Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 Discoveries- Wrongs and 'Rights'

The last post of 2020! And the topic is easily anticipated....'change and a new year'.

This post will not change the world… it is even less likely to change someone’s mind. It may rile up readers, both positively and negatively… red meat to the masses... but that is not my goal. 

This post is not social criticism…though there is plenty to criticize! “(The main human agent/actor) in history is not individual genius, but rather the network…. Though a revolutionary idea might emerge from the masses… it does not gain traction until it is embraced and propagated by elites.” (James Davison Hunter).


Rather, this post is to confess that I have in MANY ways been wrong on some things… I have strayed away from a well worn path and a steady north star. Thankfully, God is always gracious to pick me up, dust me off, admonish me in love, and steady my steps in a new direction.


Over the next two months, I am wanting to ‘flesh out’ where I have been, what changes I intend to make, and begin to carry out what I have been called to do over the next stage of my life.


Now don't panic... I expect no changes in my job or other relationships- on the outside, these endeavors may even seem invisible! The Lord changes things from the inside out.


Rather, it is like Janie Buck, (wife of the saint, Dr. Bill Buck, who just went home to be with Jesus https://obits.al.com/obituaries/birmingham/obituary.aspx?n=william-p-buck&pid=197352481&fhid=6039) who said when the gospel of Christ took hold of her family- "I have gone and gotten a new husband, and I didn't even have to get a divorce!"


2020 was a BEAR…. And even in this last week, HE swipes his claws and tears at the very fabric of our lives…. My prayer list of hurting and critical friends has never been longer! Covid has been an unprecedented attack and the toll is unmeasurable… including the constant criticism of people and institutions who are trying to do the best they can based on mixed, changing, and confusing information.


But Covid has also revealed how unhealthy we are as a culture- both figuratively and literally. We are not healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually!


My wife and I are doing some reading that we will be discussing and I have been inspired in this process by the thoughts of Os Guinness, Dr. Francis Schaefer, Johnny Cash, and a few friends and podcasts during this Christmas break.


So to tip my hand a little bit- here are some of the ‘personal declarations’ I have been sorting through… nothing to dig in on yet… but food for thought and interaction!


This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. [2] Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. [3] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. [4] For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. [5] Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1–5 ESV)


Personal Declarations - Preparing for 2021


I believe in the God of the Bible- He doesn’t need me to defend Him.

I will never cease to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Truth is what God says- though we don't understand it at times, forget it, and often use it as a weapon and not a balm.

As a sinful human, I fail to live up to my ideals- but it does not stain the truth of Christ.

My family is the greatest cell of opposition to this current ‘cancel culture’… it is THE source of true fellowship and encouragement.

The  invisible Church of Christ is undefeated- it is the ongoing, global, and VERY effective ministry of the body of Jesus.

I need to faithfully, openly attend and support my local, visible church.

I need to organize or attend a small group for prayer, study, and fellowship.

I need to commit to a life of spiritual disciplines- including worship, prayer, fasting, and daily study of the Bible. I need to honor Christ with my body and endeavor to live a healthy lifestyle.

I am too busy living under the tyranny of the urgent... I have to be better at saying NO... it can wait.

I honor no man or institution as an ‘elite’.

I defend individual rights, even if I don’t agree with that person.

I defend religious liberty, even for groups that I don’t agree with.

I defend free speech, even for speech that I don’t agree with.

I defend law and order, and I will always choose civil disobedience as a last option.

I refuse to characterize, pre- judge, or primarily identify any person based on their color, creed, gender, or social standing.

I have every right to speak out against the rewriting of history and the re-invention of language, which often parallels the coerced values of any particular elitist group or institution.

I refuse to live in fear of the vindictive rants or potential doxing of power hungry bullies.

While I do participate in social media, I realize it is a system based on surveillance technology, where the rules of what I say and who I read is censored to algorithms designed to market me as a consumer… which leads to a distortion of reality.

I have great skepticism in ALL forms of the current mainstream media (MSM). I will take EVERYTHING they report with ‘a grain of salt’.

While I will always live as an honorable citizen, I do not trust my government. My kingdom is not of this world.

There are NO political solutions to the real problems of mankind.

Democracies are better than Socialist states…. But all forms of governments have issues.

I have significant issues with many of today’s virtue signals including ‘wokeness’, ‘social justice’, ‘diversity and inclusion’ or labeling people with the suffix  “phobe”.

I will perform no action or subscribe to a creed to simply aleve guilt or be accepted by any particular group of people.

If I am persecuted or have to suffer for Christ… I will seek to do it joyfully, for the glory of God.

I need to be prepared for that sooner, rather than later.

None of this steals my joy, peace, hope, or love.

I need to be a better servant of others!


This is the essence of my life as a man.


If you are interested in exploring some of this with me in 2021... feel free to email me: jayopsis@gmail.com


Alexander Solzhenitsyn “Live NOT by Lies”

Living a lie is accepting without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state or any group of elites compel me to affirm. 


"The ordinary man may not be able to overturn a kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be a loyal subject."


Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: The Last Christian on Earth by Os Guinness

 

Update: I feel like I was TOO harsh in saying this book had too may issues but not enough solutions... I got weary at he end and didn't pay close enough attention... though the Evangelical Declaration at the end didn't float my boat.

It was one of those books that sat on my shelf too long, but God has the perfect ability to push it at the right time for me. How long though, is somewhat embarrassing.

