Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Some people were more bothered about it than others. But as sure as the sun came up in the east, no one really questioned that Mr. Smats hated cats.
It became more tangible when you saw his tombstone. The infamous mausoleum projected an eerie gloom on the horizon of the town. It became almost a rhythmic reminder, every time you passed that way. The sheer number of repetitions beat on our brains the melody of unrivaled truth...Mr. Smats Hated Cats.
But a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.
The objects of the venom of reprisal were his sons. Their last name was forever forced into the rhyme..."Smats" and "Cats".
Sam and Will Smats had consciously and unconsciously done all they could to escape the mantra.
Sam Smats had climbed a tree to rescue a frightened kitty only to have fallen and broken his leg so severely that he walked with a limp. It was so peculiar that you could identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.
Will Smats kept cats in his home. But no one bought it. It took a good bit of looking, but Will Smats' cats were not cared for. Often people commented on the ragged fur, hungry eyes, timidity, and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.
One day a report exploded on the town square that Will Smats had buried a cat in his backyard. The pressure on City Hall to investigate was immense and an investigator was dispatched to collect information on the abuse.
Sam Smats limped and Will Smats pleaded for folks to stop with the nonsense.
"Yes, our dad hated cats.... but we reject such a horrible view. Will someone please stand up for us?"
I thought about it for many days. I talked to a friend over coffee...
"What if Sam were trying to help that kitten?"
He looked at me in disbelief. "You are kidding me..right? Didn't you hear what the people said about his features? He was angry. He was going to kill that cat. Thank the Lord, that he fell out of that tree before harming him!"
I tried again... "But we weren't there! What if he wasn't mad? What if he was just scared of heights?"
My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was he climbing that tree? Why go to all that trouble if he didn't just HATE that poor creature!"
I tried again....
"What if he was so sad about how his dad treated cats, that he wanted to go out of his way to help one?"
He glanced at me with a suspicious eye as he sipped again on his brew.
One day I did find someone who agreed with me!
As I slowly approached the subject, I felt his support rather energizing!
He had the biggest smile I had ever seen!
"Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"
We laughed together.
'Crazy!, why don't people see that?"
"Maybe it will just take time!"
But that concerned me... I don't think time was going to help us. I had heard it on the playground one day... 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed a similar song "I step on a crack and Will breaks my cat."
I looked at my new friend... "Will you come to the coffee shop and talk to my friend? Maybe he will listen to us together?"
A block down the road, the coffee always smelled so good and fresh!
We sat down and laid out the best argument we could..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam did not'.
My newfound friend shook the hand of my old friend and walked out, confident that we had made some progress for truth and good.
But I now saw two suspicious eyes over the coffee cup!
"What! Why do you not believe us!"
"Why should I? You have no clue who that was...do you?"
"Well, I just met him", I replied, "his name is Mark."
"Ha! You fool!" He smirked. "You have been deceived by no other than Mark SMATS... and a nephew hates cats as much as a son."
And I just stared in disillusionment... why even try?
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
But I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a participant and consumer of the the bark and bluster.
This post is no different.
But I feel like I needed to offer some restraint on those who have written off Alabama's defense based on the Auburn game.
I have spent most of my years as a coach on teams that emphasized defense. Most coaches would admit (if they HAD to choose) that they would rather be good on defense better than being good on offense. A great defense keeps you in every game.
Most teams who are better on offense will have the ability to light other teams up...but there is always that sad loss where you are a better team, but you just keep mis-firing and you get run off the field by an opponent you should not lose to.
Alabama lives and thrives on defense.....
But, when you look at an entire season, it always makes you feel good when an offense saves you when you have a poor defensive outing.
In Alabama's case, an explosive offense and an aggressive play caller avoided what could have been an ugly upset last Saturday night.
And what makes this Alabama team fun is that they win games as a complete team.
Through a coaches eye... I see where good play on both sides of the ball aided the win against Auburn and failure in all three areas (special teams/defense/offense) contributed to the close loss in Oxford.
Why is Alabama the most dangerous team in the country? They are the deepest team in college football and they play as a team.
When an analyst says Alabama was torched by the Auburn offense... he is really pointing to long passes that were outstanding plays by the Tigers.
Alabama's worst stretch of the game defensively was EARLY in the game, where... even though they were up 14-6.... had given up too many big runs inside the tackles.
