Monday, July 21, 2008

The Post Dark Knight

I'm still groggy from a 10:20 PM showing of the Dark Knight last night.... I enjoyed it, but it sure seemed long. Just first blush, it seemed like this was going to be two movies with the Joker and Two Face but Heath Ledger's untimely death pushed it into one.The Joker forever alive on plasma and Ledger never to return.

Excellent and clever movie- I loved the play on words about the Dark Night/Knight and the twists.

But with every new movie I feel us drifting farther from the Judeo-Christian world view. Recently I heard someone state that our current trend is to make immorality seem cool and righteousness seem strange. The lines of good and evil are blurred in such a way the plot lines are hard to follow and impossible to predict.

Is this a conspiracy? NO- It is the natural flow of the human heart magnified by the Maestro of the world's system. Think of the emphases: No God- conspicuously uninvolved and absent. The ad campaign is "A World of No Rules"- a final rebellion versus the forms that grant us freedom.

The anti-heroes and illogical reliance on a "good" society? The atoning sacrifice of Two-Face and the final sacrifice of Batman to play evil, knowing it is good. Ultimate good corrupted or forced to play evil- it is a world gone mad. The scarred smile and twisted heart- a fantastically disturbing movie.

I gave my money to it- is this a vote for the message? No- it is a reluctant admission of where we are headed.

Can the Lord's light come crashing through the dark night? It is my last prayer of hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Hero of Mystery

In his book The Strong Name, Scottish nobleman James Stewart speaks of Christ with words that, like Jesus himself, reach out both powerfully and personally:

“He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of man, yet He spoke of coming on the clouds of Heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at His coming, yet He was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with Him and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed He would not break, His whole life was love, yet on one occasion He demanded of the Pharisees how they were expected to escape the damnation of Hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all our sheer stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes. He saved others, yet at the last himself he did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.”

The Haunting Begins we go.

I am beginning my 17th year as a football coach and my 5th as a head coach. Too many practices and games to count. A lot of wonderful memories and special people. Many heartaches. I'm ready to go.

This time of the year begins the haunting... it is my overactive brain. I pray that I will not wake up before a normal time, but this morning, like many between now and December, I had something stir me into consciousness and the clicking and flickers begin.

It could be a dog barking, or a pop, the AC turning on, my wive turning over, a kid's cough, or just a need to pee... but my eyelids open and I begrudgingly have to accept that my day has begun.

I wish I were spiritual enough to just lay there and fellowship with the Savior. I do try to include Him early in my thoughts... "Thank you Lord"..."HELP".. "I ask Him to bless and help in some of the prayer requests that bounce along in my mind.

But eventually, football takes over... I start to think over the millions of thoughts and concerns of a football team. I mentally rehearse speeches and play plays in my head. I think about personnel. I become well aware of all the dangers and pitfalls. I play best case scenarios in my head....they are fun. I prepare for worst case stuff... my heart starts pounding and I pray "HELP" again.

So here we go.... it is 4:13 AM as I type these words.

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.

Lord- a new season- I need You to build our house.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


To End All Wars, the autobiographical account by Ernest Gordon, a British Army officer captured by the Japanese during World War II and assigned to the building of the Burma-Siam railway. Each day Gordon joined a work detail of prisoners to build a track bed through low-lying swampland. If a prisoner appeared to lag, a Japanese guard would beat him to death or decapitate him. Many more men simply dropped dead from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease. Ultimately, 80,000 prisoners died.

“Death was everywhere. Men collapsed in their tracks, from thirst, exhaustion, disease, and starvation. But death did not work fast enough for the Japanese, so they tried to assist him in his grim harvesting, as they drove the work of the railway.” (67)

“Death called to us in every direction. It was in the air we breathed, the food we ate, the things we talked about…It was so easy to die. Those who decided that they had no futher reason for living pulled down the shades and quietly expired. (72)

“Cholera victims were not buried as were those who died daily; they were burned. On great blazing pyres were placed the remains of men who had once been husbands, sons, lovers, friends. While the flames crackled around them in shimmering heat, they would turn, kick, bend and reach, then rise in a macabre dance- their eerie dance of farewell” (73)

“As conditions steadily worsened, as starvation, exhaustion and disease too an ever increasing toll, the atmosphere in which we lived became poisoned by selfishness, hate and fear. We were slipping rapidly down the slope of degradation… The weak were trampled- the sick ignored. When a man lay dying we had no word of comfort for him. When we cried we averted our heads. Men cursed the Japanese, their neighbors, God. Cursing became such an obsession that they constructed whole sentences in which every word was a curse.

