was another win for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
24-20 Bama...we're pretty happy. RTR!
After the game, we said goodbye to our friends after a few high fives, and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate, eat, and watch some more football.  That was fun, but the fun was interrupted by an unexpected phenomenon: UFC!  Apparently, Saturday night featured some sort of pay-per-view event that caused them to highjack most of the TVs after we had been there for a little while.  It was frustrating (and I think at one point I was a poor rep of Christ while "discussing" this with the manager), but also, eventually, funny.  The crowd in there was cheering at the strangest things.  Once again, you may insert your own Jeff Foxworthy joke here.

Yes, it was a long drive home yesterday.  You know it's a long trip when you begin talking about partial derivatives at the Alabama state line.  (Yes, "that just happened!")  But SO worth it!  Making memories with family and friends is such a cool part of life (and something I believe will be part us forever); Alabama football is the icing on the cake.  Next road trip in two weeks, and I can't wait.  Roll Tide!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two accidents

This week I saw one accident and caused another.  Both struck me as odd:

  • I was driving on Ann St under I-85 on Wednesday when I saw something I don't remember seeing before.  There had obviously been a fender bender and there was a police car behind another with its lights flashing.  Beside it, the police officer was talking with someone.  Then I noticed:  The front of the polics car was smashed in.  The back bumper of the other car too.  It was obvious what had happened.  So I wondered: How did THAT conversation go?  The official police position is that in a rear-end collision the back car is always at fault -- did it apply here?  And if so, who pays the claim if the officer was at fault?
  • THe next day, I was in a meeting at work with some pretty high up folks.  The conference room was full, and we were going over a presentation about weather catastrophe modeling.  Analysis of potential for large, sudden events that could be costly.  Right at a key point, my hand has some sort of spasm and I knock over my cup of coffee.  Not an ordinary cup of coffee, mind you.  It was a hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee in a stinkin' 24-OUNCE MUG!  With no lid.  Yep, it went all over the place, and the meeting had to stop while we cleaned it up.  Oops!  However, everyone knows I'm a clutz (and it somehow missed the projector and everyone's clothes), so they laughed it off.  What was odd about this?  We were talking catastrophic events, and then I demonstrated one.  Yep.
But dang, I wasted 24 ounces of awesome coffee!  Do I take coffee seriously?  Ummm, I grind the beans right before brewing each pot.  So yeah.

Well, off to bed and then the big game in Fayetteville tomorrow.  Hopefully, it'll be something I wanna write about.  Enough accidents for one week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A day to celebrate

Today was a day to celebrate a special moment in the lives of some very special children. These children from an outcast community in Ethiopia arrived at a school where they will be loved, have a bed to sleep in, get an education, and receive many other blessings that we all take for granted.

Here is one of those children:

This is not a file picture.  Or a picture I got from a relief organization.  This picture was taken with my own camera.  The sweet girl, Hagersaw, was such a joy to be around when we were in her home community for a summer program.  It thrills my heart beyond words that God has taken her in and through the ministry of some amazing people she will feel God's love in ways she never could have imagined.

For more about what an amazing day this is, check out this post from the Project 61 blog.  Or these words from one who has loved on these children for months and was there as the children left for school:
Praise God, they are there! Whatever any of you sacrified to sponsor a child, I promise it was worth it. Seeing three bus loads of kids drive away to their new life, seeing the smiles on their faces as they got their very own blanket, and listening to them talk about how fat they will be when I see them again on Friday -whatever you or I gave up, it was worth it.
Yes, it is a great day.  And I hope to see Hagersaw next summer and ask her about her amazing school year.  God is good...beyond our wildest dreams.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What is The Event?

LOST is gone, and I don't expect to ever see television like it again -- it was a perfect storm of acting, writing, directing talent.  Nothing can replace it.  But that doesn't mean I throw away the TV.  Here is a new show that I'm gonna give a shot:

Here's hoping that: 1) it's good, and 2) if it is, that it won't be cancelled right in the middle of the mystery, like FlashForward.  We'll see, starting tomorrow night.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy birthday, Mom...2010

September 16.  On this date many years ago, Mary Cheek gave birth to one of the most amazing women who ever lived --  my mother, Margaret Cheek Manis.  So on this date I remember her and give thanks to God for her life and the continuing influence she has had over me, my dad, my sisters, her grandchildren, and so many others.

