Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fringe: The Bullet That Saved the World

It was, I dare say, one of the all-time great episodes of Fringe. And that's saying a heck of a lot.

This last Friday night's episode had it all. Action, adventure, poignant scenes. Love, hope, desperation, sacrifice, anger. I really don't even know where to start writing about it - I just had to. So let me try to set up the scene below with a little background for non-fans.

In the scene, after a humorous exchange designed to provide contrast (lasting about the first 30 seconds), we see Etta and Olivia preparing for a mission. Olivia is Etta's mother - despite the fact that they appear to be about the same age. (This - and please don't check out on me - is because Olivia has been suspended in kind of a cryogenic state for 21 years.) Etta has a necklace with a bullet she found among her mother's things when she was 13. This bullet has great significance. Watch:

SPOILER ALERT: If you watch Fringe and haven't seen the episode yet, go no further. Stop here and watch it immediately!

Yes, the bullet has great significance. If you saw the Season 4 finale, you know that Olivia was shot in the forehead and died. It's impossible to explain without laying out four years of storyline, but she had to die in order to save the universe from a destructive energy radiating from her. After she died, the bullet was removed and she came back to life.

It was definitely (somewhat intentionally I suspect) a type of the death of Jesus and how it has redeemed and saved our universe. Especially since she was able to come back from the dead having accomplished her purpose.

So the interesting thing to me was this: here we are, 20+ years later. The original threat is gone, but the world still needs healing in a big way. And here is her daughter, holding on to the bullet, connected to a chain, worn as jewelry. Do you see where I'm going? The bullet is to the Fringe story what the cross is to our story. A bullet is a hideous thing, an instrument of death. But because of its significance, this bullet is worn as jewelry. Exactly like the crosses we wear around our necks.

Listen to Michael W. Smith on the subject:

What is your line?
Why do you wear your cross of gold?
Does it find a way into your soul? 

REPEAT SPOILER ALERT! Major plot point ahead!

For Etta and her mother's bullet, it did find a way into her soul - it drove everything she did her whole life, up until a moment when she met up with her own bullet. A bullet that, I believe, will turn out to be the bullet that saves the world from the new threat. (Such a wonderful title to the episode, with multiple meanings - love that!)

Will you and I (like Etta) each take up our own respective crosses? Or will we just wear them around our necks?

Friday, October 26, 2012


Saw this posted on twitter today:


Seriously, State? You're comparing tomorrow's game with Alabama to a victory over a pair of Sun Belt teams? And...well, never mind that.

And that slogan! It's bad enough when you use it on your side of the state line. As if we cared.

As my niece pointed out earlier tonight, for goodness sakes let's keep all the microphones away from Dan Mullen. We don't need a high school-ish pep talk disguised as instructions on the proper time to use cowbells. (Btw, that would be never. And I hope our gate staff has the guts to confiscate them.)

Thanks for stirring up the sleeping dog.

Roll Tide

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More dashboard

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Life has its phases. I began going to Alabama football games with my parents and sister at the age of eight. It's been a family thing for me all my life, a chance for us to do something together. Ten years ago, it entered a new phase: the era of road games with some or all of my nieces. Oklahoma 2002. Really? 2002? That long ago?

The pace picked up at the gals entered college. Many times with Haley, Macy, and Brooke...

And other times Haley and Macy...

I've been thinking alot about these good times this week. There are so many amazing memories, so many funny stories, so many goofy things I did, and yes...so many great football games.

What do I do with those? How should I look back on my history, good and bad? As a Christ-follower, what is the right mix?

Believe it or not, it wasn't a Bible verse that brought a proper perspective (although the one at the beginning of this post is a good one). It wasn't words of wisdom from a godly friend. It wasn't a book. Instead it was...

A tweet.

From a freshman football player.

Less rearview mirror and more dashboard.

Tell it, Amari Cooper! Six succinct words that mesh perfectly with what Paul was saying in Philippians. Now sure, Amari was thinking about his football team (roll tide) needing to look forward to the task ahead instead of dwelling on past accomplishments. But his words cover so much more than that. They cover life. And this is already one of my favorite all-time quotes.

So what do I do with all the memories I've accumulated? I will rejoice in the awesome ones like those shared here. I will look back to the hard times and maybe even get sad at at times. But I won't - I can't - live my life looking backwards. There's too much at stake. There's a Kingdom to spread. There are people to love. And there's a crown to claim.

Less review mirror and more dashboard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just in case you're confused...