I helped plan an apologetics conference at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville back in 2010 (or was it 2009?). It was an all-star lineup including Doug Powell, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, and the keynote was by Dr. William Edgar of Westminster Seminary.

Dr Edgar encouraged me to get the book and I read the opening chapter... only to let it sit in my office through the transition to Birmingham in 2011.

I don't know what made me pick it back up.... and it took a few times to get back in thinking mode. But once I re-engaged, it created a wonderful experience of thought experiments.

The book was originally published under the title, The Gravedigger Files. It is a contemporary "Screwtape Letters" and uses the premise of secret memorandums within the kingdom of darkness to applaud the efforts of a spiritual deep state to disfigure and destroy the Christian faith.

It is a fun ride through the world of social criticism and has many quotable lines that Guinness writes himself, as well as his vast treasure of proverbs from many others.

I guess my only 'criticism' of the book is that it paints the problems well, comes across at times 'snarky', but doesn't spend a lot of time on real antidotes for individual believers who know all too well the problems... but don't know too well any solutions.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Evangelicals have become one of the shallowest, noisiest, and most corrupt parts of the Christian Church, bringing down an unprecedented avalanche of disdain on their heads- almost none of which has anything to do with Jesus.

The Christian faith contributed to the rise of the modern world, but the Christian faith has been undermined BY the modern world it helped to create. The Christian faith thus becomes its own gravedigger. (attributed to Peter Berger)

Philistines throwing parties should be wary of Samsons who lean on pillars.

(on The Enlightenment/ Left of the 30's and 40's)- Yes, there was brilliance, but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises, the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the Communists, and others more or less sleeping with fascism.... this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against faith than a hundred Voltairean arguments.

If you want to know what water is, why is a fish the last one to ask? attributed to an old Chinese proverb.

To the man with a hammer, everything is a nail.

The problem with modern Christians is not that they are not where they should be, but they are not what they should be where they are.

There is no national God in America, but the executive branch is his prophet.

Anything as powerful as religion was bound to be commercialized.

In the age in which we now live, civilization is not an ideal or an aspiration.... it is a video game.

Politicians, it is now said, no longer run for office- they pose. But Christians too have become hooked, inhaling publicity like chain smokers, quite oblivious to the warning on the packet.

In matters of the spirit, nothing fails like success.

The customary parade of celebrities was passing across the screens, quick-tongued as ever, each one endorsing the Christian gospel with all the sincerity of a toothpaste commercial

Let your Jesus button shine before men that they may see your good graphics and glorify your P.R. team who live on Long Island.

See what I mean by 'snarky"!

Here is a paraphrase that effectively summarizes the entire book:

Under the impact of the modern world:

Secularization makes faith seem less real.

Privatization makes it merely a private preference, and

Pluralization just makes it one choice among many.

The title of the book is an excellent point... If the enemy can give enough people the intuition that "I am the last Christian on Earth" it will discourage the church from any visible effectiveness. 

I encourage those who enjoy a sociologist's view of culture to dig in and mull over.

I also want to plug a podcast that Dr. Guinness did for law students at Pepperdine... here he does give some great antidotes at the end.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/os-guinness-survival-fastest-living-sanely-in-craziness/id432660031

The thoughts in this book will definitely be in my January writing as I am plodding through some disappointment and disillusionment in 2020.

In the end though... the church will survive until the Lord's return. The statistics might not be great (only 2 of 7 were in good shape in the Book of Revelation)

The gospel is not thwarted. Jesus is still Lord of all and His kingdom will reign for ever and ever. I just don't know how long America will be a player in the game.

Update:

I found notes from 2010 when I started this book:


I'm going to paraphrase and comment on some of Os Guiness's book that was originally published under the title, "The Gravedigger Files (IVP, 1983). This is a little like C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, but more direct and informational.

The problem with this blog is to differentiate Guiness's points of brilliance and my random rambling. So anything in BLUE (italics in facebook notes) and  is me- and if Guinness contradicts my BLUE... choose Guinness! 

Memorandum 2 is a phenomenon labeled 'The Sandman Effect' and is presented as an enemy tactic versus the church.

In this tactic, the church digs its own grave while Christians sleep.

The major premise of the Sandman Effect is to infiltrate the church by use of culture- which exposes the defensive vulnerability of the church. Instead of the church becoming more aware of the damaging effects of popular culture, she falls into a deeper and deeper sleep.

The first experiment with this tactic is confusing the nature of belief. The impact of the enlightenment produced unexpected and unintended results.  The pomp and pressure of those who presented themselves as the intellectual elite offered much promise, but only produced exclusive caste systems and cynicism. The ultimate fruit of intellectual oppression is a quest for power and the greatest use of that power is cynical, dream killing, skepticism. 

I love how Guinness describes this: "Yes, there was brilliance, but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises. the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the communists, and others more or less sleeping with fanaticism...The legacy of this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against faith that a hundred (Voltaires)". The desire for truth went out of fashion..... which led the way for post-modernism which is not a clear philosophy... it is also a mood.

And here is where we (Christians, especially in the south) go wrong- we fail to see what has happened among those who are not the traditionalists. Traditionalists have a strong sense of right and wrong- they have a foundation of TRUTH.

But we are increasingly living among those (especially the young- media savvy- who tend to think by sight and act by impulse) who judge truth not by objectivity, but degrees of plausibility.