It's hard to express how much she meant to me over the course of her life, and how the lessons she taught me have molded me.  She ran her tail off when I was growing up to make sure my sisters and I were always where we were supposed to be.  And as I grew into adulthood, she was someone I could always talk to.  The most important lesson she taught me was how to deal with the deepest pain of life, as I saw her faith remain strong after her child went to be with the Lord at the young age of 35.  They are together now, and that makes me glad.

Since it is so hard to express, I want to pay tribute to her by sharing the audio of a magnificent tribute to her from my cousin Chip.  Chip loved his "Aunt Margie" so much and it was fitting for him to describe her life as we celebrated it days after her passing.  He did an amazing job of summing up what her life was about.  If you have 10 minutes, you can listen to it below.  If not, come back later when you do.  If you knew her or know any of us, her family, it'll be worth it.  Here it is...

Happy birthday, Mom!  I miss you but I'll see you soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Going back...

One of the most amazing things about my time in Africa was the way I saw it affect the lives of so many new friends, as well as my niece Brooke.  As I gathered with many of them less than two weeks ago, I learned that at least four of them are returning this December.  Others are feeling God tugging for them to make major changes in their life path.  My own life has been forever changed as the plight of the fatherless is at the forefront of my mind and heart as never before.  Whenever you put yourself in God's will, expect him to move!

All around me I see God's heart for the dark continent.  I ran into a friend in Panama City whose church was about to embark on a trip to build wells in Tanzania.  They just returned.  I have mentioned in a previous blog post that another friend went to Malawi as part of preparation for his church to find mission focus there.  He has now posted an incredible video of his time there -- please go to his blog for his comments about it, but you can watch it here:

Malawi Highlights from Rob Webster on Vimeo.

Yes, God is moving in Africa and I want to continue to be a part of it.  I am considering whether he is calling me back next summer on a specific trip with Visiting Orphans where I would be able to go to Ethiopia with some of my 2010 team.  Please pray for me as I make that decision.

One more thing: My friend Elissa is "going back" -- she is one of the people I mentioned who is returning in December.  I am amazed at her passion and trust in the Lord to lead her as she follows him.  So here is link to her latest blog post, "December is coming fast!"  She is looking for men and women of God who take James 1:27 seriously and want to partner with her in some way.  Would you do me a favor and prayerfully read her post?  I believe that God will richly bless you for anything you are led to do, including praying for her.

Thanks!  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming... :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

College Football Week 2 - Top 5 Observations

5.  Georgia is not the same team without A.J. Green.  Yes, South Carolina looked impressive and they may be the formidable opponent for top-ranked Alabama (yeah, I just like saying that.)  Lattimore is an amazing runner.  But I have a feeling that a Bulldog offense with Green would have scored more than 17.

4.  Maybe James Madison should be ranked #3 instead of Boise State.  They both beat Virginia Tech, and they both play schedules not worthy of a Division I-A contender.  And Boise -- if you want to be taken seriously, get a real football field.

3.  Looks like Lame Kiffin may already be destroying the once-mighty USC Trojans.  There's no way the sanctions are affecting them yet; they still have lots of talent.  A 17-14 win over Virginia at home does not inspire confidence.  Especially since two years ago they beat the Cavaliers 52-7 in Virginia.

2.  Very impressive performance by Denard Robinson.  He is easily the most impressive QB I've seen this season.  He has performed at a high level for two weeks, and his 502 (!!) all-purpose yards were amazing.  He almost single-handedly handed the loss the Notre Dame.  He is the real deal, and would currently be my choice for Heisman.

1.  Trent Richardson is a beast.  A freak of nature.  It's scary to think of what Alabama's running game can be with both him and Mark Ingram.  Bama's defense is showing alot of talent and potential, but we'll see where they really are when they face more potent offenses than Penn State.  A very solid win by the Tide though.

