Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It was a great year...

...thanks for being a part of it.

Yes, it seems everyone on Facebook is sharing about their 2014, mainly because Facebook has written code that compiles pictures and makes it really easy. In some cases, it has even caused some unintended heartache. But it's definitely the thing to do.

Well, while I'm not going to click the button for one of those automatic slideshows, there is some value in looking back over the last year. Life is short, and what happens to each of us in a given year has incredible significance. Sometimes good, sometimes bad...but definitely loaded with significance. So, as we come to the end of this year, what stands out about 2014 for me?

There were definitely events and activities that I will remember, both fondly and otherwise. Trips to other parts of the world, exciting sports events, a few days skiing, and a short trip to my favorite big city in the USA. Those were awesome, and they are are the kind of things we usually use to "bookmark" years. ("2014 - It was the year that I.......")

But there are four things about 2014 that make it a remarkable year for me. Two of them are events, and the other two were more of a pattern:

  • The graduation of my niece Brooke from nursing school at the University of Alabama. As watched her walk across the floor of Coleman Coliseum, I was so proud of her. It may be the moment from 2014 that stands out.
  • The engagement of another niece Macy, and watching her go through the preparations for the wedding. In a way it's hard to realize that these young adults whom I've loved for about 25 years are moving so fast into the world of work, marriage, and building of their own families. But any melancholy is overshadowed by happiness for them. Macy's wedding will certainly be on this list for 2015.
Now, the more subtle:
  • I have had such a good year of learning and growing in my knowledge of God and his purposes for the world. I read several outstanding books that expanded my view of salvation, the nature of the universe, and just how big and awesome God is. There has been a growing appreciation in the areas of the work of creation, God's ultimate plan for his kingdom, and my role in it. I am not looking up at the night sky the way I did a year ago. Books, videos, and long talks with friends have opened my eyes to a new sense of wonder.
  • And I have had a wonderful year of experiencing the sense of community that God has blessed us with. Regular time with family and close friends, visits to close friends who don't live so close, and developing deep friendships while serving in Ethiopia - I can't even put into words how much these things mean in my life. It's like they are sacraments - means of grace where God speaks to me and draws me closer to himself. I don't mean to put this on a level with the Eucharist. But it does seem to have a similar effect. Every time I get to bask in the glow of people who I know love me with the love of Christ, I am renewed. Even when I go through the struggles of life alongside others - helping and being helped, praying and being prayed for - I am renewed. There is no doubt, I have been blessed with a lot of renewal this year. Thankful.
Yes, to quote the Facebook phrase, it was a great year. One great year - just one. May God grant that I will sense his purpose in 2015, as I did this year.

Happy New Year!

Here we go...the playoffs

So college football has a playoff. Not a single championship game, but an actual playoff structure. In the words of Coach Jim Mora...

Yes, playoffs.

So here we go. Let's do this, Bama. Two more games on the Road to 16.

Roll Tide!

Friday, December 26, 2014


Peaks and valleys. The euphoria of a long-anticipated event, and the crash. I know there's a biochemical aspect to it, part of how God has made us. Knowing helps. But it still kinda stinks. I call it a "camp" adrenaline rush.

So many times it happens. From my teen days, youth camps where I felt so close to God, and then the emotional crash when coming back to the real world. Young Life camp, where I would get really close to a bunch of people, and then it was over. Working on plays, where I was with a cast every single day for two months - and then the last curtain dropped. Mission trips - it's hard to describe the empty feeling in my gut when I part ways with friends I have been with 24/7 for a week or more.

And Christmas.

We do so much to build up to this extravagant holiday. A lot of it is hype, alot of it is ridiculous commercialization - no question about that. But that's not the part that gets me. There is something about traditions with family and friends, as well as the church rituals, that work together to produce the "camp adrenaline rush" in me. And so then there's the crash. I went to a movie yesterday after we finished our family Christmas dinner, and that postponed it. But there it was last night, just like most every Christmas, trip, and big event. Just a mild case of the blahs: Ughhh, it's all over. And here I sit.

And that's another reason I am thankful for Jesus. He came to give us joy and peace - joy and peace that's deeper than the fluctuations of our emotions. When I'm in my sweet spot, serving with friends in Ethiopia or gathered with my family around the Christmas tree, he provides joy deeper than the rush. And when I'm sitting at home after it's all over, wondering why I can't shake a blah feeling, he provides joy stronger than the crash.

He entered history 2,000 years ago, and showed us how to live through the ups and downs. He has been through everything we have, and is there to stand with us. Whether it's some temporary case of the blahs, or dealing with real hurt and sorrow - as I know some of you are - he's there. And he understands.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! So Donnie,

Rejoice! rejoice!
Has come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Candlelight 2014

Christmas Eve candlelight services have become very popular, and for good reason. On Christmas, those of us who follow Jesus actively look for ways we can worship. I think most of us, regardless of how close we feel to God on a daily basis, want to take some time for worship. In the midst of the bustle of Christmas, we want to remember the holy birth. And lighting candles in a dark auditorium to a song like Silent Night has a reverent tone that moves us.

So tonight there I was, singing in the choir at our church's service. It was awesome. As we sang about coming to worship the king (O Come All Ye Faithful) and what God was doing that night (Silent Night, O Holy Night), it was easy to overflow with thankfulness and love.

And then, the message took on a deeper meaning. For some reason, as the gospel story of Jesus' birth was being read (Luke 2:1-20), I looked around the sanctuary. There were well over 1500 faces looking up at me in the choir loft, and they all looked so similar. They were listening, nodding, smiling at times, and all seemed to be glad they were where they were. But I realized they were not similar. Every face was a unique individual, with their own story, with their own reason why the gospel resonates with them.

With that many people there, I know that almost any life situation you could imagine (at least in our American culture) was represented, although we all hide them very well. I looked around and imagined...

  • That one has cancer, and he's scared to death.
  • This one in front just lost his job, and doesn't know how he will support his family.
  • Over there...she just wants someone to listen to her but nobody pays any attention.
  • See him? He just went through a divorce, and it's killing him.
  • This one is going to the hospital after the service to see her husband.
  • The one to the right has children who won't speak to him anymore.
  • That one thinks he has everything he needs, but his life is empty.
On and on and on and on...1500 people, and all of us are broken in some way. You don't even want to get me started on my brokenness. Are we just whistling in the dark? Are we going to church, pretending that everyone is alright, when we are dying inside?