In Guinness's words- "we have created a climate in which a thing's seeming to be true is often mistaken for its being true."

And what is the means of this change? By changing the definition and standards of 'belief'.
We allow and even applaud people who believe or disbelieve on non-rational or psychological grounds. YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID AND YOUR ACTIONS ARE JUSTIFIED BECAUSE THEY ARE PLAUSIBLE, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT CONNECT TO REALITY OR TRUTH.


I love Guinness's analogy here: we accept a person who is an atheist- not because they have weighed truth and fallacy- but simply because their father was a religious hypocrite who alienated the family from God as much as himself.


Unfortunately, we fall into this trap when we begin to elevate psychology over Scripture or only accept interpretation and application of Scripture as it fits the latest psychological models.
See how subtle it is? We agree with truth if the support structure is strong. But if the support structure is weak, it is harder to believe.

"Coach it with care and and plausibility will upstage credibility"- this is a scary statement.

The church has become a heart suffering from fibrillation - the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers- 
one spasmodic side is the Christian philosophers- who expound the theoretical- and the other meaningless motion is the 'just give me Jesus' anti-intellectual crowd who throw out doctrine.


Then Guinness shows how the Apostle Paul provides a framework for the fight. He knows that the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth... not theory. "Paul would have believed his faith was objectively true if he had been the last one convinced of it."
The truth of Christianity is NOT dependent on a strong church.. but a weak church hides TRUTH as it seems less credible, and a less credible church is a less plausible church.


A Two-Legged Stool: Guinness also shows how apologists only use 2 of three tools of analysis in unveiling this issue.
Leg 1- The history of ideas
Leg 2- The climate of culture and custom
and the missing...Leg 3- the justification of knowledge

In the post modern world- cultural pluralism and relativism offers confusion in leg 2 and the rapid flow and dynamics of information makes Leg 1 seemingly archaic and irrelevant (and BORING). But if we pressed more into Leg 3 and make the post-modern man justify his knowledge beyond the perspective of personal experience and evaluate truth claims in a more logical framework- we would see some progress and usefulness of the other 2 legs.


A huge roadblock in this mess is the frenzied pace of communication technology and global mobility. I love the quote about the Kenyan saying "All westerners have watches...  but Africans have time."

"A culture of mobility plus convenience leads quite naturally not only to (drive-in food) and banks but also drive-in churches"

See how it works? Overlay upon overlay- the effect of molding lives through culture has all the advantages of a revolution and none of the disadvantages of intellectual sweat.


As our children see belief as a feeling of plausibility and relevance- as they are spun dizzy by infinite activity- as they are enticed by the promise of convenience- as they are distracted by new cool tools of transport of information tsunamis- they cannot understand that TRUTH is TRUE even if no one ascribes to it. 'When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?' He won't, if we have lost what 'faith' means. What will He say when we respond "It just didn't 'seem' right... It didn't feel true"?


'Subtle compromise is always better than sudden captivity'.


Father- we need help. We need to slow down- we need to read the WORD- chew it- meditate on it and mull it over- we need true WORSHIP to lift us out of the trivial pursuits and insulated hearts.
In short- we have loved things and ideas that have not loved us back. We live for pleasure while the King suffered and died. 
Culture makes godliness seem strange, but without truth... justification of life is meaningless- 
Our children need to see us forsaking our idols- because the idols will soon forsake them.
But we also need to train our children how to ask the right questions- make men justify their beliefs.... make them follow the consequences of their faith.....and Holy Spirit...PLEASE illumine the TRUTH.




Friday, December 18, 2020

As Joseph Pondered

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matthew 1:18–21 ESV)


Thankfully, Joseph was a just man who was committed to Mary's dignity.... and though he was preparing to execute a decision he was making in the crisis.... he wasn't rash and without careful thought.

"BUT as he CONSIDERED"

Do we even do this anymore?

The speed of our culture has worn us out and worn us down in a sea of anxiousness and fatigue.

At your very fingertips are years of research and a wealth of information.... but it takes TIME to read it. Google will show it to you... but you have to ingest the info. It takes time to think about it.

How strange it must be to read this famous line by the great English thinker, Sir Francis Bacon:

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

The greatest example of this is how we handle our Bibles. It is a lifetime book.. and in digging and scratching within the pages, I have found troves of gold, silver, and precious jewels. Take time to include it in your Christmas preparations.

One enemy (of many) that works against our ability to practice 'pondering' is the reality of cultural pluralization. Mass communication technologies on a global scale has not only made Amazon.com wealthy... it has compounded the choices we have at the level of ideology and faith. In a storm surge of choice, can we really pin our hopes on 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism' (Ephesians 4:5)?

I wish I had time to develop this more... we are wired for coherence.... we yearn for unity. When life throws a myriad of opposing options and world views, our natural reaction is to want to control them.. and things out of our control only increase anxiousness. Our current culture is not in peace; anxiety is at an all time high. The speed of information and the discordant melody of ideas has left us pushing buttons in haste and frustration. 

It is also a highly disposable culture... things are not made to last. It is easier to toss the old and buy new. That's how we make things today. The increase of options leads to a decrease of commitments. This doesn't increase the value of things... it cheapens them.

God can control anything... but if the baby Jesus was coming in 2020... it would be harder to find a Joseph who was willing to hold fast to principles, willing to uphold the one who he was betrothed to, and willing to take time to consider the best route through the situation.

