Archive | September, 2012

Refs Don’t Win Games (or Lose them)

25 Sep

I played soccer when I was five. After my team won a few games, we lost a game. I got in the car with my parents, and I proceeded to tell my dad that we lost because the refs were bad at their job. He quickly informed me that you never lose a game because of the Refs. He told me that if we had done what we were supposed to do or were better at the game, we would have won. He said it in such a matter-of-fact way, that I immediately changed my tune.

My dad did not tell me to not complain about the refs. In fact, I never remember him doing so in all my years of having refs in a variety of sports and games. I do remember him showing me the foolishness of attempting to blame the incompetence of my team and me on refs. It became so ingrained in me that my first thought when people complain about the refs is that they must not be smart enough to realize the opportunities they had to win.

Now, Marc and I were involved in an event where if the Ref did not effect the outcome of the game, he certainly would have had we come closer to challenging. When a non-existent rule is called upwards of 15 times in a game, all on one team, then you know there is an issue. But that isolated instance aside (and the others like them, Tim Donaghy), I think the conclusion is correct.

Now, I watched the Green Bay-Seattle game. I will start by saying that neither of these teams tickle my fancy, and I would have quite content to see them both lose (or if they can keep the Saints out of the Playoffs, both win). I love football, but other than the NFC East, I really like to cheer for teams in the AFC. Having said that, the game was horribly officiated in the sense that bad calls were abundant, particularly Pass Interference on both sides. Granting Rodgers the first down on that replay seemed impossible.

My goal is not to list the litany of mistakes made by the refs, as I am sure if I received such scrutiny in my job, I, too, would be a failure. There is a reason why schools usually consider a 90% to be an A. Perfection just isn’t happening. Neither the old refs nor anyone else would call a perfect game.

It is easy to realize that missed calls are always part of the game, but the main issue with new refs should be things like flow of the game, ability to communicate through dialogue with the players, and things of that nature. Nevertheless, I still think my dad’s point rings true. While Tate definitely interfered with that pass, I have seen blatant Pass Interference on hundreds of Hail Mary’s in my football watching days, but never once have I seen it called. Why the sudden desire to be strict now? Because the “real” beef people have is the interception-touchdown call.

Sidebar. I think the Refs made the correct call on the last play. The NFL isn’t a game of 500 in elementary school, where the person who catches it the “best” gets the points. The offensive player clearly has the advantage in the rules. The defender in this case, M.D. Jennings (which doctors should confirm is an awesome name), clearly had the ball better. But before he hit the ground, Golden Tate (who has an even better name) also acquired possession. They both had it when hitting the ground. This isn’t a test of who had the ball more, but rather did the offensive player have it before possession was established [in case you were wondering, establishing possession requires controlling the ball, having two feet, and making a football move]. I submit he did. End of sidebar.

Regardless of where you fall on the last call, the Packers were aided by an incredible number of bad calls. All three scoring drives would have been cut short without questionable calls on third down. Their offensive line is the Swiss cheese of the NFL. Clear issues abounded during that game. If Jennings had just knocked it down as Chris Berman and Tom Jackson have been preaching on NFL Primetime (or, its current iteration as The Blitz), the game would be over.

Aaron Rodgers was never held to 12 points last year (when they got 14 the one time, they lost). This year with significant aid from the Refs, he was held to 12. The Packers put themselves in a position to be beat by one call, and they were. While I understand that one call affects games, I think that is a far different thing than deciding them. I have a friend who is an ardent fan of Ohio State. He blames a bad call on the opening kickoff for Ohio State’s loss in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.

Clearly we can see that such a call may have affected the game, but it did not decide it. No singular play decides a game. Did Boston College only win against Miami because of Doug Flutie’s pass? No, if they had not played well the rest of the game, that play would be meaningless. Any time you leave it up to one play, you leave yourself open to such a possibility. Green Bay, even if they were the victims of a terrible call, put themselves in that spot.

I think Mike McCarthy has had the proper response. He’s clearly upset, just as anyone would be naturally, but he is not taking to blaming. This is the one chance at success, in my opinion. Because I believe that blaming someone else and not accepting personal accountability is a sure way to become less effective. But that will have to be another post.