Once the inside game was plugged up. Auburn was left to connecting over the top. That is a play Alabama wants teams to take. The theory is that if you can keep those throws from scoring TD's, and you make teams kick FG's in the red zone.. you can win IF you play good offense and special teams.
The biggest improvements I have noticed this season include Alabama using 4 defensive linemen more and getting a great pocket push from those 4. And it is a deeper team. I thought Alabama looked fresher in the 4th quarter than Auburn, in spite of the many number of plays Auburn ran.
The other improvement is the mobility of the QB. Simms' ability to extend plays has done what McCarron was not able to do last season (no disrespect to him intended- who can argue with his career?)
This is the most explosive offense Alabama has shown even though other teams may have been better. You have to credit Lane Kiffin's style.... he has no fear and calls the game loose and confident.
Special teams still frustrate the fan in me. UA's punter is amazing, but kick-off coverage scares me and FG situations make me very uneasy.
And Alabama is VERY good on defense. If you end up in 3rd and long... look out!
Based on that, here is how I see the rest of it playing out.
Missouri will be toughest against the Alabama offensive line. But Alabama's defense will limit Missouri's scoring opportunities. If no one panics at a low scoring and close halftime score... Alabama's depth will salt the game away in the 2nd half.
With Mississippi State being out of the 4 team playoff...that has helped Alabama. There will be no team in the final 4 that has the defensive front 7 like Alabama.
Missouri is the most dangerous game of the 3 potential games remaining.
If I were having to guess... (no particular order after Mizzou)
Alabama 31- Missouri 17 in a game that was very close until mid-way thru 3rd Q.
Alabama 24- FSU 13- Defenses dominate the game
Alabama 28- TCU 21- Exciting game with good plays on both sides
Alabama 35- Oregon/Baylor 24 (people will be surprised at how athletic defensive linemen hold down 'super spread' teams scoring)
Alabama 31- Ohio State 24- (people will be surprised how well OSU plays the Tide)
And my predictions are worth about the same as any other..... meaningless and likely not close to reality!
Sunday, November 23, 2014
“Love is observable and powerful. Love is the artifact that points beyond time and space.”
I took advantage of a holiday weekend rainy day to finally see the Christopher Nolen film, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey and a great cast. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie- almost 3 hours of visual excellence, heart tugging performances, and mind stretching narrative.
I have been impressed by the amount of work that has gone into the film, including using theoretical theorist, Kip Thorne, to keep the movie within the current thinking regarding black holes and the applications of relativity.
I enjoy entertainment in the genre of science fiction. These stories allow us to dream of an improved future and subconsciously explore social issues of contemporary society. I especially enjoy storylines that blur time, space, and dimension; it prepares us to accept concepts that challenge everyday experience.
As a Bible-believing follower of Christ, it also puts me squarely into the never ending debate of science, reason, and faith. Whenever I seek to offer insight into spiritual applications of these beautiful stories, I am not attacking the credibility, excellence, experience, or intent of the story teller. I also do not claim any scientific expertise in these issues. I am merely offering an analysis of why these movies pull cords deep inside our quest for meaning and connection.
A trend in the debate surrounding faith and science is to separate scientific logic and reasoning from any part of faith. This view is sometimes referred to as NOMA- (Non-overlapping magisteria). In this ‘2-story’ model, ‘reason’ and ‘faith’ each have their own domains and the two do not overlap. Science and religion may co-exist… but they do not join together in human existence.
My initial experience with ‘Interstellar’ is that it serves as a loud rebuttal to NOMA. In a story inspired by some of the most exciting theories of science, the draw of the movie is that human beings explore and apply these theories within issues like love, trust, sacrifice, fatherhood, ethics, and survival.
In fact, the ‘stuff’ of science has little value apart from the realm of meaning and human relationships. Even the robots in the plot of this movie are programmed with human transcendent attributes of humor, discretion, and conversational communication of tone and emotion. The test tube particles of life always overlap with humanity and humanity always overlaps with questions of meaning, family, community, and survival.
In fact, what resonates in these movies is a connection to the greatest story that is always in the background of human drama. If you asked me to explain the movie.. I wouldn’t talk about the science...even though it is SO COOL!
The basic storyline of Interstellar is a spiritual tale..
Faced with a world of decay, a father makes a loving sacrifice where he promises to return. It is a very difficult decision, but the survival and well being of his children and human beings requires him to take an action based on faith, hope, and love. His children are left with an equally difficult problem. In the father’s absence- can they hold onto hope..even when doubts arise about the faithfulness of humans to act within the bounds of integrity?
