Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Insomniac's Prayer Life and the Theory of Competition

Yes, it is 4:32 AM on a Saturday- yuck

Every now and then, the Lord decides I need an insomniac's prayer session- ever have those?

It goes something like this...
I am wiped out tired. Had a wonderful dinner with my wife at Macaroni grill. We walked around the mall. My oldest daughter is on a date. My youngest daughter is spending the night away. My middle daughter and a friend are walking around the mall also- but it is just Lisa and me. And it is fun.

Get home, lay in bed 5,4,3,2.... out like a light and I can sleep in in the morn! YEA!

Then at 2:30- the Lord says 'get up'- and I say "yes, sir"

And then we spend 2 hours going over all the prayers- all the deep things. I have friends who are dealing with death, economic hardships, diagnosis of cancer, disease, marriage hardships, job stress, etc....

Then family issues: broken bones and stresses of life. Bills and chores. My oldest is getting ready to be a senior.
Then I jump around in my brain- Sunday school lesson this week- school stuff- world issues- church stuff-memories- ideas, plans, schemes. What sounds so good at 3AM will seem so silly in the morn.

Then we go a little bit deeper. What am I just angry about right now? What am I afraid of? What am I ashamed of? Where am I scared to let God have control? Where am I fighting Him?

And then then final little poke. He says to me in my mind.

Why have you shrunk back from the fight? Why do you back down? Just because it looks like Satan has won a few skirmishes? Yeah, things are tough for a lot of people, but why the loser's lean? Do you doubt that I AM is in control?

So I closed my eyes last night, a little weary from life- a little battle weary in the fray. He woke me up to pray and I became a little overwhelmed in the dark. And now I am here with fire in my eyes to keep swinging the SWORD.

Part of this was helped by my friend and co-laborer Drew Maddux as he shared a you tube video today. I pasted the text below. It is based on a VERSUS commercial, but this one is about Tim Tebow.


here is the thing that makes life so interesting
the theory of evolution claims only the strong shall survive
maybe so, maybe so
but the theory of competition says
just because they are the strong doesn't mean they can't get their butt's kicked
that's right
see what every long shot come from behind underdog will tell you is this
the other guy may in fact be the favorite
the odds may be stacked against you, fair enough
but what the odds don't know is this isn't a math test
this is a completely different kind of test
one where passion has a funny way of trumping logic
so before you step up to the starting line
before the whistle blows and the clock starts ticking
just remember out here
the results don't always add up
no matter what the stats may say
and the experts may think
and the commentators may have predicted
when the race is on all bets are off
don't be surprised if somebody decides to flip the script take a pass on yelling uncle
and then suddenly, as the old saying goes we got ourselves a game

So it is now 4:50 AM and all I can think is...... we got ourselves a game........

I am going to be really tired later on today.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Einstein, Iran, An Impossible Dilemma, and HOPE

Iranian President Ahmadinejad (I call him "I'm a nut job") announced that the Islamic Republic had produced its first batch of 20 per cent enriched uranium. This comes on the heels of the promise by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran will deliver a ‘punch’ that will stun the West to mark today's celebrations.

As I was reading Einstein's bio, I was most interested in the events and circumstances in developing and using the atomic bomb. The irony was that the momentum to develop the greatest weapon of mass destruction came from a staunch passivist as Einstein worked so hard to implement.

Then something strange happened to Einstein's 'theory of passivity'........ and that is, it ran into this thing called 'reality'.

When Hitler came to power, Einstein immediately knew that he had been wrong on so many fronts and even wrote a series of letters apologizing for his error. Indeed there are regrettable times when evil must be confronted, constrained, and destroyed.

Einstein was so disappointed that his famous meeting with Freud offered no answers to removing the threat and reality of war. Freud made it very clear... as long as there are humans with wants- there will be war.

Then Einstein did his darkest thought experiment ever- indeed he had been tipped off on two previous encounters- nuclear fission was not only possible, but horribly accessible.

He wrote a now famous letter to Roosevelt where he expressed concerns about the German's access to the technology and the uranium. In actuality, Hitler had kicked out all the scientists who were capable of achieving this because they were all Jewish.