All in all, a great weekend of football.  I love this game!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where's the love?

Riddle me this everyone: is there an issue where we find total agreement between Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Glenn Beck?  Well until this week, I would have had to say no.  Well, not just no, but heck no!  But we've found one.  And it makes me wonder.

If you've watched the news or, like me, paid attention to trending topics on Twitter (sadly, that's how I find out alot of things these days), then you've guessed what I'm talking about.  A pastor in Gainesville, FL has decided to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11 by publicly burning the Qur'an.  If you haven't followed the story, take a minute to click on the link before going any further -- you'll catch up on the details as well as see quotes from Palin, Clinton, and Beck.

Now, I understand where the pastor is coming from.  There are still deep wounds here from the 9/11 attacks.  Anger.  Fear.  Frustration that Al Qaeda is still out there trying to kill us.  Grief.  And the Qur'an is a book that teaches principles counter to God's truth.  It does espouse revenge, holy war, and teaches another way to God besides the cross.  There is every reason in the world to want to respond in kind to the warfare that has been waged on us.

But that is just the point.  Jesus came to teach us another way.  He tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.  In the linked passage, he makes this statement,
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.  
This has always struck me as a mark of real faith in Christ.  When you can love those who hate your guts, it's clear that there is something supernatural controlling your heart.  Loving your family and friends, not so much...Jesus said anybody can do that.  And then he says,
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
 So why should we do it?  Because that's what our Father does every single day, and we should be like him.  It's also what our Savior did on the day of his crucifixion.  It's the most evident proof to the world that the gospel is real and Jesus was who he said he was.

So as I see it, there is the ultimate irony.  A pastor sees a book that teaches hate, and he is so consumed by fear and frustration that he plans a symbolic venomous response.  He sees a book that erroneously minimizes the mission of Christ, and he minimizes it by hating his enemies.  He seeks to commemorate perhaps the most terrible event any of us have witnessed by inflaming the ones who brought it on us.

It's a human response.  It's natural.  Which is exactly the point.  When Jesus takes hold of your mind and heart, he leads you to a supernatural faith and love, so that everyone can see that it came from above.

It's my prayer that Rev. Terry Jones will be captured by the overwhelming love of the Savior he preaches and send a message of love instead of revenge.  But even more, it's my prayer that when I am personally mistreated, lied to, cheated on, or abused, that I will let Christ respond through me in ways that I never could myself.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All that in one weekend?

What an incredible weekend it was.  Yes, there were three days thanks to the holiday...but seriously -- how can you cram this into one weekend?  Family, football, friends:

  • Opening weekend on college football season in Tuscaloosa.  I was able to spend Saturday with my family and close friends.  We hung out at the condo and also at my nieces' house (AKA the "Hackshack").  We ate way too much food.  We watched some games on TV.  We laughed, talked, and enjoyed each other all day.   Then we entered the newly renovated Bryant-Denny Stadium and it is beautiful  The Tide topped off the day by racking up 591 yards of offense in a 48-3 win.  This was the highlight:

  • I left early Sunday morning for Nashville.  I then spent the next 28 hours or so with some of the awesome people on earth - our Africa team from earlier in the summer.  I went to Elissa's church and had one of the best worship times in recent memory.  Then came an amazing lunch:
  • Then we went and hung out at Nate's house until after midnight, and it seemed like only a couple of hours.  It went way too fast!
  • After a late morning breakfast with a few on them, I headed home, hoping to see them all again soon.
  • Finally, I went over to my sister's house as we usually do on Mondays.  But being a holiday, there were burgers and just great hangout time.
I have the best family and friends.  And for that reason, a weekend like this reminds me of how good God is to me.  Yep...incredible!

Friday, September 3, 2010

College football 2K10 - preseason thoughts

It's finally here!  The college football season began Thursday night, and it was fun to watch games both good and bad.  I love the game for many reasons, including how it's something our family does together.  More about that in a future post.  Tonight, the subject is a quick look at the upcoming season, with some thoughts on teams that matter to me.  So, one at a time, here is a look at my two favorite teams and two that I like, well, let's just say, not so much.  Let's start with THE team.