We expect God to act in microwave moments and explosive global upheavals... that is not His way. He works like yeast, and we want him to work like dynamite.

He does it this way out of love.... 

Peter reminds us WHY- 

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

God is patient...

To experience Christmas appropriately, we must be patient as well. 

Have any of you already opened up a present and are using it? Have you already told a secret gift that you couldn't hold until that morning? Have you had a panic attack because the UPS tracking said the package was hung up in transit?

I'm not throwing condemnation on anyone who says yes to any of those.... what I am saying is that if we don't stop to patiently ponder, we miss the most meaningful moments.

How can we do it?

The culture isn't going to change... and there are always blessings in the way things are. It is up to us to declare how, when, and where.

"Speed kills". "Haste makes waste".

Staying true to who we are means saying 'no' to many choices, even good ones. It means we have to start considering people as humans made in God's image and not as avatars. It means vows are vital to keep; they should be made with a lot of prayer, and we should stick with them when it is hard. 

Weddings are beautiful and meaningful because the couple says "I do"... not "I wish". The immediacy to which even Christians forsake truth claims of character and virtue prompted Os Guinness to coin a term: 'spiritual switch-craft'.

If you hit the Christmas season at the pace of a rocket... it will simulate your life experience at those speeds... shallow, transient, and forgettable.  And we all get there... every accountant has a rough April.

My oldest daughter had a tough time going to sleep when she was a baby. She would be exhausted, crying, but could not get still enough to fall asleep. I would take this wriggling sack of jelly and sit in the rocker and start the process of settling her down. I would rock and she would wriggle. I put my arms around her body and held her just firm enough to stop the arms. Then she would shake the legs. I would change the position enough to lovingly 'pin' those down too. Then she would wiggle her toes and fingers. Patiently, I would become a contortionist to finally hold all the moving parts. She and I would be eye to eye, her pacifier pulsating at 100 miles per hour! I would start singing a song and rock. Then her eyes would start blinking... slower, and slower... staying closed longer and longer... and then she would relax in a peaceful sleep. And then I gently put her in the crib. I became a master at this technique and it got easier to get her there over time.

We need our loved ones to do the same for us... lovingly hold us to a need to  SLOW DOWN.... Sit down...  and patiently ponder.

And not just Christmas... BEFORE we make any big move. We have to meditate and pray, seek out advice... ask questions... weigh options. That is where the Lord does His best work.

And the MOST important question is: 'where will you spend eternity'? The vast array of world views will tell you there is really no hope.

But in the darkness, behold, a great light:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11 ESV)






Sunday, November 29, 2020

Spiritual Myopia

'The habit of living for the applause of our fellow men in religious things is deadly to the religious affections and life, which in their very nature are Godward and must look upwards only to Him.' B.B. Warfield

When one becomes detached from outside, objective truth…. 

A slow drift of decay begins and you find yourself in a small whirlpool of illegitimate concepts. 

Notions, self centered comparisons, judgements, and reflections pull your eyes to the center. 

The circle becomes tighter as others are collected in your spinning skepticism. 

 The rush of waters refreshes you as you spin faster. 

Your discourse with your company provides laughter and support. 

Your swirling whirlpool is in fast current but that is of no concern. 

Your companions make you laugh which drowns out the shouts coming from the shore. 

 A rope passes through the group. 

As it is tossed back and forth… it is unraveled and rejected as meaningless. 

No one casts an outward glance. 

 No challenges or questions changes the direction or slows the current….. 

Any possibility of reality is inside your rapidly spinning pool of deductions, words, agreements, disagreements. 

You lock arms in solid support of final judgement. 

There is unity within your mind and within the group. 

Cheering and singing ensues! 

 Yet despite pleading and shouting…. 

Despite numerous attempts to reach out hands, and limbs, and lifelines…. 

Your whirlpool of perception finally drops off in The Waterfall of Reality….


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Phoenix: AKA (The Twit is Still Tweeting)

update 12/30

“Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said to-day.” Emerson

I 'raptured' out of twitter for a few weeks, taking on the moniker- Harpazo (grk to seize often translated rapture)

While praying about it.... I sooner felt like retreat... almost like the kid who got licked and took his ball home a quitter.

So... I'm back- I do have to be more disciplined in time- but I need to participate and encourage good things and stand up to the SJW bullies when I need to. 

I also have to have more courage... I often back out of a fight because I don't want to reflect badly on my employer... I still don't- but I am expressing my views... no one else!

So... disregard everything below...... but I keep it for the record....

 original content 11/24/20

“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.” 
Ernest Hemingway, In Another Country


It has been a mild fall, I'm barely in a sweatshirt here right before Thanksgiving. Normally, the time change inflicts physical and psychological discomfort-  not only of darkness, but in dampness and north winds as well. Alabama winters aren't very inspiring.

But the sun is out and the sky has a brilliant columbian hue which is energizing, especially through my prescription Costa's. The winter blues, more nuanced in my mid 50's, haven't overtaken me yet. So this is actually a healthy time to write and even a healthier time to make my decisions more solid.

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for. My knee feels great. Covid had jacked it up to the point that I was convinced that knee replacement surgery would come sooner rather than later... but the intense pain left me as quickly as it came on. And after reading a medical journal about it, though we don't know much about this virus-weapon, I can testify that it has a special affinity for arthritic joints!