'Oppenheimer's deadly toy' was dropped by Truman, the cold war erupted, and here we stand as a tinderbox still...... more fragmented and destructive as ever.

Now the world has an unsolvable dilemma. I find it dastardly ingenious what Iran did today. They announced they had the uranium enrichment capability, but denied wanting to make a weapon. "Would you like some ketchup with that load of crap?"

But adding that caveat, buys more time for the doves to fight the hawks. And Obama is in an impossible situation.

What do we do?

Well, at the risk of unleashing the 'rancor of the theologians' I want to propose that ultimately we can do very little. That doesn't mean we don't try. We should work like everything depends on us and pray like everything depends on God. And sometimes that means tough, tough calls. But appeasement does not work..... our softness will not turn away their wrath.

Now, some strange 'good news'- this is in the Book. It would take too long here to lay out my whole view of Revelation, prophecy, and eschatology. But I believe Rev 16 points to a time in the future. It did have a type or shadow of fulfillment in the past, but God's final BOWL (remember that it built up seals, trumpets, thunders which were cut short, and finally bowls of God's wrath) appears to me to be nuclear.

Read below:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Einstein and Jesus- The Biggest God Shaped Gap

This month I am recording some thoughts on the biography by Walter Issacson on Albert Einstein.

Einstein knew something was there. He was amazed at the beauty of the universe and the design of the universe. He was also surprised that the mysteries of complexity were so available to mere mortals. Accessible mathematical calculations!

After Dr. Hubble discovered the universe was moving Einstein and his wife, Elsa visited the Mount Wilson observatory.

Dr Hubble was showing off the very expensive telescopes and monitoring equipment.

"We use all of this, Mrs Einstein, to figure out the shape and size of the universe." He exclaimed.

"That's nothing", she said, "my husband can do that on the back of an envelope."

So what prevented Einstein from discovering the 'last perfect truth'- so simple and so complex..... too wonderful to miss..... what he really longed for?

He was so close.

Read the quotes below:

"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

He was asked in an interview:

You accept the historical existence of Jesus?“

He responded:
"Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

Please! Do not let the simple things of the world shame the wise. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior while the door of mercy is open.

You will find that he fills the God-shaped gaps!

Monday, February 08, 2010

What the Super Bowl Tells Us About America

I feel a little bit of post-football blues. It's over (except year round on NFL network) until late summer.

The Super Bowl runs 1 year behind my age which, now that I am in my 40's, each year it helps me remember whether I am 44, 45, or 46.

What did last night tell me about us?

1) We love underdog- comeback stories. The 'Aints' are Kings of the World. Not even Katrina could keep them down. I admire that. Those are good ones. I predicted a Colts blowout and the Saints proved the biggest "WHO DAT" yet.

2) We tend to enjoy the silver spoon, to good to be true, established man to go down. As good and right as it is to cheer the underdog, I grieve a little at the venom at Peyton Manning. I don't cry for him, even though I believe he is misunderstood and mis-characterized. He really hurt this morning, he hurt really deep. all of his work came up short. But I bet he will find the will to go one more time.

3) The humor in our country is warped and old. It seems like every commercial used shock, sex, or slap stick. When the little horse and little steer Budweiser commercial came on, my daughter said, "Finally, a decent commercial".

4) I like that we are including God Bless America along with the National Anthem. It is a great song and I love the support we show our troops.

5) I love football- last night was a good game. We have a good product on the field now- it is fast and fun- offenses and defenses are amazing AND with wide screen formats, we are seeing more of the LB/ secondary play.

6) My friend, Ernie Conwell who won a Superbowl with the Rams (sorry Titans fans), tells about the players in the locker room after the win. The celebration was going on and he noticed that the players who did not know the Lord almost looked shocked.... "This is it?" "Why is it so unfulfilling?" People who know the Lord know why..... Only the Creator can fill up those longings and even then, it will not be until the New Heaven and Earth is put in place.

On to Basketball!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Einstein: Even Geniuses Mess Up

This month my blog is a response to Einstein's biography.

Einstein had a miracle year where he wrote 5 papers that changed Physics forever.

It is interesting how one hits a sweet spot of energy and risk- a youthful exuberance that allows the freedom to fail and the possibility of world changing significance.