Mourning

23 Sep

Torrey Smith will apparently be playing tonight, just hours after learning that his brother passed away in a motorcycle accident. I’ve heard people applaud him and even more talk about the travesty his playing creates. I’m not sure the decision can be made without being inside his head, and I, for one, would not presume to have that kind of knowledge.

We all grieve differently. This became abundantly evident to me in a real way a couple of years ago. I was helping coach a Bible Quiz team, of which two-thirds of the team had their aunt die during the first day of competition. After they advanced to the finals against all odds, they were given the terrible news. One fan insisted that they should not quiz in the finals. Their mother, however, felt that they needed to quiz to honor their aunt.

Brett Favre played in a football game shortly after his father died, and my list will end there, as the List could be endless. There are those who feel being with their family and skipping the game or event is essential. And dependant upon what you do for a living, how duplicatable the situation is, and your relationship to the deceased and those that survive the deceased, it may be plainly obvious that you should go one way or the other.

Yet, for me, I will not be the one to tell you. Because for every Elaine Benes who gets dumped because she went back for Jujyfruits, there is a Bo Kimble, who leads a mediocre team farther than imaginable in the NCAA tournament.

So, as I am now watching Torrey torch the Patriots, I wonder, “Did he do the right thing?” I can’t be sure, but one thing I know. I won’t question him, and I don’t think we should (unless you are his mother or otherwise related to him). He made a decision that fits his situation. At this point, the best thing we can do is pray for his family’s peace and recovery.

What is a Peacemaker?

21 Sep

As Christians, we truly have enviable lives. It is quite exciting to realize how truly blessed we are. It was also nice to hear Pastor Curt preach on the blessing of being a peacemaker this last week. In my past, I have been to many churches where a culture of peacemaking was just not the norm. Many of those churches are great churches and do many things well, but I cannot tell you the overwhelming sense of safety that comes from being in such a church.

While Pastor Curt did a phenomenal job unpacking that verse, I couldn’t help but think about the context of verses as a whole. And while these are different character traits that are separable to a degree, I believe they are not so much prescriptions for the written reward. Rather, I believe these are descriptions of those who are regenerate. Those who live their lives for Christ will be characterized and described as poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, reviled and persecuted for Christ’s name, and yes, peacemakers.

You see, if we are chosen by God, we will live these enviable lives that take on the characteristics Jesus named. I don’t believe Jesus came up with a haphazard list based purely on a spur-of-the-moment emotion, like I’ve been known to do. This list of the fortunate ones is a comprehensive, connected list in my opinion. Therefore, when we look at how to be a peacemaker, of which PC’s sermon did a fantastic job, we can further know that the other characteristics will be encompassed in our peacemaking.

A peacemaker will be poor in spirit. He will not be one who is setting his affection on this world or the arguments contained herein, but rather, he will be totally filled with a desire for redemptive conversation. He will be driven by what is important in the Kingdom of Heaven. To me, this means being kind, and remaining ardently supportive of the essentials of the Christian life and letting things that do not carry a Kingdom consequence to be glossed over. He will make peace by remaining poor in spirit!

A peacemaker will mourn. I, personally, believe that mourning is the first step to peacemaking. We don’t attempt to solicit peace until we are brought to mourning by someone else. This is the impetus which drives us to superior desire to keep the peace with others. We will mourn, and we will be comforted. That comfort will come through our attempts to make peace. It gives us freedom to not dwell or be dragged down by someone else’s life (even if it leads to our morning).

A peacemaker will be meek. I think the description of “how-to” achieve peace relies heavily on this meekness. My dad always gave the example of Hoss from the old TV show Bonanza. Meekness is strength under control. Often when making peace, we will forego our legal correctness and perhaps justified feelings for the assurance of peace with a brother or sister in Christ. We are not always doormats, and we know when the proper time to fight is, but we also are controlled in our strength. This is the heart of meekness. We are willing to give up something, because of the potential for peace. Peacemakers will be meek.