Because my knee is good, and I see more clearly, and the weather is just right... I will get in a brisk walk today, just before the sun sets... and I will be of a better state of mind to count continuous blessings... which are innumerable. 

But I am compelled, before doing so, to attempt to articulate my reasons for leaving twitter on Dec. 31.

And in doing so, I hope to make clear that I am not judging the service, nor anyone who continues to enjoy/use it, nor do I think that my leaving the twitterverse will have any measurable impact on the continuation of the service.....

The most interesting part of this post, is that I was close to making this decision years ago, but twitter increased the number of characters from 140 to 280, and I felt like I could say more and stay in the stream of culture and do my best to express a world and life view that is increasingly fading from public discourse. I started a twitter account in March of 2011 and will end it permanently on Dec. 31, 2020.

SO why?

I have been fascinated by those who have contacted me since I pinned the tweet about the decision who are thinking about the same thing.

First, this isn't really that big of a deal. I will still be 'tweeting' through the school athletics account, but it will be strictly information... re-tweeting articles, schedules, etc.

I will still keep my facebook account, instagram, and I have a parler account... but I don't think I will be going there much at all.

Though I am completely aware that ALL social media accounts are run by algorithms that use me as a product for their profit, I became acutely aware that twitter has become bolder and colder about what content they choose to tip the balance for and I recognized that I was already listed as incompatible with their world view. According to their norms, media elite will label me "insane and full of hate".

In some ways, I have to admire their HONESTY in the process... I'm continuing on Facebook who  PRETENDS to be fair. I also have a chance on FB to at least have MORE room/space to accurately clarify and appeal....and my 'network' on facebook is more open to verification- I see real people.

The biggest loss to my twitter feed is the GREAT network of high school coaches I have come to follow... but alas, I was addicted to your likes and approval as well. And I truly enjoyed the weekly sarcasm of the #oakislandcursers... will miss you guys as well!

Current State of Affairs..... NOT the Primary Reason for Leaving

The latest amalgamation of social media engineering is brilliantly vile and sinister. We tend to think of Marxism as a war of governments... no, it is a war of ideas.  Marxists want a global revolution where the economic and social constructs are completely eradicated and a new world order arises. There are Marxists out there, who don't even know they are Marxists....

The latest attack has been very effective.... the cancel culture and wide dissemination of identity politics has created the best environment for a global reset more than ever before in history.

Once you can create a multi-verse of oppressors and the oppressed... then the fronts of cultural wars are too numerous to effectively fight. It takes unity of mind and courageous souls to fight for a cause- you have to be willing to sacrifice to win... and a single sacrifice usually signals a retreat. I'm concerned the church has gotten distracted in the confusion and have chosen the wrong battlefield.

It saddens me to think that we have lost a major battle in the arena of epistemology... the justification of knowledge.

Back in 2004, I was introduced to the writings of John Frame. It took quite a while for me to 'catch up' to him, but before long, I was ready to tackle his book, "The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God". Page by page, I was undone and re-formed by the fact that humans must DEMAND powerful tools and methods by which we set the 'rules' of the justification of knowledge. This is the battle field that God Himself has enshrined by which obstacles to faith a removed by the processes of scientific investigation and logical discourse.

In this area, the Bible flourishes.... because you can't have a better theory for the existence of logic, law, language, love and liberty except through the lens of the historical Judeo-Christian worldview. People of faith INVENTED the mechanisms of science and philosophy... "in the beginning was the LOGOS" !

But something wicked took place in the secular and liberal academies.... rule changes, definition changes, and thought police took real human pain and elevated experience over evidence, emotion over reason, and 'applauded' savage cancel culture attacks, declaring that they were more authentic than civil discourse. I also understand, that this has always been an excuse to try to live 'unhindered' before the God of conscience and moral law (1 Peter 4).

So for 15 years, I have been trying to flesh out a way BACK to reasoned responses..."being ready to give a defense to anyone who asks".... only now to be told that my insistence to the formal rules of debate are invalid because they are inherently built on systematic racism of which I cannot refute... this systematic change has left me weaponless in the face of an army of insults and assault.

Time to change tactics....

By the way, there are many who misunderstand this by saying that I BELIEVED I could 'debate the way to faith' and that was never true... nor my intent. Apologetics is merely an attempt to remove obstacles..... only the Holy Spirit can engender true faith... and God will bring those to Himself without any effort on my part. My contending for Him is because I love Him and know that others who come to love Him will regret any time they spent outside of knowing Him! I want others to experience the freedom and love He lavishly pours out in grace and mercy!

So I have getting throttled, 'censored', and pounded by the enemies of evangelical Christianity. They have been successful in making me seemingly irrelevant to the conversation and my 'SERIOUS' tweets are trivial at best. The dominion of darkness continues the victory lap in Babylon (and will so until judgement day).

But that is no reason to leave..... not at all... in the end...

I am leaving because twitter hooked me.... I became a tweeter thinking I could offer myself as a source of inspiration and entertainment to my (millions) of followers LOL... a very high and grotesque view of myself... but instead, I became the proverbial rat in the cocaine test... consistently refreshing my feed to see what people thought of me... what was the next cool thing to know...

My wife began the conviction process, the Lord soon followed up with 'The Social Dilemma", and then twitter 'woke me up' when it started lecturing me about what to believe and not believe about very flat statements made in 280 characters or less.