We had no church, no chaplain, no services. Many had prayed, but only for themselves. Nothing happened. They has appealed to God as an expedient. But God had apparently refused to be treated as one. We had long since resigned ourselves to be derelicts. We were the forsaken men- forsaken by our friends, our families, by our Government. Now even God seemed to have left us.

Gordon could feel himself gradually wasting away from a combination of beriberi, worms, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and diphtheria. Paralyzed and unable to eat, he asked to be laid in the Death House.

The floor in the hut was a sea of mud. And there were the smells; the tropical ulcers eating into flesh and bone, overflowing latrines, unwashed men, sick men. Worst of all was the sweet, evil smell of bed-bugs by the million, crawling over us to steal the little fresh air that still clung to our bones. The swarming flies struck me as obsene.


This time death seemed so much more matter-of- fact. I was resisting the idea.
When? For me was NOT NOW.
ERNEST: Doctors are naturally pessimistic. They are wrong. I am not going to die.
REASON: In case you kick the bucket- leave your affairs as tidy as possible- write your parents what to do when you die. There is no escape.
ERNEST: Life has to be cherished. I’m not one to surrender. But what do I do about it.
THE VOICE OF FAITH: You could live. You could be. You could do. There’s a purpose to fulfill. You become more aware of it each day you endure. This is your task and your’s only
ERNEST: GOOD ENOUGH- I’ll get on it.


A Christian named Dusty appears in the Death House- talked, cared, comforted, washed, soothed, salved- “ I’ll clean out the pus”- fed- served- sacrificed- indomitable optimism- gets Ernest to a clean hut


“On occasions we marched into the countryside on labor details- we saw the difference in Christian natives, we saw the differences between the Christian way and the Oriental one.
Usually we were treated with indifference and contempt. Our plight meant nothing to the yellow –robed Buddhist priests. Why should it? They were on their way to salvation by non-attachment… there was no place for mercy in their philosophy.

But we once came to a village where we received a treatment so different it astonished us. There was mercy in their eyes. We were given cakes, eggs, bananas, medicine, and honey. Later we learned that this village had been converted to Christianity by missionaries. The Japanese found out about their friendly behavior and punished them severely for it.”


One event in particular shook the prisoners. A Japanese guard discovered that a shovel was missing. When no one confessed to the theft, he screamed, "All die! All die!" and raised his rifle to fire at the first man in the line. At that instant an enlisted man stepped forward and said, "I did it."

Enraged, the guard lifted his weapon high in the air and brought the rifle butt down on the soldier's skull, killing him. That evening, when tools were inventoried again, the work crew discovered a mistake had been made: No shovel was missing.

One of the prisoners remembered the verse, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Attitudes in the camp began to shift. With no prompting, prisoners began looking out for each other rather than themselves.

ERNEST: Why doesn’t God do something?
DUSTY: Maybe He does… maybe He does… but we just can’t see it right now. Maybe our vision isn’t so good right now. “for we see as in a glass darkly”. I suppose that eventually we will see and understand.

BEGINS TO HEAR THE BIBLE- Dusty reads John out loud.

“I lay back on my sleeping platform and let my mind dwell on these words. There was truth in them. Both Dusty and Dinty exemplified it.

For the first time I understood. Each man had a faith that lent a special grace to his personality. It was a power and presence greater than themselves. There was a life infinitely more complex and beautiful that I had ever imagined. True, there was hatred… but there was also love. There was death. But there was also life.
GOD HAD NOT LEFT US. HE WAS THERE WITH US- He was calling us to live the divine life in fellowship. I was beginning to be aware of the miracle that God was working in the Death Camp by the River Kwai.