According to Einstein, it is a short season- I put two quotes together that expresses this idea:

Anything truly novel is invented only during one’s youth- later he becomes more experienced, more famous, more block headed... Soon I will reach the age of stagnation and sterility when one laments the revolutionary spirit of the young- to punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.

So Einstein hit that sweet spot and changed the world. He still contributed a ton in the aftermath- but he had the right starting point, the right questions, the right imagination, and stayed true to his convictions

Then he made an error- what he called his 'greatest blunder'.

As he was making his calculations and doing more 'thought experiments'- his instinct caused the idea to jump out that the universe was moving.

"That can't be" - was his thought. Every idea at that time was a static model of the universe. It was accepted as a universal truth.

So he did something that is used at times in theoretical physics... he added a cosmological constant in his equations to freeze the universe in place. He fudged the numbers.... He fixed the problem with a variable. You have to do that when you are at the edge of the unknown and transcendent.

Then in the 1920's Edwin Hubble discovered something..... the universe was expanding and slowing.... it was not static.

Had Einstein been willing to follow his sweet spot hunches- we would most likely call  'The Big Bang"- "Einstein's Big Bang".

Now don't misunderstand 'blunder'. The blunder was not adding the constant, in fact his variable is quite useful in the theory of cosmology.

The blunder was hiding from the truth. Letting his incorrect pre-suppositions prevent him from following the path of truth. See, it would have shaken the rafters if he put this idea out... the world was not ready.

I love how he laughed it off and shrugged it off. Oh that we all would be so willing to say... I goofed and just go on.

By the way- Christians do not need to be afraid of the 'Big Bang' because a moving universe suggests a cause and behind the cause ultimately has to be An Uncaused Cause. This is not Christianity or even theism yet- but it actually supports the Bible's account of a beginning.

A couple of closing points:
How do we handle our mistakes?
How do we handle the mistakes of others?

This is a big deal because even geniuses screw it up every now and then.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Einstein: Infinite Appetite for Distraction

This blog continues my analysis of Walter Isaacson's Biography on Einstein:
My starting point with Einstein is where all men start, magnificent beings, the crown jewel of God's creation (Psalm 8) but born with a deadly problem- sin. Not just doing bad things- it is essentially a rebellion. We are born with a rebellious soul and it is encouraged by our environment that is tainted and stained by it in every corner that we touch.

The easiest reformed theological concept to prove is moral inability or, as Calvin says, human depravity. Not that we are as bad as we could be- but a recognition that the default mode of natural men is a refusal to acknowledge the creator and the worship of created things (Romans 1).

As we all go through life, we get more ingrained to our particular sin paths. It may be an addictive nature or a cynical nature. It may be active rebellion or passive indifference. It may be affliction of shame or cowering in fear. It may be moral oppression or lawless expression. I have it- you have it- Einstein had it.

Even though Issacson lauds Einstein as a moral man (he indeed followed strong convictions and was kind and surprisingly humble)- the fruit of Einstein's journey is littered with violations of the creator's boundaries.

  • Inappropriate relationship which parents did not approve
  • Child out of wedlock that was put away
  • Failed marriage
  • Rough divorce
  • Illicit affairs- lived with first cousin- later admitted adultery and married her
The fruit of our waywardness is consequential. God's precepts are good because they ultimately shield us from the terrible results of sin.

Now let's talk about how this impacted Einstein the most. His life was in some ways mirrors what we all do- run and hide or medicate the pain of living. We do this in a number of creative and complex ways. It often fuels our pursuits and creates flashes of passion.

Einstein admits this in the following quote:

“One of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness. Such men make this cosmos and its construction the pivot of their emotional life, in order to find the peace and security which they cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”

A route out of this cycle of sin and shame is to acknowledge and bow before the personal, Triune God of the universe. But Einstein's dread of such a Being- the sheer horror of such an encounter- caused him to start with a pre-supposition of a detached god. One with complexity- but not personality.

So this is our first God-shaped gap. We need to be brought into the presence of a Holy deity who relates to us as a person. A reunion with The Father through The Son.

This is what separates the Christian gospel from all other faiths.

Without this relationship, we are merely amusing ourselves with an infinite appetite for distraction.