Well, the fact that we are not identical, that we are all broken in our own ways, is why the good news of Christmas is so powerful. The Creator of the universe knows everything about our world, about the broken societies we've built, and the struggles of each one of us. But instead of holding his nose and walking away, he decided to mix it up with us. To come down into the middle of it, suffer through the mess of being human, and bring us healing by his own suffering.
 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV)

And so we gather. And light candles. And sing. Not just to God, but to each other. To remind ourselves that while we are broken, God loved us anyway. So much that the Son entered time and space to live among us, serve us, suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

It's not surface. It's as deep as it gets. Have you experienced this healing, the healing that God sent us at Christmas? That's my prayer for you...and for me. Have a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Andrew Luck's "trash talking"

Did you see the article about Andrew Luck and his reaction to hard hits?

If you don't know, Luck is the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. He was a top contender for the Heisman trophy as Stanford's QB in 2010 and 2011, and is now one of the NFL's top stars.

So today, we learn that Luck compliments defensive linemen when they sack him, saying things like "Good hit!" And it's freaking them out. Here is a link to the whole story:

Andrew Luck: The NFL's Most Perplexing Trash Talker

I love that he is doing this, and I love that it is so puzzling to his opponents and the sports media.

I don't know Luck's motivation, and I can't find any public material as to whether he is a Christ-follower. But his reaction is exactly what Jesus taught his followers to do, and I think the reaction is exactly what one would expect...because it's so countercultural.

Our culture teaches us to get our revenge. To not let anyone push us around. To give back as good as we get. If someone hits me hard, I need to strike back - physically if possible, but at least with words.

But the Scriptures are full of admonitions to love our enemies, to treat people better than they treat us, and to show kindness in response to cruelty. It doesn't make sense, but it's what we are called to do. For example,
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all...Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To he contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17, 19-21)
 I've seen it work - kindness can be so perplexing that it freezes an enemy in his tracks.

Luck, intentionally or not, is practicing this principle. And it's generating a lot of buzz, which I love.

How do you think it would affect people if you and I did it? At work. In our families. I think it would change the tone of our lives.

It's certainly changing the tone of some NFL games. And that's awesome.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Congratulations, Brooke!

Today my youngest niece graduated from the University of Alabama. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am of her. As of today, Brooke is a nurse. She has decided to spend her life working with very sick children, which is to say that she will be the hand of God to them at the time of their greatest need. What an awesome thing.

I must say I am not surprised; I have seen the heart that led her down this path her whole life. As a child, she talked about getting into medicine because of how she could help people. When she graduated from high school, she asked me to take her on a mission trip instead of a vacation, and led me into the heart of Africa. Everything you see in this blog about my love for the children of Ethiopia started with that trip. I never ever would have set foot in Africa without her nudge - a nudge that I'm convinced was directly from the Lord.

That two weeks in Africa will always be special. It was a time when I got to know her more deeply, because it was the two of us and a bunch of new friends we had just met. We talked about a lot of stuff, and I'm richer for it.

The last 22 years have flown by. And especially the last five. During that time I have admired Brooke's study habits and her dedication to the profession she was working toward.

But we've also had a lot of fun. Trips, family outings...you name it. It has been awesome.

And so, we now turn Brooke Hansen loose on the world. Look out world - you're going to be changed. And like me, for the better...

Love you, Brooke! And congratulations!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Summing it up

It's easy to bow reverently at a nativity scene, and feel wonder at the mystery of the Incarnation. But what does it mean for how I live?

This month, we celebrate the coming of the Messiah Jesus to the earth he created. A little over thirty years after God took on flesh, he found himself in the Temple, chasing out the money changers and declaring that it had become a total distortion of what his Father had intended it to be.

Not long after that, a religious scribe came to him and asked what might have seemed a strange question. He asked Jesus what the most important commandment is (Mark 12:28). How very odd. After all, if a commandment comes from God, doesn't that make it important by definition? How can one be greater than another?

But Jesus answers by quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, first from Deuteronomy, then from Leviticus. And his answer is the basis for the philosophy you'll see the to the left of this page. First, love God with all your heart. Then, love your neighbor as yourself.

And then, the scribe who came to ask the question agrees...and expands. And the expansion is what's really interesting. He says, yep, good point. Those are the top commandments. But then he makes a comparison - he says that those commands are at the top because they are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Why is that significant?

Because of what Jesus had just finished doing! He had gone into the Temple, overturned tables, driven merchants out, and basically declared by his words and actions that they were missing the whole point. They were all about sacrifices, but were totally missing the love of God and neighbor.  So Jesus used the opportunity to say, this is what's important. Not that...this! The kingdom of God was arriving and it was a matter of the heart.

And the scribe agreed. And thus was, in Jesus words (Mark 12:34), "not far from the kingdom of God."

What does it look like to experience this heart change? Listen to the words of theologian N.T. Wright, from his book Mark for Everyone:
(T)his comes as a considerable challenge for contemporary Christians. Would anyone looking at us - our churches, our lives, the societies that claim in some sense to be 'Christian' - ever have guessed that the man we claim to follow saw his followers as being people like this? Or to put it another way: when the crisis comes, what remains solid in your life and the life of your community? Wholehearted love of God and neighbour? Or the mad scramble of everyone trying to save their own skins?
Ouch! Wright is saying that the way we react when we are bumped tells whether we are taking seriously the words of our Lord. When someone pulls the fire alarm, so to speak, are we all about loving God and those around us? Or are we desperately trying to get out the building no matter who we might step over along the way?

So, as a Christian, what is my first thought when...