Peacemakers hunger and thirst for righteousness. Peace making is not merely about forgoing our rights, but rather seeking a righteous decision where God can be edified, rather than obscured. We hunger and thirst for this righteousness. And our peacemaking will draw us into a relationship with Him, where He is giving us a desire to pursue more and more righteousness. Peacemakers will hunger and thirst for righteousness!

Peacemakers will be merciful. Perhaps this is redundant, but there is a reason that Christ was repetitious. Sheep need things drilled in before they can catch on to such a concept. Mercy will define our actions. As Christ taught the parable of the one forgiven being required to likewise forgive, the mercy we have been given is so great, that we cannot help but to show mercy to others. This is a necessity to make peace, and peacemakers will be merciful!

Peacemakers will be pure in heart. True peacemaking is not about deceptively trying to get your way. True peacemaking is to purely achieve the best result for His kingdom. This is not the purity that describes us before our salvific experience. Nevertheless, it will be one of the enviable qualities that will describe us afterward. Peacemakers will be pure in heart!

Finally, peacemakers will be persecuted for the name of Christ. We will be reviled. Men will say all kinds of evil about us. This is one that the American church struggles to understand. We have lived lives largely devoid of persecution. I’ve spent many hours wondering if we could truly be part of the church with the lightness of our persecution. Even though Christians are attacked in many ways culturally (beliefs, actions, concerns, etc.), we lead lives largely of no persecution. But there will be. Even if we can avoid the persecution, people will revile us and speak all manner of evil against us. This is the call of a peacemaker.

So, as excited as you may be by reading the other characteristics, you may be just as depressed by hearing this. But take heart. Our Savior promised us that our reward is in heaven. He has promised us that we are blessed. And we can be excited that peacemakers will be persecuted!

Kindness

17 Sep

“And be ye kind on to another…”

I honestly have been torn apart by this command more than just about any other command. First of all, what is kindness? What is kindness not? Is kindness ever not required? What are the associated commands and how does that color our view?

Some may say that this is a silly internal debate, so I feel the need to clarify. Does kindness mean that you are always using soothing words or that you must always be nice to people? Does kindness mean that sometimes you need to tell someone the truth they don’t want to hear for their ultimate benefit?

This is where I have my first sharp disagreement with some. I do not believe you are being kind to someone who needs the proverbial kick in the butt and does not get it from you, because of your quest for not offending. And since Ephesians 4:32 links kindness to God’s forgiveness in Christ, I believe that we need to look to that for our guide. Christ did many things that others might not call kind. He criticized those who were “perfect” in their upholding the law (the Pharisees). He threw over tables when he saw others sinning.

Now, I don’t want to put our righteousness on a comparable scale with Christ’s, but we clearly are able to do things that are not politically correct and maintain the proper spirit. In fact, I would argue, that there are times it is UNKIND to be overtly “nice” to someone. For example, I know a person who is deficient enough that he is about to embarrass himself in a major way. If I do not warn him, I am not being kind.

Kindness is delivering the news in the least obtrusive way while continuing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Just as Proverbs 3:3 tells the necessary connection between truth and mercy, kindness without truth is worthless. Further, it is not the essence of the commandment. The call to be kind, merely refers to the delivery of the truth and our willingness to forgive those sins.

The kindest people are those who speak the truth to you in an effort to bring you into a restored relationship, and when it happens, they never speak of it again. Our kindness is in reference to our tenderheartedness. Further, it is the measure. The kind person is the one, who even when he is telling you the world’s worst news is genuine. He is not looking to condemn, but to reconcile. This, to me, is the picture of kindness. And when people tell me to be sugary sweet while delivering half truths, I believe it isn’t kindness, but rather cowardice that is being exemplified!

To go to School or not

15 Sep

As I watch Austin and Ally with my children, I find it easy to identify with Ally and her decision. Not to spend too much time breaking down the options of a fictional character (though it made Sophie famous), she basically was accepted at the best music school in the country and she had to either go to school or continue working in music with her friends.

Just as it is with all difficult decisions, there are real benefits and detriments to each decision. It is similar to the decision I hear about when a good athlete is considering leaving school to “go pro” instead of staying in school. There are certainly benefits in each place.