If you are my friend, you know this is my current facebook profile picture, taken in Knoxville last Saturday...

Now, I know what you're thinking. Those are the two young ladies who were all over ESPN during the game Saturday night! Right? Like in this screen shot from the broadcast:

So...clearly, I saw them on campus and said, "Hey! I know y'all. Can I get a picture with you?"

No, not quite. They are my nieces and I am very proud of them. Not because they were on TV but because of who they are.

It was a great trip, and another great Bama game.

More on our road trip legacy later in the week. Well, it's a crazy week at work, so if I can carve out some blogging time, more later.

And if you see Haley or Macy, be sure to ask them for an autograph. Or a picture with them... ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Kingdom on a football field

"But I tell you: love your enemies! ...Look at it like this: if you love those who love you, do you expect a special reward? Even tax-collectors do that, don't they? And if you only greet your own family, what's so special about that? Even Gentiles do that, don't they?" (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)
 "The kingdom of heaven," he said, "is like a grain of mustard seed, which someone took and sowed in his field. It's the smallest of all the seeds, but when it grows it turns into the biggest of shrubs. It becomes a tree, and the birds in the sky can then come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32)
A friend tweeted a link earlier this evening to a story. A story that surpasses anything from my ordinary day that I might write about it. So I felt compelled to share it. As I watched this short video (about 5 minutes), I could see the life of Jesus bursting at the seams. This is why he came, to produce fruit like this. Check it out:

The first thing I saw was this: The very idea is full of what God's kingdom is about. Jesus came to launch a world where through his power we can do the impossible: loving those who can give us nothing in return for no reason other than it's how God loved us. Forgiving them completely. Drawing them to the person of the Messiah through love that is so powerful it cannot be resisted.

The second thing is just as significant: This video told the story of how other schools latched on to the idea and made it happen again. And before long, these kids are encountering the unconditional love of God wherever they go to play football. That is what I believe Jesus meant in the parable of the mustard seed. It starts so small - random acts of obedience that can be only explained by the fact that God's Kingdom has arrived. And it grows...and grows....and grows. Like a mustard seed grows into a tree.

It makes me ask myself: What can I do today that will plant a seed? That's all I need to do...God will take it from there.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Tonight was the second of three debates leading up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. Judging from the posts on Facebook (and other conversations), there is alot of stress over this election. Many believe that the outcome will determine the quality of their lives.

Maybe. But only if we measure the quality of life by our safety, security, and material possessions.We are not promised any of those things.

As a follower of Jesus, I am taking a step back t look at what is promised. Jesus came to establish God's rule as promised to his people in the Old Testament. Through his death and resurrection, he told hold of the world and rendered all other kingdoms inept. He is now in charge, and I am an to be a subject of that kingdom, bringing about his will on earth.

So bring on the next President. Do I have a preference? Sure. But I'm not stressed, because I know who holds the future - the One who came to establish God's temple in my heart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bottle caps? Seriously?

A few years ago, I was in Athens, GA with my friends Brian and Tommy for the Alabama-Georgia football game. It was halftime and the Tide was getting killed. I went to the concession stand for a Coke and when I got it, to my surprise, they took the bottle cap away from me.

I was like, what?? One of the worst things about Cokes at a ball game is when people spill them on your stuff. If we can screw the cap back on after every sip, that won't happen. But nooooooooooo! I couldn't keep the cap.

Why not? Well, apparently they were concerned about the possibility of fans hurling the caps toward the field if they got upset. Don't like the ref's call? Throw a bottle cap. That's right...your bottle cap. What a threat.

Apparently, this is the rule (or law) in Georgia and other places. At concerts, games, and other events in Atlanta, they have consistently refused to give me the cap. So, speaking of Georgia....

Friday night I got back to my hotel room and was watching Sportscenter. For those of you who don't know, there was a bad call in Atlanta (that's right!) where umpire Sam Holbrook incorrectly applied the infield fly rule. (Read the whole story here.) Well, the game was delayed for 19 minutes because the field was cleared for the safety of the players. Fans had begun to throw debris to express their displeasure.

So take a good look at the picture. See any bottle caps?? Oh yeah, those would be dangerous. Beer bottles, soft drink bottles, food packages. But as I study the picture I don't see any bottle caps.

The fans' behavior Friday night was inexcusable. But I've got to confess that wasn't my first thought. My first thought was how silly it is to think you can prevent this by taking caps off soft drink bottles.