  • When there are cutbacks at our place of work. "What will happen to me?" Or "How can I be servant to my coworkers as we go through this together?"
  • When a tornado rips through my city? "That was close! But at least I'm alright." Or "Wow, people are hurting all around me...how can I show them the love of Christ?"
  • When we hear of a deadly disease killing thousands overseas. "How can we keep it away from us so we'll be safe?" Or "My heart is broken for those affected...I need to pray for them and look for ministries to lift them out of it."
Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that the self-preservation instinct is unnatural. It is of course the natural first thought of the human mind. But that is what's so powerful about the cross of Christ. Through his death and resurrection, he has brought about a new order where God can dwell in our hearts and make us think differently. So that, by his power, our hearts can become more and more inclined to think of his glory and the welfare of others first.

Love God. Love people. When that happens, the world will see that God has made his dwelling on earth through his people. 

And that is the good news of Christmas.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sugar Bowl 2015: Going Back

It was Christmas Day 1977. As I opened my presents that morning, I got what may have been one of the best surprises of my life. My parents had bought me tickets to the Sugar Bowl.

One week later, my sister Kim and I were sitting in the lower bowl of the almost new Louisiana Superdome. It was a spectacular sight, my first indoor game ever. Coach Paul Bryant was roaming the sidelines minus his famous houndstooth hat - because his mama had taught him not to wear a hat indoors.

And Alabama was playing one of the great names in college football tradition...the Ohio State Buckeyes. It was my very first bowl game.

I will never forget that night. It has been a springboard for a lifetime of memories with families and friends watching Alabama play in bowls. There have been seven more in the Superdome. And now there will be another.

Against Ohio State. For the chance to play for the national championship.

That will be an intense, competitive night. There will be a lot on the line for our team. I'll be focused. I'll be wearing my game day Bama cap (forgive me, Coach Bryant.) But I'll also take time to pause and remember the night it all started, and I may be a little misty. Remembering when Alabama played Ohio State in the 1978 Sugar Bowl, and I couldn't believe I was actually there.

Alabama vs Ohio State. 2015. Bring it on. Roll Tide! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Walking Dead: We Ain't Ashes

One of the great things about a continuing tale like the popular TV show The Walking Dead is how characters are developed. You see a person coping with something as overwhelming and unlikely as the zombie apocalypse, and you wonder how they got to be who they are. And then there's an episode like Consumed (aired November 16, 2014), where through flashbacks and dialogue, you get to see inside their soul a little. Such was the case with Carol.

(Note: For the Dead fans, yes, I know a midseason finale loaded with meaning aired last night, and it screams to be written about. But this post has been on my mind for about two weeks, so here we go.)

For the uninitiated, Carol is a woman who has been through an abusive relationship that affected both her and her daughter. Then early in the apocalypse, her daughter was lost and subsequently turned out to be dead. As the group sought shelter in a (nearly) abandoned prison, she tried to reinvent herself into one who would cope with the new world, teaching the children how to protect themselves. But alas, even that fell apart.

And so we see her and Daryl, whom she has just been reunited with, discussing who they are and how they got there:

Everything is magnified in the apocalypse, but I believe it's an amplification of the struggles we deal with every day in this broken world. As you look back on your life, can you identify with Carol at all? She speaks of the time with her husband as another Carol that got burned away. Then she thought she had found refuge and a purpose in the prison...nope. Now, she is in despair. Is there any hope? What happens when everything you had trusted in is burned away...consumed?

Her world is bleak. It doesn't seem like it even matters who she is anymore. But her friend Daryl reminds her, that whatever has been burned up, it's not her. What really makes Carol, Carol is still there. Through all the hardship and the feeling of being consumed, they're still there. As Daryl says, "We ain't ashes." We've survived.

This reminds me of something the apostle Paul wrote to the first century church at Corinth. He points out that life is exactly like that. Trials are a fire, meant to refine us and burn away what's worthless, leaving the best - glorious creation that God intended us to be. Here's what he said:
For no one can lay any foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw - each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. (1 Corinthians 3:11-14, ESV)
 Wood, hay, straw - they all will burn up. What won't be consumed is gold, silver and the like. So the question for me is, what will I lay on the top of the foundation which is King Jesus?

Love? Peace? Patience? Forgiveness? Caring for the poor and oppressed? Considering others better than myself?


Bitterness? Hatred? Selfishness? Lust? Greed? Rage?

The trials will flame up and burn what is flammable. The latter things will go up in a blaze of glory. But the former, the character that God would have me build, it'll last.

In this fallen world, I pray that God would help me develop character so that I will not be consumed. I don't want to leave a pile of ashes. Do you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mockingjay, Part 1

If you are my friend or a regular reader, it will not surprise you to learn that I went to see the new movie Mockingjay, Part 1 the first night it was out. The movie was the penultimate installment of a series of four movies, telling the the story of The Hunger Games books on the big screen.

I love the books because of the great storytelling, the characters, and most of all because the themes addressed which go to the essence of who we are. For more about what I think the books are telling us and why they are so popular, check out this post:

The Hunger Games...what's all the fuss about?

So how did I like the latest movie?

First, I thought it was riveting. The acting was fantastic, the story moved fast, and frankly it did not seem like nearly two hours. Philip Seymour Hoffman was amazing as Plutarch, and it was sad to think we will see him act anymore. The moment where Katniss is overcome with emotion because of the cruelty of the Capitol and vows to bring them down ("If we burn, you burn with us!"), gave me chill bumps and may be one of my favorite movie moments ever. Overall it was faithful the original direction of the story, although....well, more on that below. The bottom line is that it was a very entertaining and thought-provoking movie. If I had not read the book, I would have considered it almost perfect cinema. It was so good that I can't wait to see the final installment next year.

But, I have read the book.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not one of the book fans who think that a movie should match the story in a book exactly. I am keenly aware of the fact that telling the story in a book like this exactly would probably require a ten-hour movie, and it would probably drag. Your mind gives a book pace that you don't get in a really long movie. And - let me be clear on this - the Hunger Games movies, including this one, have been more faithful to their source material than most such attempts. And I've been very pleased with that.

NOTE: If you have not seen the movie or read the book, a lot of what follows may not make much sense. Also, CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS

An example of a difference that I think was unavoidable: in the book series Katniss develops relationships with the Capitol staff who are in charge of her appearance, and so when they are mistreated in District 13 it is part of what drives her experience there, and helps show us that District 13 is not 100% the good guys. But I understand that since those relationships were not developed in the first two movies, it would be confusing to suddenly make a big deal of their treatment.