The first question that must be answered is “What is the purpose of education?” Obviously, the altruistic reason of wanting to become better and more educated people should drive us, but the reality is that for most people, education is a means to an end. That end is usually to provide a comfortable living for those to whom we need to provide.

It is true that most athletes will make far more money playing professional sports (and from the ancillary opportunities that will provide) than they would from the use of their degree. Similarly, this Ally Dawson character is less than likely to achieve a better paying gig because of her degree in music than she had achieved working with Austin Moon. Therefore, the economic decision can often lead people to choose against the education.

It is also likely that getting a further education is likely to help people that get these opportunities make wiser decisions to prepare themselves for after the current money-making opportunity dries up. It is also likely that further education can improve the end product. But it is my belief that education is under-valued in this society.

I hear more people talk about the people who made tremendous success stories without an education. This is certainly possible. Yet, the real question should be, “Is it a general rule that people without education can be successful?” I think asking that question would yield a better answer.

If you look at those select few, however, who can be a success, the question should be “Could those people have been more successful with a better education?” And then, if the answer is yes, then is the increased productivity likely to find its way into making a difference in an area that we care about (like more money) and if so, would that increase be worth the delay in making the increase?

The reality is that the vast majority of us will philosophize on these issues and never be able to exercise our decision other than our fan mail to the superstar who doesn’t care what we think. So, in your own life, determine if education would help you, and realize that the answer is almost always yes!

What is the Core US Voting Value?

13 Sep

The conventions have past. I have talked to people and it seems that most of them came out of one of the conventions energized. Since that is what conventions are supposed to do, so I guess they were a success. But the problem is that the rhetoric hasn’t really been significantly altered, so they certainly don’t bring the country together in a unified way. As I stated before, it isn’t always agreement on the issues that makes you vote for the same candidate, but agreement on the issue you feel is most important.

There is, of course, the less than five percent of the population that feels a reasonable chance at a favorable outcome is not a reason to vote for someone, and decides to cast their vote for someone whom they know has no chance. I’ve spoken in math classes about how casting a vote for one of these candidates is akin mathematically to buying a lottery ticket. A good explanation to this phenomena is here.

And some will tell you that is the best thing about the United States. If someone believes that the core value of American culture is that you have the ability to throw out a protest vote of saying, “I don’t like what the establishment has to offer” then convincing that person to vote for one of the candidates is nigh unto impossible. Those of us who think that voting is definitionally recognizing peoples flaws (or disagreements with us) and then seeing which one we can accept the best will come to a different conclusion, even if we agree on all the other issues.

Others think that the most important issue is abortion. The reality is that most people don’t debate the correct issue on abortion. If life occurs before birth, then it should be protected. If life doesn’t exist, then it isn’t worth protecting. Now, I believe human biology studies give an exact answer to if life exists, especially when babies can be delivered and continue to live at some of these ages. If you think this is the most important issue, you will vote on your belief of when life begins.

Still another group exists which believes that the preservation of economic freedom might be the most important issue. While some on the other side believe that providing for those who can’t provide for themselves is of central importance. If you think this is the most important issue, the pendulum of where the candidates fall in this spectrum will mostly influence your vote.

We could think of a myriad of issues that people may think are the most important. Some believe that the most important issue is that we protect our right to vote. That right allows us to re-adjust every so often based on what we see as the weaknesses of the day, similar to baseball managers being hired who are the opposite of the preceding manager to fill in the gaps and hope to capitalize off the residue of the old manager. And those people will get frustrated at all of us for arguing some of these issues, as they think that is what the vote is for.

Now, there is no magical answer book that tells you which issue is the most important all the time, though I think many issues have Scriptural positions. The problem is that regardless of those issues or whether the candidate follows them, we are bound to support the winner. The Bible requires of us to obey those who have the rule over us. It requires us to honor the King. So, regardless of what your political persuasion is, you are required to come together.

Personally, I think that may be one of the greatest things about the United States. The fact that we can disagree vehemently with someone. We can debate. We can vote. Then, we have a capacity to come together, when it is important. On November 7, we will be one country with a set of leaders that God has ordained to bring about His purposes.