I was having more interaction with my feed than I was with real human beings. Twitter avatars are single issue bomb throwers... human beings are more beautiful and complex.

Again, I have no qualms with anyone who wants to stay... 

But twitter has advanced the erosion of truth,  judgement by identity, and justice by mob rule. I can't lend myself to that erosion.

I also can't continue to be held captive in a world of likes... where I care more about what people think... than what God says.

My objective in 2021 is to spend more time with REAL people and continue to share and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My final statement on this subject....

Psalm 34:1–8

[1] I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
[2] My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
[3] Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
[4] I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
[5] Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
[6] This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
[7] The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
[8] Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (ESV)

Monday, November 16, 2020

One Great Football Season 2020

I don't know if I have the right words to express how proud I am of the 2020 Briarwood Lions football team! There were plenty of tears last Friday night... not because we lost, but because it was over. The emotions are in direct proportion to the amount of work and love that dominated this team.

I want to start with the leadership of head coach, Matthew Forester. In two seasons, Coach Forester has implemented one of the best systems I have ever had the privilege to know and work with. The integration of offensive and defensive terminology has elevated our football IQ and made everything from Hudl analysis to game communication easier and improved. It would be impossible to explain ALL of the improvements- but our practice schedule, strength and conditioning schedule, game planning, equipment inventory, young player development, college coach communication, player meetings, drill and skill development have all been greatly enhanced in his two years as the head coach. To top it off, our coaches and players love him and are willing to follow his lead.

This joy of this season is directly attributed to our seniors. This group is one of the great competitive classes in school history. They have done it in multiple sports as well. I was never concerned in any game this season about our ability to 'put the ball down and play' regardless of the opponent or circumstances. They practiced hard and cared for one another... especially the young guys. They had fun, but also were extremely physical on the field. They battled each other so hard in practice, that the games seemed easy.

I could not think of a better team to handle the challenges of a Covid season and moving up to 6A. They expressed a gratitude to play and they played each week like it would be their last.

The BCS community is also a joy to be a part of. It takes extreme effort and sacrifice for a football team to get through an entire season. The ARMY of volunteers and parents who worked with enthusiasm and projected a positive spirit worked wonders! I could write pages about all of the help we had.


It was our best performance ever in 6A competition... and a season I will never forget!

I do have a very brief comment about each game- things I never want to forget. 

BCS 28- Ft Payne 20

The opening night jitters- the fact that we were playing with Covid protocols was a blessing- the band in the end zone dodging the pre-game kicks- the sound of the Ft Payne kicker when he hit the ball! My favorite image is Luke Reebals signaling TD on the opening kick-off when their kicker kicked it through the goal post. That right there showed me that this team was going to be fun!

Spain Park 21- BCS 14 

Loved the opening half- we took it to them. Tyler Waugh had the first of many explosive plays that night. Really important game to teach us how different it was going to be playing up and how disciplined we were going to have to be.

BCS 20- Chelsea 3

Always good to beat your rival. Some big pass plays that night showed what a great job our receivers were doing in improving. We were also developing a physical prowess that would become a trademark all season. Brooks Donnely showed that he was back from his ACL injury the year before.

BCS 43- Woodlawn 0

The opening image before the game with players from both teams holding flags was very emotional for me. For some reason, the jet sweep by Sawyer Tindall for a long TD was a highlight for me.

BCS 28- Huffman 16

Was such a big time win- Huffman was loaded and was confident they could beat us! The hitting in that game was mortal combat! Coach Kerley calling Big O to the boundary and Luke Reebal's run on that play in the 4th quarter was a huge play. Also grinding out the clock in our heavy set was really nice.

James Clemmens 41- BCS 21.

Our never say die fight was impressive. We made big strides in our passing game that night. A big part of that was watching our guys rally around and encourage our soph QB as he worked through some mistakes early. We never fell apart as a team!

BCS 42- Shades Valley 19.

Great team effort that night! To get down early and then storm from behind was impressive. We never panicked and poured it on late. Luke Reebals has a great night behind a big effort by our offensive line. I especially noted that Eli Steadman showed great leadership that night and played really well!

Mountain Brook 17- BCS 0

My toughest week- being out with Covid. Our defense played outstanding... but we know we did not play our best. The score was not indicative of the game. 

BCS 28- Homewood 6.

Big time defense and big plays from Nic Dicen. Winning on their field is always special.

BCS 42- Corner 7

Dominating performance by every group. Of course I will never forget getting the lights on as Corner rolled into the parking lot.

BCS 31- Hartselle 17

Being down 14-3 at the half. These seniors were not going to be denied! Tyler Waugh put on one of the great single performances I have ever seen! Big Ride's pre-game speech was amazing! All the speeches were terrific.

Oxford 35- BCS 14

Tough way to go out. Watching Parker Hutson's pick 6 in the 3rd was symbolic of his never say die effort all season. Our guys battled valiantly.

Again- I am leaving so much out. Our JV and freshman team was a joy to coach!

I want to say thanks to my QB group... what a great group to coach every week. CV was impressive each week and he improved every week.

As a competitor, I am worn flat out... but soon will be ready to pick up and figure out how to get better soon!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Covid Caught Up To Me

After successfully dodging Covid-19 for many weeks and months, I finally got hit by it.

The purpose of my blog is to share my experiences for posterity sake, so I am sharing my experience knowing that many others have had more tragic and serious situations to which I offer my prayers and support.