But here's the thing I didn't see that I wish I would have: a sense of ambivalence as to the motives of the District 13 leadership. The mistreatment of the former Capitol makeover people, the strict diet and schedule required of all District 13 residents, the extreme pressure put on Katniss to perform, and a President Coin much more intimidating than the one played by Julianne Moore so far...all these things make the reader wonder if the new regime is really that much better than the old. We think it is, but we're not sure. And that, friends, is so important to the theme of the book, and to the place where the story is headed. 

So I missed those things, and I wonder a little bit about where Part 2 is headed. Is it a simple good vs. evil battle? Or is a more complex picture, as portrayed in the original story?

All that aside, I did love the movie. I will probably see it again in the theater and will definitely look forward to owning a copy.

And I can't wait to see the conclusion. November 2015...I'm waiting on you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


In the zombie apocalypse world of The Walking Dead, we see characters dealing with some of the most important issues in life: survival, freedom of choice, hope, family, community, forgiveness. I see so much in the bleak world that speaks of how important hope is in the midst of our fallen creation. So you can imagine how fascinated I was to see the wall sign in this picture during the recent episode "Four Walls and a Roof":

For those of you who did not grow up in a small church, let me assure you this style of sign is very common. It usually has statistics such as attendance and offering amounts on it. But in this church, where the priest Gabriel has holed himself up to escape the "walkers," it has a list of Bible verses. Needless to say, I had to look them up. Surely there is no detail from these talented writers that is there by accident. So what do they say?

Romans 6:4 - Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death; so that as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Ezekiel 37:7 - So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

Matthew 27:52 - The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

Revelation 9:6 - And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

Luke 24:5 - (A)nd as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Yes, there does seem to be a thread of a theme, doesn't there? Each verse has some sort of reference to death and/or a renewing of life. One speaks of attaining life by dying to yourself. Another speaks of the impossible, dead bones coming back to life. Out of context, the verses are very strange - maybe that's part of the point.

The last two are the most interesting to me in the context of the show: 
  • Clearly, the show's zombie apocalypse is a world where many people despair of whether life is even worth living. And in a way the show's premise is a representation of this verse: People don't really die, they just become walking, shallow shells of themselves.
  • And the question "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" lurks in every corner of this world. And perhaps our world, as so many people live empty lives.
Anyway, a very interesting group of verses, clearly displayed for a reason. While I've shared a few thoughts, I'm not sure what they're getting at.

So what about you? Do you see a theme? Or do you think it was just a random collection, a meaningless prop?

What do you think?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Being different

What makes someone stand out in a crowd?

Back in 2010, my nieces and I went the Alabama-Kentucky game in Lexington. Because we are all such big football fans, we decided to do something crazy. Our game ended at around 3:30, and we did the math. Auburn and Tennessee would be playing in Knoxville about 4 hours later, and there was time to make it. So we jumped in the car, drove south, and watched our second SEC football game in one day. It was awesome!

The interesting thing is that we did not pack for this plan. So there we were, walking into a stadium where the orange and white clad Volunteers were playing the orange and blue clad Tigers. Needless to say, we stood out in our crimson. And yeah, we got a lot of, um, feedback that I can't repeat.

So, as followers of Jesus in a culture where that isn't the norm, what is our crimson? What is it about us that marks us as part of the kingdom of God?

The post referenced below by Michael Kruger makes the case that for the early church, other than their refusal to worship other gods it was one thing: their sexual ethic. Please take the time to read it, as I will make just a couple of points afterwards:

One Trait That Set Apart the Earliest Christians

As Kruger mentions, this is quite an encouragement. As we lived in an oversexed culture that emphasizes freedom of choice and acceptance of all lifestyles, it is not the first time that has been the case. Do you get the feeling that our culture thinks we have suddenly discovered premarital sex, homosexuality, etc? Not true. As the article documents, these lifestyles were rampant in the Roman Empire during the days of the early church, and it was the difference in this area of life that marked disciples of Christ as being different from those around them.

So I don't mind getting ridiculed over the fact that with God's help I am reserving sex for the day if/when I get married. God has designed me for fellowship with him, and if marriage is not his plan for me, neither is the physical aspect that is designed for marriage. I don't mind that people think I'm narrow minded in my views on other forms of sexual expression - sex without a marriage covenant, homosexual behavior, etc. Jesus offers something different, and it's not always popular. It wasn't in the 2nd century (can you imagine if they had Facebook?), and it's not today.

If we are going to offer the world anything, it has to be something different from what they can experience outside of Christ. The fulfillment of a life that practices sex the way God intended is just such a difference-maker. The world tells us to treat other people as things to give us pleasure. Jesus offers us a life where sex is a gift to physically represent the union between Christ and his bride the church in the context of marriage. And he offers a full life of loving God and others for those who have not reached that stage of life.

(Note: This is never a ship that has already sailed. God's grace allows us to turn from our past and begin afresh, reflecting his image from today forward. What you've done in the past doesn't matter.)

If we go along with the culture, we don't have anything different to offer. As Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." (Matthew 5:13a, NASB)

Let's stay salty.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


So I sitting with some guys at Starbucks yesterday morning, well before sunrise. We meet each week a little before 6 AM to talk about life, God, and to pray. Yes, this is what is called a "small group" in many of today's churches.

As we were sitting there, suddenly we found ourselves almost shouting over the "background" music. The song wasn't bad, a Diana Krall remake of California Dreaming. Actually kinda cool.

But it was loud. So loud that we had trouble concentrating on anything, It was at that point that someone said it. Persecution! We're trying to focus on Jesus, and Starbucks is making it impossible.

How ridiculous! Yeah, we thought it was pretty funny. That's why this tweet went out:


Yes, we Christians in the prosperity and freedom of the United States really don't know much about true persecution. Thousands of Christians in the middle east are at risk of death every day. Some friends...you know what, you know the drill. To talk in detail could put people at risk.