ERNEST: I can’t possibly do that.
“Our men think you can do it. They know you are a fighting soldier and you’ve been to the university”
ERNEST: What good will it do?
“Perhaps we haven’t understood Christianity right in the past. We need to know if it’s absolute ‘dingo” or not.”

“I had to throw out the doctrinal expression that Christianity was only for nice people who had been brought up in nice homes and gone to nice schools where they had learned to do nice things. Heaven for this group was a kind of perpetual tea-party with thin cucumber sandwiches and smoky-tasting tea served in fine bone-china cups.”

At each successive meeting the numbers grew.

Through our readings in the gospels we gradually came to know Jesus. He was one of us. Like us, He had no place to lay His head, no ffod for His belly, no friends in high places. He too had known bone-weariness from too much toil; the suffering, the rejection, the disappointments that make up the fabric of life.

As we read and talked, he became flesh and blood. He was suspended on the cross and tormented with the hell of pain; but he had not been broken. He remained free and alive, as the Resurrection affirmed.

We experienced His love…passionate, other-centered…in fellowhip of freedom and love we found truth, and with truth a wonderful unity, of harmony and peace.


Organized service teams- they start to minister and improve conditions. Assign duties- visit sick- listen- encouraged- diligently did our daily charge-

The cross became central- God was not indifferent to suffering- He suffered so we could serve. No one knew the answer to the mystery- but we saw that much of suffering was caused by man’s inhumanity- selfishness- greed- some suffering was inexplicable- but we knew that God was not indifferent to pain.
We stopped complaining- we were not absent from pain, but faith allowed us to walk through it. Suffering was no longer locked up in our house of self-pity.

Laughter was heard in the camp- Worship services were started- A school was started- language and music was taught. Christmas came to camp.



We were beginning to understand that there were no easy ways for God- so there were no easy ways for us.

Carloads of Japanese wounded begin to pour in. The Japanese did not care a tinker’s damn for their own wounded. These men were in a shocking state. I have never seen men filthier. They were the enemy, more cowed and defeated than we had ever been.

Without a word most of our officers begin to help them.

An Allied officer screamed from another section in the train, “What bloody fools you are! Don’t you realize that those are the enemy?”

“Have you never heard the story of the man going from Jerusalem to Jericho?”

“That’s different- that’s in the Bible- these are swine!”

“We are called to the least of these whether we like it or not.”

It was time to let Jesus be my Savior and my LORD.

“As I journey with those of the Way I see the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is good news! God, in Christ has shared his suffering. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in our saddest and most painful experiences. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On Being Inspired to WIN

Ernest Shackleton is most noteworthy for leading the unsuccessful Trans-Antarctic Expedition, often known as the "Endurance Expedition", between 1914 and 1916. Although Shackleton failed to achieve his goal of crossing the Antarctic continent on foot, he demonstrated the qualities of leadership for which he is best remembered when the expedition ship Endurance became trapped in the ice and was destroyed. Shackleton, known by his contemporaries as "the Boss", led his men to refuge on Elephant Island before heading across 800 miles (1,300 km) of the Southern Ocean to South Georgia, in an open boat with five other men. Upon reaching the remote island, Shackleton and two others crossed severe, mountainous terrain to reach a whaling station, from which he was able eventually to rescue his men on Elephant Island. All the men on Endurance survived their ordeal after spending 22 months in the Antarctic.

In the book, “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing there is a lot of insight to what made ‘the Boss’ such an inspirational figure.

“ Shackleton was not an ordinary individual. He was a man who believed completely in his own invincibility and to whom defeat was a reflection of personal inadequacy. What might have been an act of reasonable caution to the average person was to Shackleton a detestable admission that failure was a possibility.

This indomitable self confidence of Shackleton took the form of optimism. This set men’s souls on fire as some said just to be in his presence was an experience. It was what made Shackleton so great a leader.

As a football coach- I will be having some open discussions on this will to win. Where does it come from? What gives a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordan that competitive fire? How can it become more evident on a team?