On Monday, Oct. 5, I went to be tested for Covid-19 because a family member that I am close to had tested positive. I went in that morning and was given the rapid test. I was given the positive results about 15 minutes after the test.

At the time of my test, I had not experienced any noticeable symptoms. As I was driving home, I was somewhat suspicious of a false positive because I felt fine.

I called my bosses and let them know and entered into a quarantine at home.

About 3 hours after my positive test, I began to notice symptoms. At first, I was convinced that it was psychosomatic and was intrigued about how powerful the influence of that felt.

However, by mid-afternoon, there was no mistake that these were real symptoms and likely the impact of the virus on my body. The first symptom was a loss of smell. This was MOST apparent by my inability to smell Clorox which my wife was using to clean out house (she went into quarantine at the same time with me).

I also registered a borderline fever for the first time and began to notice body aches, especially in my joints. At the time, my neck was the most stiff area.

I made a gargle solution of apple cider vinegar and that is when I noticed that I had no taste as well. I actually drank a small portion of it, and all I could ascertain is that it was liquid.

Between early evening on Monday and Wednesday night, I had waves of fever spikes- the highest was 102.1 and the average was 100.5. But the fever would hit me, spike, and then go away. I also registered normal temps during that time. The longest above average sustained temperature was a period of about 6 hours from Tuesday night through Wednesday AM.

I woke up with a severe headache almost every morning for a period of 5 days.

During the first 3 or 4 days, I did stay on a steady regimen of Tylenol.

My worst symptom became very acute joint pain, especially in both knees. I have arthritis in those knees which does flare up at time. However, beginning on Wednesday morning, my left knee had become an increasingly painful area. I could not walk without a limp and it was throbbing like a toothache.

From Wednesday morning until the following Monday, my left knee tortured me as an unrelenting source of pain. It kept me awake at night and radiated from my left hip all the way to my left foot. The greatest throbbing was along the shin.

I tried a large number of therapies- riding an exercise bike, stretching, ice, isometric exercises, cremes, epsom salt baths, but even arthritis strength Tylenol did not alleviate the pain.

My Dr finally called in an NSAID (Diclofenac) on Monday Oct 13,  that has relieved my pain enough to sleep at night and to go on a few short walks without pain. When the medicine wears off though, the pain returns.

I did want to talk about the restlessness at night and wildly disturbing dreams I had for the first 3 nights of the virus. I felt 'under attack' and it felt like the virus was a weapon... there felt like an intense 'anxiety' accompanied the fever. Almost like an adrenaline was being pumped through my veins and I tossed and turned - never feeling like I was in a deep sleep.

I have had a consistent, unproductive cough for more than a week now. It is inconsistent and on occasion, produces a small amount of phlegm. My sinuses seemed to be more impacted than my lungs, but I don't even think it is a 'symptom' here on day 9.

My energy level seems to be back, but I never felt like it was severely depleted.

I do have an oxygen level measuring device at home and my levels have stayed in the love to mid-90's the entire episode.

The most consistent question I get is: Where do you think you got it from? And there is no way to know. Because the virus spread through my family along differing lines TO me, I think it had to come from an outside the school source- but this is purely anecdotal.

I finally felt well enough on Thursday, Oct. 15, to sit down and write... so my body feels like in full scale recovery. My knee pain will be an ongoing issue that I will continue to work in therapy and consult with my Dr when I am free to be examined.

I have friends who have tested positive without symptoms and some who have been hospitalized, including one who had to go on a ventilator. I have read of others who have lost their life... so this is a serious virus.

Because my experience is only anecdotal and I am not a physician, I don't think it is wise to speak of my general thoughts about prevention and mitigation. I do have concerns about the overall effectiveness of mask wearing, but this is part of the lessons we will all revisit.

I also have concerns that we do not get 100% honest information in a highly partisan environment... and that has been frustrating.

I want to thank everyone who faithfully prayed for us... and am thankful that we seem to be over the worst of it for the time being.

I still have some friends and colleagues who need your prayers!



Saturday, October 10, 2020

My Struggle to Submit

 


God has a serious sense of irony. He never uses it in a trivial way. As humans, our use of sarcasm is almost always tainted with the sin of selfishness with intents to tear down or, sadly, a pitiful stretch for entertainment. God uses His holy sarcasm as a Divine Surgeon cutting the cancer of our souls. I can't help to notice that familiar tone at times in Scripture. But we can never throw stones of accusation because we know His motives are pure and He acts within the confines of unadulterated truth.


God also uses the circumstances in life to flesh out real life instances of irony. It is a not so subtle way at times to put us in proper perspective and remind us that He is intimately with us at all times.


Often, in my life, he uses my 'teaching' as prime real estate to poke and prod the decay and deserts in my soul. He compels me to write, so I can step out and analyze the message... not for you.. for me. Not only for now, but again a few months or years later when I have completely forgotten these thoughts. I read things I have written in the past and, most of the time, wish the thoughts were more a part of my daily DNA.


So I'm back with Peter... now teaching it every Sunday to a virtual, zoom, Sunday School class. It is by far the most difficult teaching environment I have ever encountered. 


I knew the passage was coming.... the one I struggle with... the one that my soul pushes against.... and I am back wrestling with it, but with the added pressure of teaching it to a Brady Bunch screen of smiling faces and wondering if I am even coming through... or whether I am flickering in and out.