Do you see the God-shaped gaps?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Einstein: Beauty, Unity, and the God Shaped Gaps

I just finished the 551 page biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. It was an incredible account of an amazing human being.

I will be writing this month a response and application of this man's story- one so connected to life, science, and faith.

I wanted to start with the last two sentences of the book:

"He was a loner with an intimate bond to humanity, a rebel who was suffused with reverence. And thus it was an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe (551)."

It is always interesting to me to see how great men of human history end up being loners and rebels. It was Emerson who coined the quote: 'To be great is to be misunderstood'.

It actually encourages me (and believe me, I am no Einstein) to know that it is OK to spend time in thought and wonder. I don't think we do it enough. My most annoying habit is that I get lost in the wonder of God and the mystery of the universe- ask my wife.

The last few days, we have been snowed in, and I have found myself rather withdrawn and contemplative. It is a loner existence, but I never feel alone. I am comforted more and more by the presence of Jesus in my life.

Now the struggle is to step out and share the presence with others I love. Namely, my wife and children and the students and teachers I rub shoulders with. But I have to be honest, I feel the draw that hooked Albert his whole life- he called them Thought Experiments- and he played them over and over in his mind. He spent countless hours contemplating buckets filled with water and what it would be like to ride a sunbeam. He did the thinking and later applied the math. It was his free thinking and keen ability to start with the right pre-suppositions that allowed him to unlock the truths of the cosmos.

This book has helped me see a little about how my brain operates. It sounds crazy, but much of my life is running football plays over and over in my mind, then I switch and run Bible verses over and over, then I think about family...friends, and then I think about football. For the last few years, I have been afraid to do this much- I even feel like I am weird. I get lost in a book that describes the grandeur of God's glory and I feel His pleasure. I put together a game plan and I feel His pleasure.

But Einstein encourages me to be willing to be me- if that cuts against what people may desire out of me, so be it. I hope that one day- there will come from me new thoughts in both areas for the benefit of others. I want the gospel to be more real and I want the spread offense to be more deadly.

I seem aloof at times- but I do know that I really care!

So forgive the arrogance of just posting Einstein and me... it is what a blog is for. More will come later- but I hope to bring together a unity and will propose a thought experiment... do you see the God-shaped gaps?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Last Chapter- Fading Alabama JV Football Memories

One more snow day and one more football post. I'm actually going to be writing about Albert Einstein in Feb (I'm sorry- but hey it is my blog).

The Alabama JV road show continued in the fall of 1982 and most likely, the program was killed by Livingston University (now West Alabama).

Where the other schools were so happy to be playing us, all I could feel at Livingston was scorn. These were the players who were turned down and not good enough for the Tide. And all through the pre-game, I could smell the venom in the air.

It started when we all noticed Johnny Shepherd, Livingston's little All-American SENIOR Tb, was dressed out. He was a good looking running back.

These guys were big, I don't know if it were all varsity guys or not, but they had their mad on.

One little side note was that I had been offered a scholarship by Livingston. Coach Delasandra (asst who recruited me) was not happy the day I turned them down to walk-on at Alabama. He told me that I was just 'going to be a blocking dummy at Alabama' and that it was just a 'stupid decision'.

But I had not liked anything about Livingston. I didn't hunt, and it was the main pastime at Livingston. On my recruiting trip there, I saw a deer hanging from a tree at city hall! Coach Dee said it was a poacher's deer. (Now I am all for hunting.. but city hall?)

We made 3 laps around the campus in Coach Dee's car and all he bragged about was their Crispy Chick restaurant. He mentioned it three times!

As I was on the phone with him all I could think about was it seemed better to be a blocking dummy at Alabama than eating every meal at the Crispy Chik in Livingston.

Almost 1 year later, I looked over at Coach Dee and thought that I was about to be prime rib for a University Scorned.
Now I need some help here, but we dressed a GOOD tight end for this game- and I think it was Preston Gothard- but my memory says that that is impossible. It wasn't Jay Grogan- but all those guys kind of look the same.. who was it?

Anyway, we put in a play action pass during pre-game and worked it. I would run the option, take a few steps down the line, step off the line, and hit the big boy on a corner route.