In the meantime, I get my feelings hurt because someone on Facebook disagrees with my faith-based opinion. Anytime there is a court ruling, new law, or media article that makes me a little uncomfortable...persecution.

Well, I would certainly prefer to avoid conflict and have everyone agree with me, especially when it comes to faith. But Jesus said that wouldn't happen. He said that in this world we would have trouble. He said that people would oppose us. It's not supposed to be easy.

First century Christ-followers faced horrible deaths at the hands of rulers like Nero. They faced cultures that refused to receive their message. And many of the died for their faith.

So yeah, I think I can take it when the music disrupts our concentration at small group. Or when the media doesn't fall in line with the truth of the gospel. Or when my friends disagree with me. Those things are #firstworldpersecution.

May I have the power of God's spirit if I ever face the real thing. And Lord, protect and show your love to those who do. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Christmas? Now?

Tonight I sang Christmas music for about an hour. And no, I'm not crazy. Or at least if I am, it's not because of this.

You see, our church choir has begun its preparation for the annual Christmas musical. Actually, we have been rehearsing Christmas music for over a month. We started some time in early September.

So tonight, we were singing about "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." We sang about angels and shepherds and stars and wise men and....well, you get the idea. Does it feel a little weird? Maybe, but I'm used to it. Because here's the thing: If we're going to be prepared - if we expect to know the music - we have to be working on it now. Christmas is in the future, but if we want to do it right, we have to bring the future into the present.

N.T. Wright, among others, has described the death and resurrection of Jesus as God's future bursting into the present. I think it's a pretty good description. Scripture says that Jesus being raised from the dead was "the first fruits of those who are asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20) We live in an age where God has already won the victory over death and hell, but the final manifestation of that is still to come. The future, when all God's people rise to reign with him, has burst into our present.

So what do we do now? We practice! We are going to spend eternity bringing glory to God, but why wait until then? If we are going to do it right, we need to be living it now.

So...Christmas has burst into October, and we are singing carols and practicing to fully celebrate it when December rolls around. Similarly, God's glorious future has burst into our present, and we can't ignore it. This is what living the Christian life is about. Not obeying a bunch of rules to try and earn God's favor. But beginning the future right now. Reflecting the image of the Creator in his creation. Practicing for an eternity of obeying him and bringing him glory.

You know, it's kind of like Dippin Dots - you know, "the ice cream of the future." It may be the ice cream of the future, but we've been eating it for around 20 years.

The future is here. Faith isn't about waiting for heaven. It's about how we live now, in anticipation of how we'll live then.

Are you ready?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Walking Dead: Who are we?

Sunday night over 17 million people watched the Season 5 premiere of the popular AMC show The Walking Dead. For those who don't know, it is a show set in a dystopian world, the result of a "zombie apocalypse." It may seem like one long zombie movie, but it's really a show about human nature, survival, hope in the midst of despair, moral choices in the face of extreme adversity, and community. It is in many ways gruesome, dark, and at times hard to watch. But it also is a story that keeps sending me back to examine the meaning of life and how God fits into the picture.


Leading up to the this episode, Rick and his son Carl are approaching a place where sanctuary has been promised, but the promise is a lie. Those who are waiting for them have gone off the deep end, doing unspeakable things to their fellow human beings. As they walk along, this conversation takes place:

They have been through so much. Done so many things out of necessity. So have they lost their identity?

Fast forward to Sunday's episode. Rick and his friend Glenn have just escaped from one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable, at the hands of the people who had promised them sanctuary but only wanted to use them....for food. That's how low these people had sunk. And as they are plotting their escape, they notice a train car with some fellow human beings trapped. Would they save them, or just look out for themselves? And so the question of identity comes up again:

They're still holding on to their humanity. By a thread, but they are. "That's still who we are...it's gotta be."

As the episode progresses, we learn about the journey of the captors at Terminus. How they started out providing sanctuary and really trying to help people, but were betrayed. Tortured, killed, and assaulted in every way imaginable. And so they hardened. They became determined to never let it happen again. And the end result? Total depravity.

So who are they? Who were they before it happened? Are they different people, or were the depths of sin always there, crouching at the door, waiting to devour them? (And whoever they might trap.)

And what about the supposed heroes of the story? Who are they? Are they on the same journey as the evil captors? Are they becoming jaded, one crisis at a time, until they are just as depraved as the Terminus crowd?

So what about us? Who are we? It's so easy to look at myself as I live my relatively comfortable life (no zombies here) and think I'm a pretty good person. But am I? Or is there a level of adversity where  I would progress into something I don't recognize?

This is where I need the grace of Jesus, the resurrection power to change me from the inside out. Through his death and resurrection, my heart can be changed and the evil lurking there defeated. There is hope...hope that I do not have to become what I hate in order to defeat it.

When the world tried to force Jesus to fight back against its power structures, he defeated evil in a surprising way: by submitting himself to a humiliating death. He defeated evil by taking on sin and allowing it to die with him, and then rising from the dead.

I'm not sure where Rick's journey will lead. It looks like there is a real danger of becoming everything he hates in the struggle to survive and protect those he loves. I look forward to seeing how far down that road he goes...and whether he ever recognizes what's happening to him. But the real question is, do I realize what's happening to me? Do you? And what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

To blog or not to blog

Hello everyone! I'm back. Well, I think.

I began this blog back in 2010, after my first trip to Africa. I wanted a forum to share about what God was doing over there, especially for family and friends who were praying for us.

But it became so much more. I discovered that I was able to share my life with friends and others who might be interested. Funny things that happened. Goofy things I did. Scriptures I read. Movies I watched. Books I read. I have enjoyed sharing these things and so much more with the world.

I just looked back and saw that my most recent post was September 1. That was 37 days ago. I want to tell you all right now - that was not from an intentional decision to stop blogging. I also don't think  it was from a lack of worthwhile material.

So what happened? Well, one day at a time, I developed a sort of writer's block. I don't know why. Yeah, life is busy. Yeah, I get tired and think "maybe tomorrow." But mostly I think it was just a case of not being sure that what was going on in my brain was worth sharing with the whole world.