C.S. Lewis’s change from atheism to Christianity began with an observation by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien challenged Lewis to consider the Christian gospel as a foundational story to all the stories that Lewis admired and those were the ones that penetrated deep into his heart.
The gospel is what pulled me into this movie: a father’s love and his promise to return.
A few other interesting observations:
The Challenge of Communication Through Dimensions: The communication of unknown information is always a challenge. The limitations of the extra-dimensional "tesseract" meant that Cooper could only interact with Murph through what she thought was morse code, later discovered to be binary information that solved the problems to the equation that would later save the world. God Himself is challenged in revelation… How can the infinite be understood by the finite? God’s path has taken place over time..He has chosen space, time, and history to reveal His nature through creation, his Son, and a divinely inspired written communication. When Cooper encounters Murph later in life, she says, ‘No one believed me”- but she held true to her faith that the communication was truth.
A Blight in Scientific Theory and Application: We all benefit from scientific discovery, But the movie indicates a ‘blight’ in science as deadly as any disease that began destroying crops on the future planet earth. Man has presuppositional biases that can cause him to twist data and perpetuate untruths based on hidden agendas. Part of the problem in the planet’s ecosystem were decisions by a ruling class of elites who made important allocation of resources more on political pressure than on what was truly the best course for mankind. But a larger problem was that ‘good men’ knowingly changed scientific findings and data to sell a lie. Professor Brand lied in sending the interstellar crew and Dr. Mann lied to draw a rescue party to his location. Pure science does have a self correcting mechanism in place, but all of us worry about what perversions may be held in science based on prejudice, human error, and human fraud.
The Black Hole of Mystery: The power, mystery, and intrigue of black holes amazes all of us. The movie does an excellent job of keeping us awestruck by the black hole named Gargantuan. The crew continues to wonder at the power of Gargantuan and live in reverence and proper fear of a power where all things go and nothings escapes. The characters in the movie ask the proper question about the wormhole and the black hole…. WHO put it there?
A Privileged Planet: The movie captures another amazing fact.. the planet earth is one special speck in the dust of the cosmos. The location, and make-up of the planet to support life is rare and beautiful. Not only does it sustain life, it is placed as an observation deck to discover the beauty of its spectacular and privileged position. The social commentary regarding the dire position we would be in if we wrecked the eco-system in a great reminder of our responsibility to be faithful stewards of this treasure. I call on Christians everywhere to stand boldly in favor of those who have the heart to use good judgment and sound science in protecting what we have been given.
In the end, all stories that portray a shadow of gospel truth fall short of the beautiful truth of eternal life and salvation in Jesus Christ. The glory of God shines in the sun, moon, and the cosmos. When we trust Him, we never find a condition where we cast off all hope and are relegated to live in lies.
Man’s best theories never solve life’s greatest problems. In this life, the players all grow frail and pass away. Not only do earthly fathers fail to keep promises, they only become ghosts and fleeting memories to those who continue to tread upon the spinning globe.
Something in us longs for a deeper truth. There is One who claims to have returned from the black hole of death and promises to take us to an eternal home. There are others who saw this and gave their life as a testimony to the truth of the claim.
We want to believe in extraterrestrial life as a hope to the decaying world of man. Yet, we don’t want to believe in the existence of God and, sadly, we resist the beautiful claims of life in Jesus Christ.
What story takes the greatest faith to hold on to?
Thursday, November 20, 2014
But the more I survey culture.. I get a growing concern that we are losing the intentional mechanisms for training men.
Some would applaud this trend. There has always been an undercurrent to blend the lines of gender distinctions and end any effort to discriminate or stereotype based on whether someone is male or female.
I am a dad of three beautiful and successful daughters. I am glad that women in our society have the right to fully participate in opportunities. I grieve when I see examples of the mistreatment or
marginalization of someone because they are female.
But I equally grieve that there are some in our culture wants to suppress what it means to be masculine and feminine.
I desire for a culture where women have great opportunities to work and serve- but I also want them to flourish as women. These are God given qualities that were pronounced 'good' before the fall of man in Genesis 3.
I also desire for our culture to have real men.
Our homes, our government, our churches are suffering from a lack of authentic manhood.