Shackleton gives us a little insight into some of the seeds of this attitude:

1) Preparation and Experience
2) No thoughts of even the possibility of failure- no bailout
3) Willingness to rise above the ordinary
4) You take defeat personally

I will be including our coaches and players on this over the next several weeks. I have to give proper inspiration from Ernest Gordan and well as Ernest Shackleton.

Friday, July 04, 2008

MEDIAMANIA- Attitudes, Signs, and Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I just finished an incredible book entitled “Endurance- Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Albert Lansing. It is the true story of survival in Antarctica during the years of 1914 and 1915.

I will include in later blogs some of the great quotes from the book and a look at Shackleton’s undefeatable will- but I was struck this morning with a quote by one of the crew in his journal.

While the men were locked on an ice flo- they began to exhibit an unhealthy obsession with the wind reports. They were dependent on the wind to move their flo closer to land. If the wind went in one direction they were closer to freedom, if it changed, they were pressed hard to hold on to hope.

This obsession with the wind was labeled ‘amenomania’ – literally, ‘wind madness’- The crewman commented “ This disease may be exhibited in two forms: Either one morbidly anxious about the wind direction and gibbers continually about it, or else a sort of lunacy is produced by listening to the other amenomaniacs.

As I read this, I couldn’t help to think of our modern disease of ‘mediamania’ where we are constantly bombarded with 24 hour cable news about the state of the world and nation. Then talking heads waste hours gibbering about their worldviews and pre-suppositions.

The constant drumbeat of the messages has produced division and cynicism in our world today. Our extreme negative views are supported and encouraged in the news desire to sell the things that make us watch. We are disturbingly drawn to the tragedies and bloodbaths.

I’m getting closer to believing that we may need a media-fast to pull down this influential and destructive idol in our society.

Shackleton's Endurance

This must be the summer of survival stories:

I just finished my second book of summer break- 'Endurance, the Story of Shackleton's Adventure' .

Sir Ernest Shackleton's third polar expedition came in the wake of the tragic death, in the Antarctic, of Robert Falcon Scott, the famous English explorer, and as Europe was preparing for the First World War. With England having lost both poles to the Norwegians, Shackleton was determined to be the first to cross the Antarctic by foot and claim the last prize in polar exploration for Britain. A week after the war began, Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven seamen and scientists set sail on the Endurance, not to be heard from for nearly two years.

It was a particularly cold winter, and the pack ice of the Weddell Sea extended further north than anyone could remember. The Endurance began following leads to navigate through the pack ice, on route to its intended landfall. Just one day's sail from the Antarctic continent, temperatures plummeted and the ship became trapped. Frozen fast for ten months, the Endurance was about to be crushed by ice pressure, forcing Shackleton and his men to abandon ship.

After five months of camping on drifting ice floes, open water appeared, and the men sailed their three lifeboats through stormy seas to a rocky, uninhabited outcropping called Elephant Island. Knowing that his men would never survive on the desolate spot, Shackleton decided to attempt an incredible seventeen-day, 800-mile journey, in freezing hurricane conditions, to the nearest civilization - South Georgia Island. The James Caird lifeboat miraculously landed on the island, having achieved what is now considered one of the greatest boat journeys in history.

Once on land, Shackleton and two of his men trekked across the mountains of South Georgia, finally reaching the island's remote whaling stations where they organized a rescue team, and returned to save all of the men left behind on Elephant Island.

Shackleton's words, written after the expedition, express the enormity and the extremity of the adventure: "Not a life lost, and we have been through Hell."

In comparing Ernest Gordon's survival in the jungles of Thailand and Shackelton's survival in the antarctic region I see many similar themes:

The Will to Not Lose- In both stories, the men refused to lose. It was not allowed at al- thoughts of loss were forbidden.

The Value of Team- In both stories, the men worked as a beautiful team with toughness and good cheer in horrible circumstances.

Skill Needed- Hard Work Required- Great skill of talent was shown in both stories including navigation skill, ingenuity, resourcefulness.

A Base of Faith- The Bible and prayer seems to always show up!

I'm on the story of Stanley and Livingstone now!