Now maybe that has always been true, but I've written anyway. But I do know this - I promised in this post over three years ago not to blog for sake of blogging. I promised that I would only write when there was inspiration. It took a long time, but in September of 2014 the evidence arrived - I really meant it. You will never see me write a blog post just because I haven't written in a while. I want to make sure that if I say something, it's because I have something to say.

So will I keep blogging? Of course. Maybe the desire to write this one is a sign that my writer's block is over. Or maybe it will be a while before the next post. Or maybe I'll come up with a plan to write regularly, like once a week on a certain day. But regardless, I have not decided to stop. I just went a long time between posts.

I'm back. And I'll be back. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe next month.

When I do, I hope you'll be around.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Just do it

There is so much good in the world.

And so much heartbreak.

It's easy to get paralyzed, isn't it? When I think about all ways in which diseases like ALS and cancer devastate lives, all the hurricanes and earthquakes that strike unsuspecting masses, all the wars, all the persecution...it's just overwhelming.
The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior." Then Gideon said to him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?"
- Judges 6:12-13a (NASB)

And so yesterday I was reading the Scriptures and came to the account of Gideon. Most of us who grew up going to Sunday school remember Gideon for the fleece that he put out to test whether God was really talking to him. Or maybe for the way God kept trimming his army size until it was only 300 men, so that he would know it was God who gave him the victory.

But this time, I was struck by his first encounter with God, the moment when he realized the Lord wanted him to take action. I had never noticed this before. So a messenger (angel) of God appears from heaven and addresses him in a strange way. For one thing, he calls him a valiant warrior even though Gideon has likely never even been in a fight. But the thing that strikes Gideon in not that; it's that the angel says, "The LORD is with you."

And Gideon thinks, Huh???

He sees no evidence of that at all. Read Judges 6:1-14. God'e people Israel have not been experiencing the Lord's blessings for quite some time. Their land was being taken, their livestock was gone and they were barely surviving. So, in the Hebrew mindset, God could not possibly be with them. He was gone.

The angel tells Gideon, No, he is with you. And Gideon responds like the rest of us: If so, why are all these bad things happening and where are God's miracles we read about in the Scriptures?

So the angel answers all Gideon's questions and lays out a detailed theological treatise of the problem of evil and how God is present in suffering and we just have to.................

Ummmmm, no.

Instead, he just says, GO!

Go, do something about it. Haven't I sent you?

It would be easy for me to sit around and main about all the evil and suffering in the world, in the live of those I love, and even at times in my own life.  Lord, why has this happened to us? Why do you allow your creation to be like this? But as I read this passage, I heard God's answer. The same way he answered Moses, and Gideon, and Isaiah...all the way up to Jesus' final words to his disciples:


No excuses, just do it.

I don't know why. I don't know how it fits into his plan for creation? I don't know a lot of things.

But I can go. I can do something about it. I can give...I can just be there for someone...I can listen...I can comfort...I can work...I can share the gospel...

I can go. I can be. I can love.

And God says, Just do it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bama 2014

It's almost here. Get ready people. The road to 16 commences Saturday afternoon...

Roll Tide!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My piece of the pie

Sometimes it's just so overwhelming.

As I read this week about the persecution going on in Iraq, it makes me want to do something. I want to make it stop. All by myself.

And then I look around at all the needs in the world, and how desperately the earth's 7 billion people need hope. Hope that is found in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

Seven. Billion. People.

In this age of 24 hour news, social media, and rapid communication, it's hard to miss how great the need is. Children all over the world in need of basic necessities like food and clothing. War breaking out in Ukraine, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan with millions of civilians in the crossfire. Disease that's killing thousands and threatening to break out to kill millions. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis.

There are so many people hurting...and I sometimes feel so helpless.

So this morning when our teaching pastor compared me to a piece of pie, it was a perspective I needed.

A piece of pie? Yes. The encouragement I got from him was this: God has given me a role in redeeming his creation. But it's just a small part. When I feel like I've got to solve it all, I've got to remember that I'm just one piece of the pie, and I need to surround myself with people who have the other pieces. This is a group project.

Group project. I got a picture of this Thursday when I was helping judge an MBA contest at the University of Alabama. In the morning session, I saw 12 students making speeches, showing their talents for analyzing business problems. They were impressive. But the afternoon session was so much more impressive. The students were placed in groups of four and given a problem to solve, a company that needed to be revitalized. The group dynamic was so much more powerful, and the solutions they came up with were cool.

So why should I be discouraged? God isn't asking me to solve the world's problems all by myself. He has been working to redeem the world with a plan that has been growing for over 4,000 years, starting with Abraham, culminating in the work of Jesus during his time on earth, and continuing in the hands of his people, the church. I am a small part of that plan, a small piece of the pie.

Small, yes. But definitely a piece.

So what should I do? I believe God asks me to be content in the role he has given me, and go about it with determination and much prayer. I don't need to be wishing I could be somewhere else doing something else. If I do, I will pine away my life and miss the chance to do his kingdom work right where he has me. There is so much to be done!

So, instead of focusing on what I can't do, I will focus on what I can:

  • Go to work each and look for ways to show God's love to those at my company. I can do quality work that glorifies the Creator of work, demonstrate servant leadership to my team, and love those around me even when we don't agree on things.
  • Love my family with all my heart, letting them see the light of Jesus by considering their needs above my own.
  • Love my friends - fellow believers - by spending time with them and building community that reflects the prayer of Jesus in John 17.
  • Love strangers, and even those who oppose me. Show them extraordinary kindness. Who does this?? Well, nobody wants to. And so when I do, people can see that the gospel does make a difference in how we live.
  • Find a pocket of need and pour my life into others. This is where I have to avoid getting overwhelmed - I can't reach out to and/or visit every widow and orphan in the world or help lift up all the oppressed. But that's no excuse not to reach out to any. For me, at this point in my life, it's the children of Korah in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as well as keeping my eye out for local opportunities.
  • Pray, pray, pray. This is how we can be involved where we can't reach. We have a big God.
  • Share the resources that God has entrusted to me. He has done so not for my pleasure, but for his glory.
Tackling this list is  quite a challenge. But with God's help, it's something I can do. 