When I say 'authentic manhood' I am looking toward a Biblical model of what a man is supposed to be, Our culture does not define manhood very well... it is not sexual prowess, domination, power, wealth, leisure, or status. When we promote these values as 'being a man' - all we are really producing is a lazy brute.. incapable of doing anything other than harm and destruction.
And no wonder there would be those who would want that removed from society! Too often our newspaper headlines are full of tragic tales of a male who reacts with no guiding principle except testosterone.
Men have to be trained....
And they have to be trained as men....
What would be some of the traits that should accompany a GODLY MAN?
If you read Genesis carefully, you see that Adam was right in the middle of the tragedy of the fall. I see failure in Adam in many ways. He was irresponsible in the proper view of the tree in the middle of the garden. If you remember Eve told the serpent “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die."' (Genesis 3:2-3 ESV)
But God never said - 'Don't touch it'. Some of this has to be Adam's responsibility, because the Lord gave the prohibition to him.
But Adam's greatest failure was not irresponsibility or participation in sin, even though he was guilty in both counts.
Adam's greatest sin was his passivity. When Even eats the fruit and then gives it to Adam... she didn't have to go hunt him down...Adam was right there... passively watching the whole thing .. and never intervened in what was right.
Being a man means that we have to be active..engaging.. initiating... and even intervening to stand up for righteousness and goodness.
When men reject their responsibility to lead... everyone suffers!
COURAGEOUS.... not fearful
About 10 years ago, I was challenged by a fried to confront my fears. I wanted to punch him in the head! Me? Afraid?
Sadly, with the Lord's tough work in my life.. I had to face the reality... I lived with A LOT OF FEAR.. and I still fight it to this day!
Courage is not the absence of fear... courage is facing fear.. courage is not being paralyzed by fear.
Our young men live in a world of unprecedented mocking and 'razzing'. The nature of humor, entertainment, and the platform of social media has pressured most young people to want to stay right in the middle of a status quo mass.
I wrote on this issue earlier (July, 2013) in a post called 'Spotlight Anxiety"-
The sad result of this pressure is to keep our young men in bondage. They are afraid of being singled out, so they live in shadows of mediocrity. We have to teach a courage that comes from a proper view of those who would seek to cause harm and we need to teach young men to learn to trust God when those pressures come.
I don't think we will ever rid the world of mockers... so the main war is to teach men to live in a way that ignores what the losers say.
This courage produces great freedom and energy....We are free to be what God has made us to be!
SUBMISSION TO GOD AND AUTHORITY... not a law unto himself
I was reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles and I noticed a pattern... good kings sought the will of the Lord...evil kings just did whatever they wanted to.
An authentic man, learns to live boldly and courageously WITHIN the boundaries of God's will, natural law, and God-ordained authority.
In my role as Dean of Students- my greatest concern with underage tobacco use, underage drinking, stealing, or reckless driving is the total disregard for law that young men are apt to demonstrate. All of these activities have inherent danger... and often, many who do these things never suffer immediate consequences... but I grow sad that there is not even a hint of a pause to obey the law of the land!
I think of the end of the Book of Judges: the very last verse!
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25 ESV)
We have to be proactive in teaching OBEDIENCE and RESPECT for authority. Too often parents are guilty of tearing down authority in front of their children. We need to respect parental and civil authority. We need to hold up laws and those who are in roles of authority.
Some of the entertainment aimed at kids is a smear campaign or satire at authority figures.
How many sit-coms take shots at fatherhood? I am appalled at programing aimed at young children that show weak parents who are the butt of jokes and mockery!
IDENTIFIED WITH CHRIST..... not a soldier of Satan
There is NO NEUTRAL GROUND in this world. Jesus drew a plain line. You are identified with Christ or you are in submission to Satan. The Bible leaves no room in the middle. You either serve the Lamb or the Dragon. You are a citizen of heaven- the spiritual Jerusalem OR you have allegiances to the City of man- the spiritual Babylon.
Your father is God or you are a son of Satan.
And because the kingdoms are in conflict- you get the wrath of your opposition.
Choose Jesus and experience the wrath of Satan.
Choose Satan and receive the Wrath of God.
Whose wrath do you choose?
Are you sure if you died tonight you would go to heaven? Is there ANY question more important than that?
RESPONSIBILITY, INTEGRITY, AND MORALITY
We HAVE to teach, discipline, and positively reinforce that real men are responsible, honest, and morally upright!
Of these...nothing is sadder to me than the erosion of honesty in our culture!