Here's the problem... we ran it over and over during pre-game. The Livingston coaches were all lined up and watching us do it. I had the same experience years later as a coach, when a team in Montgomery worked on a play like that. We coached it up before the game in the locker room, they ran it the first play of the game, and we intercepted it and ran for a TD. Yes, those things do happen in football.

So we start the game.

Johnny Shepherd returned the opening kick-off for a TD. I don't know if they have records from that game- but I know that he set numerous records on this afternoon. No one saw it though, because I forgot to mention that they had a bout 3 fans in the stands.

We get the ball. 1st down dive. No gain. 2nd down option. No gain. 3rd down play action pass.

I stepped off the line and out big TE had the corner under him and the safety over him. There was no place to throw the ball. So I gave a little pump fake, and ran for the chains.

I got just past the first down and was crushed out of bounds. The official walked up and spotted the ball two yards shorter that that.

I looked at him, "You've got to be kidding me!"

He spat back with a profanity laced rebuttal to go to my sideline and be quiet. I had never been cursed at by an official.  I know this sounds insane, I am thinking about Will Ferrel's movie Elf when he said "You're not the real Santa Clause". That fateful day.... were those real officials? Who would know?

I jog over to the sideline and Coach Amos was there. He is now the special teams coach for the Green Bay Packers. Now, Coach Amos had been very nice to me for 2 games and a few practices. He would tap me on the head and say encouraging things which I translated, Bless your heart- you can't help it, look at what we have, and how we never practice yada yada yada.

But Coach Amos finally snapped and blasted me. I don't think he cussed, but it may be due to my adjusting to the official's vocabulary, but no mistake about it HE WAS MAD.

"Throw the ball to your Tight End!"

"He was covered" I mumbled back.

"He's 6'5, 250 lbs! They cannot handle him, we are going to call that play again and I want you to THROW THE BALL!"

"yes sir".

It wouldn't take long to get the opportunity. Johnny Shepherd ran a TD in one play.

Next series. 1st down dive. No gain. 2nd down option. No gain. 3rd down play action pass.

This time I stepped back and threw it.

Side story 2. I am about as even keel guy as you will ever meet. But when I do get mad it is a scary thing. All the years I played Qb, I got almost homicidal if someone intercepted me. In my head, I have a highlight tape of hits I have made on DB's who picked me off in high school. I even had a good one against Marion that year.

So when I threw it, I just took off after the ball already looking to kill whoever caught it.

It was the safety. And I attacked him in unrighteous fury.

On the way, I saw this blur and the warning signal went off in my head. It was a linebacker who was stalking me, I was about to get snot rocked.
And then I did something that I had never, ever, done on a football field in my life. I stopped, turned, and swung my fist at him with everything I had.
I missed his head (which is good because all fighting does in football is break your hand), but the top of my forearm happened to catch the corner of the buckle of his helmet. As my arm grazed by, his buckle sliced me like a scalpel about 6 inches of my forearm.

I got up, squeezed the wound together, and ran over to the sidelines. Coach Amos was roasting me good and stopped in mid-sentence. My arm was bleeding pretty good. "Trainer!"

We did have 2 docs and a training staff with us. I'm alsmost sure it was Dr Deshazzo who examined me. It was a pretty deep slice.

"Do you want to play?" He asked me.
"Yeah, I do."
"You guys bring the needle and thread over here." He said.
"On second thought, Doc, I will just wait." And that was it.

He wrapped it up. I watched Johnny Shepherd rush for 400 yds. The game climbed into the 40's to zip.
Coach Dee acted like he was concerned about my injury. And Dr Deshazzo stitched me up back in Tuscaloosa.

I did play on special teams our last JV game at home. Perry Cuda played QB and exacted revenge over Marion.

I moved to Strong Safety the next year under Coach Perkins and had a fantastic time with Lee Clements, the Lombardo brothers, Sammy Hood, Ricky Colbert, Scott Conell, Thom Whitely, and a host of others.

I could write a book about 'the daily target'- 'my hit on Craig TD Turner that almost killed me'- 'off season with Al Miller'- 'Scout team hiding in the bushes before practice wearing Tennessee colors'- and many many others.

I thank God for all the great memories- they are real treasures. God bless and Roll Tide!