So thanks, Patrick, for reminding me. Instead of being frustrated about the things I want to do for God but can't, I need to do well those things God has placed right in front of me. 

Time to get to it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Time out

Sometimes you just have to call a time out.

Today, August 15, is a regular time out for me. Today I step away from work and from my everyday personal life. I will spend some time alone, and it will help me refocus on what's really important.

As many of you know, today is my late sister Kim's birthday, and 18 years ago today there was a terrible accident that claimed her life. Because of that, I have chosen today as a personal memorial day for all those I love who have gone ahead of me. But you know what? I have written about these things before, and I think the best way to share my heart is to point to these previous posts. So here are links:

Today I remember (a tribute to my sister)

An annual reminder (an explanation of why I take this day)

No more night (A reminder that death is not the end)

If you have the time, I ask humbly that you click on these links and do a little reading. If you do, I pray that you catch a spirit not of sadness, but of rejoicing in the memory of great lives and the hope that we have in Jesus.

Remember those that you miss. Remember the love. Remember the joy. And thank God for their time with you.

God bless.....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A terrible thing

Death is a terrible thing. It is the enemy. There is no silver lining.

In this scene from the movie Dead Poets Society (1989), a young student has just committed suicide. Just how awful is death? Well, here.....

Waste. Tragedy. The end result of living without hope. It was true for Neil, and today we saw it as the the life of Robin Williams ended.

There is a deep, sad, irony in watching this movie now. We see Williams' character trying to come to grips with the path that led his student to despair. And from now on as we watch this, we will not be able to escape the awful fact that this was a path he would one day travel himself. And we are all the worse for it.

Yes...death is a terrible thing. It is the enemy. There is no silver lining.

What's that you say? The silver lining is that it is a bridge to the afterlife, where everyone will be happy and where our dreams will come through?

I don't think so. I believe the Scriptural message that death is the end result of our rebellion and where the path of human self-reliance ultimately leads. It is a horrible enemy, one that made Jesus weep with sorrow and anger at the grave of his friend Lazarus.

But it is an enemy that he defeated. When the Messiah Jesus rose from the grave, he took away its awfulness. He robbed it of its debilitating power. And he created the hope that for his followers it would not have the final say.

Death has robbed us of a great talent today. We will miss his humor and ability to make a story come alive; those who knew him well will miss so much more.

Death, you stink.

But you. Are. Done.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The pressure's on

Yesterday I read a study from the Barna Group that was very encouraging. For those of you who don't know, this research organization specializes in doing studies on trends among people of faith, with a special emphasis on the millennial generation. In this study, the main focus was the way technology was changing the way Millennials interact with their faith. You can read the whole study here. I encourage you too.

There's a lot in the study about how this generation is using the internet and their mobile devices to read Scripture, as opposed to just using books or the Bible in book form. That didn't surprise me - I've done a lot of that myself. But the cool part was the way they are using technology tools to check up on their preachers. Here's an excerpt:
Now with the ability to fact-check at their fingertips, Millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14% of Millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38% of practicing Christian Millennials say the same.
Wow! Preachers can't just assume their congregations are sitting there passively, believing everything they say.

And that's a good thing.

It reminds of the Christians at Berea, as told in Acts 17. When Paul and Silas were there preaching, we are told that the people of Berea "received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11, NASB, emphasis mine)

There is way too much blind acceptance of stuff that comes out of the pulpit. I won't even go into examples of false teaching, but it is all over the place. But it's not just in the 21st century - it was true in the first century as well. John wrote about testing doctrine (1 John 4:1), Paul about avoiding false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3-4). And Jesus said it was coming, and would mislead many (Matthew 24:11).

So how do we avoid getting caught in the trap? By doing what they did in Berea. And this is exactly what we see a large number of Millennials doing!

When I see that they are using technology for real time fact-checking, that is good news. It is my prayer that they are "fact-checking" what preachers are saying about the Bible, to make sure it's true. "Examining the Scriptures daily..." - no, not just daily but immediately! - ..."to see whether these things are so."

Technology can be a trap. But it can be a blessing. Watch out preachers, the pressure's on. May God use this trend to seed out false teachers and point a generation toward the awesome truth of the gospel.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Doesn't this just make you feel good?

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof,
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth,
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do.
Before starting, let me say: I love the song. Catchy tune. Feel-good message. And it does have some elements of godly joy in it, especially the idea of not letting anything bring you down.

But it does have a problem right smack in the middle of it. How so?

Happiness is not the truth.

You see, in our society we have made being happy the ultimate goal. Whatever makes you happy, that's what you should do. We use it to justify all sorts of things:

  • We pursue pleasure with every spare moment, instead of taking time to serve others. Because, well, that makes me happy.
  • We drown out the voices of Scripture and our consciences when it comes to certain behaviors, because if it doesn't make us happy it can't possibly come from a loving God, right?
  • We think that being happy is the reason to get married. So when we are no longer happy, well...that's what divorce is for.
  • And it's not just marriage. We quit when things get tough in all sorts of areas. Whether it's at work, church, or just a friendship that's hit some rocky times. "This doesn't make me happy anymore. I'm done."
  • We blame God when we encounter death, sickness, or financial troubles. "This doesn't make me happy, God. You must not love me. Do you even exist?'
Yep, we've bought the lie..."happiness is the truth."

If life and Scripture combine to tell us anything, it's that God wants to shape us back into his image through our time here on earth. Paul consistently wrote about how suffering was part of God's plan to shape us into the image of his Son, using his own suffering as an example. So did Peter. Jesus told us to take up our cross (an instrument of death!) and follow him.  He also told the religious leaders that a man who was born blind did nothing to deserve it and said that the Father causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall equally on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). 

There is nothing in the words of Jesus or his followers indicating that being happy was the goal of life.

And then there's Job. In the first two chapters of this amazing book, we learn that Job is going to suffer and suffer a lot. And then it happens, and we are told that none of it is because of his sin. How happy do you think Job was? Exactly. And yet he was right smack in the center of God's will, as the Lord used his circumstances to teach him and make him more of an image-bearer.

But really, go ahead...clap along. I do. Through faith in the Messiah Jesus, I am determined not to let life bring me down.