Sometimes that means that we are called to persecution, as much of the first century church was. Sometimes it means that we will be given lives of relative ease, as most of the existence of the United States has been. But we are always called to be good citizens and to be good followers of Christ. That should be our core Christian value, and if enough of us do it, we could make it our core US voting value.

We Call it…Potential

11 Sep

September 11. I consider myself to have lived in a reasonably good time in human history. I think, however, if you were to ask about the low point in my lifetime, I would mention this day in 2001. If you polled 100 people my age, I would guess the vast majority would agree. Now, some people have undergone immense personal tragedy and I don’t want to discount that, but as a whole, this is a day that shapes our framework of history.

I was not around for the bombing of Pearl Harbor or D-Day or the any of the days in Vietnam or the day of The Shot Heard Round the World or the signing of the Magna Carta or Reformation Day or many of the other famous days in history. September 11, however, I remember very clearly. I was sitting on my couch as the cable repairman was fixing the TV during a wonderful Caroline in the City marathon on WGN. As he was fixing the cable, we noticed that Caroline and Richard were not on the screen but some newsman from Chicago.

As I sat in the room with that stranger, I didn’t know what to think. Here were people taking everyday things (like airplane flights) in order to destroy iconic buildings (Pentagon, twin towers) and it seemed like it was somewhat successful. The things that have happened since have been too innumerable to try to encapsulate, but on that day, I was speechless. On a personal note, I had an interview with a non-profit organization the next day, which was canceled due to the giving pattern uncertainty, which certainly would have taken my life in a different direction.

More than anything, I just can’t get over how easy it is. We live in a politically hostile environment where people argue things like the legality of weapons is hotly debated. I’m frequently contemplative of a line from a movie that I remember nothing else about—”I’m not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons…I’m terrified of the man who only wants one.” This is not the post where I argue the politics of gun control, but I will say that I agree with the sentiment of that movie.

The guy who is able to turn an everyday airplane into a torpedo is scary. I remember overhearing a teacher say (I thought about me, though I can’t be certain) that he will either be President of the USA or a terrorist. I think that is why I wanted to be President for a good part of my life. I did not want to be a terrorist. Though, like my teacher, I believe that we all see that hankering for evil within us. We see the ugliness in our own hearts that wants the destruction of someone who disagrees with us.

We are so prone to these evil tendencies that I think we can understand how someone could train people to do such devastating things to their enemies. While I do not believe we all have it within us to do that precise act, I know we all have enough sin in us to do catastrophically terrible things that could cause great harm to some person or group. What excited me about her statement was that she saw potential the other way.

I have not (nor would I likely be able to) survey all my past teachers and see where they thought I would end up. If you are able to do so, let me know if most of them think of me as an overwhelming success or a disappointing failure. I’ve always thought that many of my teachers thought I would be a bum with a rap sheet, as I struggled in school, particularly in the early years. Not with the learning, but with the respect of authority, the obedience, the fitting in with the other rule-followers, and generally being the kid that was most likely to get his name on the board.

I do think that the best teachers want to see the potential in all their students. They want to see the best case scenario. I see this with my own kids. I see their shortcomings, and I attempt to help them correct those. I also see what they can achieve when they become focused on the right thing. As humans, however, being focused on the right thing is difficult. The enemy has traps of good things to sidetrack us (ever heard about the road that was paved with good intentions?) in addition to the innately evil things.

So what hope is there for any of us to achieve the better part of our potential? And how can we tell as we are living our life if we are actually achieving our potential or if we are purposefully sabotaging ourselves when we could accomplish more? I think the best we can do is surround ourselves with people who know us and care for us. If we do, I think they can be our guide. On the other hand, we need to likewise hold other people accountable.

In this mutual accountability we can avoid our own little September 11’s. We can help others avoid the most devastating of things they might do and they can help us avoid the ones that we might do. This is why I find it incredibly beneficial to have good friends who have helped me through many issues. My own personal worst day has been avoided a few times because of the faithful wounds of a friend. For that I am very thankful. I am also quite happy that I consistently have people hounding me to do better in certain areas. One day I may actually achieve my potential!