Teams I root for:


Last year was a dream season for us Bama fans, as the Tide scaled the mountain of college football supremacy sooner than we really expected.  As we enter a new season, Bama has been ranked #1 by every poll and most preseason magazines.  This has created alot of excitement, and they do have a very talented team coming back.  What are the prospects for repeating?  How about for repeating as SEC champions?  Well, to do so I think they have to overcome the following:

  • No team has repeated as national champions in the BCS era.
  • Almost the entire starting defense has to be replaced, and experience will be lacking in the secondary, where single mistakes can cost six points.
  • They're starting the season without the Heisman Trophy winner (injury) and their best defensive lineman (suspension).
  • There are probably a dozen teams talented enough to win it all.  Doing so requires being good enough, sure...but also having some breaks go your way.  Just ask Tennessee.
  • Six opponents have a bye week before playing Bama.
  • Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina are awfully good!  They play these three teams back-to-back-to-back, with two of them on the road.  That will be a huge stretch.
Balancing these considerations is the fact that the Tide has a wealth of talent and a coach that is relentless about not losing your intensity.  The (very biased) feeling here is that they will win the SEC and at least play for the title.  If so, given the SEC's record in the title game, I have to like their chances.


I've been a fan ever since I followed the way Coach Bobby Bowden took his teams into the stadia of national powers, and built his program on killing the giants.  But I really adopted them as my "#2" as the result of a very close friendship of 30 years.  I go to FSU games with Steve most any time it doesn't conflict with a Bama game.

I am very excited about the Noles' prospects for this year, and especially beyond.  Jimbo Fisher takes over as head coach, the first new head coach at Florida State since 1975.  I'm very impressed with everything I've seen since he took over:
FSU returns Christian Ponder, maybe the best QB in the country, and an offensive line that has been improving ever since Rick Trickett began coaching them.  With new schemes and alot of talent the defense should be much improved.  I'm calling an ACC championship, with even bigger things to come in the future.

Teams I don't:


I can't bring myself to root for these guys, Alabama's longest and traditionally most competitive rival.  They easily have the second most SEC championships.

But this year they have made that a little tough.  First, they have actually hire a likable coach.  Derek Dooley is the son of legend Vince Dooley, a coach for who I have tremendous respect.  He seems to be a quality individual with alot of integrity...a nice change from Lane Kiffin.  Unfortunately for him, the talent cupboard is relatively bare, thanks to poor recruiting the last few years.  And I'm not sure that Coach Dooley has what it takes to be a big time college coach.  Time will tell, but I could easily see Tennessee being 2-4 heading into the Bama game.  If that's the case, we'd better not lose to them!



The Crocs...I mean, Gators...were the class of the SEC for most of the last five years.  Was the Tide's dismantling of them last year a one-time occurrence or the beginning of a trend?  In all likelihood, it was neither, but an indication of two programs that have reached a similar high level, and therefore any matchup will be awesome football.  We'll get to find out soon enough, as they will play in the regular season for the first time in 4 years (October 2).  This has become the SEC rivalry that has the eye of the nation.

Everyone is anxious to see how critical TimTebow's leadership has been.  (The name running together is not a mistake, btw - it reflects the fact that almost every commentator says "TimTebow" like it was one word.  I've always thought that was funny.)   I think he will be missed more than most realize.  Florida will still be extremely talented and a force nationally.  However, my feeling is that without him they will not be able to pull off the road win at Bama. (I know - another "objective" opinion!)  So if an improved  Georgia team can beat them, they may not get their rematch in Atlanta.  And it's about time for a much-improved Nole team to break through and get a big win in this rivalry.  Yeah, I think maybe three losses for the Gators.

So there you have it...the ramblings of an unashamedly biased fan.  The main thing is that it is going to be so much fun to find out what really happens.  I plan to share some thoughts at least once a week this fall.