So call me a rebel, but when I go over there I will continue to bring my own cap from a soft drink at home. When they give me a capless bottle, I will walk away and put it on the bottle. And I will never ever throw it at anyone!

My neighbors who don't get my drink spilled on their stuff thank me. Or they would if they knew.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Sunday surprise

As I type this at the gate in the Port Columbus airport, I'm still basking in the glow. Not of the game I came here to attend, but of the worship time this morning. It's amazing how God works.

This is an open date for the Crimson Tide, and usually when that happens I will attend a Florida State game with my good friend Steve; it's a great reason to get together with my brother who lives over three hours away. But this year, there was no FSU home game. So I planned something crazy. I decided to go see a college football game between two legendary programs in a stadium I've always wanted to see. Nebraska at Ohio State:

It was alot of fun. Wonderful, cool fall football weather. An impressive and extremely loud stadium. Several very cool traditions - every school has them and theirs were fun to watch. Great trip. Done, get some sleep and go home.

But even when traveling, I like to try to find a place to spend some time worshipping with other Christ-followers. So last night I did a little online search, and found something surprising. This morning there was a service at a perfect time relative to my flight plans (10 am) at a Vineyard Church. I checked a couple of links, and it was indeed connected to the church I attended in Tuscaloosa a few weeks ago.

The point of sharing this? About midway through the pastor's message, I realized that this was probably God's purpose in getting me to Columbus. (Yes, I believe he uses fun to bring us where he wants us to be.) I made a choice to be here for one thing, and he said, "Uh huh. You just think that's why you're going."

What was so special about this message? Well, it's hard to put into words in a blog (especially if I want it to be short enough for you to keep reading). But here are a couple of key points:
  • Romans 12:9 says love must be genuine, and the following verses give examples of what genuine love looks like. I've never thought of the passage that way before.
  • First, we should hate what is evil and cling to what is good. If I really love someone, I will violently hate the things that harm them or cause them to harm others. Real love is not (as our society is telling us) unconditionally supporting every choice someone makes. It is having the courage to speak the truth and help them cut off those things that undermine their God-given purpose. (And yes, since I hate confrontation, this one is hard for me.)
  • Genuine love is marked by showing honor. Am I courteous to people? Do I show respect, even to those who are against me? Do I show honor to people who serve me in restaurants, airports, and other service industries?
  • Finally, and this one was a ton of bricks, genuine love is marked by God's energizing power. When a fire is lit, it doesn't keep burning on its on. Similarly, my fire needs to be fanned every day. Was there a time when my fire for loving God was hotter than it is now? The pastor said that he starts every day with a prayer to this effect: "Jesus, apart from you i can do nothing. I can't think like you, feel like you, love like you..." So true. I need to be connected every day, or the fire will go out.
Yep, it was a great trip - alot of fun. But I don't think it's why I was here. Thank you, Lord, for Sunday surprises.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No stopping them

Okay, have you heard about the Alabama football fans who had a slight detour on the way to the Ole Miss game last weekend. A slight detour as in, a plane crash! But that didn't stop them because....well, here's a link to the story...see for yourself:

Bama fans undeterred by plan crash - CBS Sports

Crazy, no? I know football fans in this state are dedicated, but that's a whole new level.

But....it did make me think of two games in my past.

1) I was on my way to a home game (I think it may have been Ole Miss) with a friend. We were going around the loop onto University from McFarland when I felt a bump from behind. Yes, when I stopped to yield, the car behind me kept going. It turned out that there was no damage and we moved on. But what I remember the most is that I didn't think, "Dang, my car is damaged!" or "Dang, my neck is sore!" My first thought was, "Dang, I'm going to be late to the game!" True story.

2) In 2007 my nieces and I were sitting by our car in Starkville, MS tailgating before the Bama-MSU game. We were listening to the radio from my car when suddenly the sound stopped. It stopped because the battery was dead on my car. Well, I called around a little to see who could come and jump it off but with ball game traffic there were no good options. So I made the only rational decision I could: I decided we would go to the game and worry about getting the car started afterward. All of us agreed - we couldn't miss the game. Again, true story. (Right, Macy? Haley? Brooke?) Fortunately, the car gathered enough juice sitting idle for several hours that it actually started when we got back. I'm not sure that taught me the appropriate lesson.

So yes, we football fans are a little focused on game day. It is so much fun that we don't want to miss it. But rest assured: if I'm in a plane that crashes and I'm lucky enough to survive, I'm done for that day.

Promise. Really.