When I have a young man in my office for an mistake... I am often encouraged by the honesty that I see. If a young man looks me in the eye and says, 'Yes sir, I did it, and I am sorry I did it.", I have no doubt that this will be a positive experience in the long run.
But sometimes I have those who will lie and deny until they die. And inside I am supremely concerned that this young man is on a path to future calamity!
Once a person loses their integrity.. is anything left?
I immediately leave the circumstances of behavior.. and begin working with a student about being honest... it is way more important than any rules infraction!
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
At the same time- we cannot let up in holding high standards of decency and morality. It matters... language matters.... sexual purity matters... regard for law matters.... learning to control anger matters.... now we treat the weak or marginalized matters.... service and citizenship matters.....
A WORKER..... not lazy
This trend worries me to death! I am not finding young men who really know how to work! I am seeing the impact of our leisure and comforts in devastating results.
Technology has great applications.... but it has eroded productivity in my opinion. We live in a world where ...if young people are entertained.... if they are stimulated.... if they are having fun... if there is instant gratification..- they engage...
but any old fashioned... buckle down, bring your lunch pail and work clothes, push for delayed gratification is getting more rare every year!
Men are created to work and build. Work is good.. yes, it now has a curse attached to it.. there are 'thorns' in all employments... but how can the Kingdom of God be built unless there is a work force to do it?
Who is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard things?
Too many young people are growing up with only buttons to push.......
And as soon as it gets hard, they hit the re-set button.
As a coach, I am finding more and more athletes who only want to play games and do not understand the need for off season training and practice.
We must do all we can to not enable laziness. We have to let young people struggle and learn to succeed in labor!
PERSEVERES IN ADVERSITY...... not a quitter
Coach Bryant's most consistent message to his players was ...NEVER QUIT.
He said the first time you do it is hard.... but it gets easier and easier...until it becomes a permanent condition... you have become a quitter!
I am writing a series of devotions from the Book of Revelation. In his letter to the 7 churches, Jesus admonished 5 of the 7 churches with serious sin. But NO WHERE in those letters do you find Jesus telling the believers in that church to leave and find a better church.
Our society consistently sends a message that encourages us to leave when the going gets hard.
This doesn't mean there aren't times to leave a situation... but we need to always do it with counsel and principle...not just because we are unhappy or struggling.
PROTECTS THE WEAK.... FIGHTS EVIL
Paul Coughlin, a nationally known consultant in the area of bullying, mentions the great need to rally 'bully protectors' in the theater of school bullying and harassment. A group of students who are willing to stand up and speak out in non-violent, but sincere messages have more power to protect the bullied than any school administrator may have.
The greatest victories in the areas of substance abuse, the left behind, the bullied, and the neglected are students who are engaged and willing to help.
We all know the famous quote:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.Edmund Burke
I'm calling on school officials, parents, coaches, social workers, and ministers to do we can to call and support young heroes who stand up and protect the weak.
We HAVE TO BE HONEST with them and explain there will be push back and conflict...but getting persecuted for righteousness sake is a virtue- moral courage can change the world!
HOW AND WHERE DO YOU TRAIN?
First of all, we need to live as men. Nothing is more important that an example. We cannot teach what we do not know.
This means confessing our failures, repenting, standing up and calling out errors in gentleness, compassion, but at the same time UNWAVERING in what is right and what is wrong.
Anyone of influence needs to take time and educate, teach, correct, discipline, and positively reinforce traits of manhood to young boys and young men.
We need to let boys struggle! And we need to coach the through the fire. We need to be patient with failure and unrelenting in our standards. If we expect more... we will get it!
My encouragement to coaches of young men to think about being more INTENTIONAL about addressing specific issues of leadership and manhood.
I also call out to fathers to be more intentional about building qualities of Biblical manhood in your son's lives.
Finally, we must defend the institutions that have proven to be successful in bringing up young men with leadership and character. Satan would love to pull down the Boy Scouts, Upward Basketball, Church ministries, Boy's Clubs, and many other efforts to train young boys to becoming men.
If there is a coach in your community who is doing it right- hold that man up regardless of the record.
Left high those who are getting muddy in the front lines of this war for the heart and soul of our young people.
And we need to speak out against forces that erode the moral foundations... why lend our money to things that , though they entertain, are working against what we desire?
All of us need to pray for and look for opportunities to help in this area... our society DESPERATELY needs it!