But when I'm not happy, when life is pressing down on me, I've got something better than happiness to carry me through.

Faith. Hope. Love. These are the truth.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lucy: A story about limits

The serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God." 
- Genesis 3:4-5a (NASB) 


Last weekend I went to see the movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. The trailers had intrigued me for several months, and so I was really looking forward to it.

Let's just say, it was weird. The plot involved a young woman (Lucy) who was subjected to a powerful hormone drug in massive quantities, with the result that her brain chemistry was radically changed. Whereas the normal human being only uses about 10% of our brain capacity, her usage began to increase exponentially. She became more powerful, began controlling the environment around her, was able to learn Chinese in about an hour, and began to spiral out of control.

Parallel to Lucy's story, we see Professor Norman (Freeman's character) delivering a lecture about the brain's power. When asked what would happen if a person reached 100%, he replied, "I have no idea."

Of course, that's where Lucy was heading, and she was going to be get there in less than 24 hours. So she found Norman and got his help to upload her brain's knowledge to some monstrous supercomputer. When her brain hit 100% capacity, three things happened: 1) She disappeared. 2) The data from her brain was contained in a large flash drive [yeah...I know], and 3) a cell phone received a text message from her saying, "I am everywhere."

I'm not positive, but I believe that the implication was that she had essentially become the equivalent of God.

So we come back to the Scripture quote at the top of this page. The movie was clearly trying to draw a line of history starting with the dawn of man (a primate that evolutionary scientists have nicknamed "Lucy") and ending with exponential growth that finally brought man to the level of God. In other words, the very thing with which the serpent tempted the first man and woman.

According to the Genesis account and the rest of the Bible, the very essence of sin is the desire to be our own god. We don't want anyone, including our Creator, running our lives. And so the temptation of the fruit was, You will be like God. It has been the aspiration of humans from the beginning. And this movie painted a (weird) picture expressing the concept that if we ever could reach our full potential....bang! There it is. We're God.

People were created in God's image, but not to raise ourselves up to claim his throne. We were created to reflect his image on the earth and send praise back up to him as a part of his creation. When we decide to try to be more than that, we go down the same dangerous path as Lucy. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son, and the grace that he brought to us through his death and resurrection. In him, we can be restored to our original purpose, reflecting his glory instead of our own.

Forever. And that's a lot better than uploading myself to a computer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A request and a reminder

Today I am asking a favor. Would you please pray from Dr. Kent Brantly and his family? You may have heard of his situation on the nightly news, twitter, or the news wires. While working as a medical missionary in Liberia, he has tested positive for the Ebola virus. And while it is prominently in the news, those who love him have appealed for our prayers on this blog post.

Please read it, and please pray for him and his family.

As I pray earnestly for his healing, I cannot help but be reminded of what it means to follow Jesus. Most of us want safe, happy lives. We want to be insulated from any risk or danger. We would prefer a god who offers a life of ease, health, wealth, and pleasure.

But the Scripture is very clear that this is not the life God has called us to. It uses phrases like "take up your cross (which was an instrument of death),", "whoever loses his life will find it," and "go into all the world." It talks of suffering as the path to discipleship, and tells us that we are blessed when we encounter hardship.

No, God is not calling us to safety. The expression, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will" is only true if we consider safety in the context of our eternal destiny. As a C.S. Lewis character said of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

Or, in the words of my niece's favorite expression, "Ships are safe in the harbor. But that's not what ships are for."

God calls us to radical obedience, no matter where it takes us. It could be risking your job to stand for moral integrity. It could be risking your financial stability by giving generously to those in need. It could be volunteering to share God's love in a part of town you're not comfortable with. Or it could be serving him in another part of the world where the risks are completely different.

My heart is aching for what the Brantly family is going through. I am thankful for a family that, knowing the risks, followed Jesus in loving the people of west Africa. And I pray for his healing and for his family's comfort.

Would you join me in that?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


What a great day!

I love surprises - both when I am surprised and when I can surprise someone. That's why I loved my niece Macy's plan to throw a surprise party for her mother (my sister) today. And the best thing is...it worked!

So much fun when we saw Kristy walk in the door to see her family and friends.

And then we ate. Awesome burgers, awesome trimmings, homemade ice cream, and one of the best cakes ever.

Swimming, boating, talking...just hanging out.

I really think days like today are a tiny glimpse, a shimmer, of the joy God has prepared for his children in the new heavens and new earth. Eternity basking in the glory of the Lamb, and living life in community with all the saints from through out history. It's going to be glorious!

But while we wait for that, we can enjoy days like today. Awesome!

Happy birthday, sis!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

History and Tradition: Alabama-USC

On Wednesday it became official. Alabama and Southern California will meet on the gridiron to begin the 2016 football season. This is huge. They are two of the most storied traditions in college football, and they have not played in almost 30 years. And when they have played...wow.

One of my favorite football-related childhood memories was listening to the 1971 Bama-USC game on the radio. Alabama was coming off a 6-5-1 season and the Trojans were ranked #1 in the nation. Nobody gave the Tide a chance in Los Angeles that night, but Coach Paul Bryant unveiled the wishbone attack, and pulled one of the greatest upsets ever:

The Tide went on to play for the national championship that season, and it all began on a shocking night in California.

Another of my favorite Bama memories came in my late teens, when the Tide once again traveled to LA to play Southern Cal. This one was televised nationally with the legend Keith Jackson calling the game.  Once again, Alabama was coming off a disappointing year (8-3) and USC was ranked at the top of the polls. With another improbably road victory, the Tide launched itself into the national picture and laid the foundation to win two national titles in the next three years.

Here is the entire 4th quarter, with the drama of USC nearly coming back from a 21-6 deficit to win. I paced the floor the entire time. Watch the whole thing if you can, but if not, go to the 37:00 mark and see the Trojans' TD drawing the game to 21-20, and the dramatic two-point conversion attempt. What a game!

Two great programs. A total of 26 national championships between them. One of the best venues in the country, Cowboys Stadium. By 2015, Steve Sarkisian should have USC back in the national championship picture.

I can't wait. Roll Tide!