It dawned on me this week that Peter haunts my heart. When I read Paul, he engages my mind. The Holy Spirit lays it our like a legal argument... the reasons are so clear and applicable. But when I read Peter, he pulls at my heart. The two men are solid and unified... evidence that the true author is the Holy Spirit. The content is down the line, absolutely the same.


But Peter's words go beyond the argument and tug at my emotions and motives.


When I read Paul, I write nice, alliterate points of application.

When I read Peter, I see 'movie moments'... layers of his life that are intertwined with human struggle and the stories of his time with Jesus.


So I am preparing this morning to take on PART 2 of my lesson from 1 Perter 2... the call to submit.

1 Peter 2:13–15

[13] Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. [15] For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 

and then he lays it out... relationship by relationship

1 Peter 2:17–25

[17] Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.


[18] Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. [19] For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

After showing Christ as the example, Peter keeps going....

1 Peter 3:1–9

[1] Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives

[7] Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

[8] Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. [9] Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (ESV)

So my pushback comes instantly...

I watch the news, why should I submit in a culture that is increasingly becoming hostile to people of faith?

What about times to disobey... civil disobedience?

Does a wife have to submit to spousal abuse?

Do servants have no right to seek freedom?

How did we ever get to the point of fighting the Revolutionary War if we submit to this attitude?

Won't the world just walk all over me?

I am a competitor... I can't just sit there and take it...

The world isn't just going to give stuff to you... you have to fight for it!

I have to fight for my family!

Of course I can find in Scripture times to fight evil and disobey- Paul and Silas were put in prison because they wouldn't obey the authorities when asked to stop speaking of Jesus. Daniel's friends were thrown in a furnace and Daniel was cast in the Lion's Den for their unwillingness to submit...... So am I over analyzing this?

No... not over analyzing.. just not realizing that this isn't a reasoned defense of when to practice Civil Disobedience... this is a call to shred the heart of pride.

With God... we willingly submit and therefore will escape the eternal subjugation.

Peter had already alluded to it... there is a Stone that you either give way to or It will crush you.

So here it is,... very clear... though it is complicated and messy... we are to humble ourselves and defer to others, because that is how God best sows seeds of reconciliation and salvation. God opposes rigidity. He wants us to stay compliant and malleable.

And not just here... this is all the way through Scripture:

Jer. 29:7- But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

And even in Peter's life....

remember that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane?

John 18:10–11
[10] Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) [11] So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (ESV)
Matthew 26:52–54

[52] Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. [53] Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? [54] But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (ESV)

and later... after the denial... after Christ reappears and restores him....

John 21:18–19

[18] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (ESV)

Follow Me.... He is asking for my submission... not when it is fun and easy... NO- He wants me to walk with Him in the darkness... not just the darkness of an evil world, but the darkness of my lack of understanding....

Pray for me in this area...

The Principles of Submission:

God wills it
It is for His sake and for His kingdom
It glorifies God
It silences the enemies
It is the fertile ground of love and reconciliation
It demonstrates complete confidence in the Sovereignty of God
It demonstrates who is the king on the throne of our hearts
It properly humbles us and directs us
It allows us to escape eternal subjugation
It is hard, messy, and complicated.. because at times, we have to choose and discern

The question is... not how little I can do this... but HOW MUCH can I do so.

Does anyone know the 2nd best selling novel of the 19th century? The best selling book was the Bible... but what was #2?

It was a novel that has been quite forgotten and cast down.... it is known now in a negative context which sadly hides the beautiful truth buried now in centuries of misunderstanding and attack.

The novel is 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852.This novel is credited as being a major influence in helping abolitionists in their quest to end slavery in America. 

The main character, Uncle Tom, may be the best personification of the principle of submission in all of literature. Here is how wikipedia describes the main character:

Uncle Tom, the title character, was initially seen as a noble, long-suffering Christian slave. In more recent years, however, his name has become an epithet directed towards African-Americans who are accused of selling out to whites. Stowe intended Tom to be a "noble hero" and praiseworthy person. Throughout the book, far from allowing himself to be exploited, Tom stands up for his beliefs and is grudgingly admired even by his enemies.

In one of the most riveting parts of the novel, Tom is sold at auction to a vicious plantation owner named Simon Legree and taken to rural Louisiana. Legree begins to hate Tom when Tom refuses Legree's order to whip his fellow slave. Legree beats Tom viciously and resolves to crush his new slave's faith in God. Despite Legree's cruelty, however, Tom refuses to stop reading his Bible and comforting the other slaves as best he can. Tom is not a weak sell out... He is a strong testimony to a man who loves the Lord and lives out I Peter 2.

It is the nobility of this fictional hero that so moved Americans who read the novel. There is a famous (though likely anecdotal) story that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he said 'so you are the little woman who wrote the little book that started this great big war."

But today the novel is hated...And that is always a problem when seeking to live counter culture, for the sake of the Lord.

There are always critics.... remember Job's wife?

Then his wife said to him (Job), “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9 ESV)

But we are being commissioned to submit to the King.... even when it is hard or seemingly illogical.

And we may even seem inconsistent when we disobey a command because we understand it to be contrary to the kingdom of our allegiance.

May God's grace guide us in the journey.





Monday, September 07, 2020

Pop Pop the Grill Master- Labor Day Memory

 


Inspired by Tootsie's Texas Cookin' last night on Netfix, I dreamed I was sitting on the backyard picnic table talking to my Pop Pop while he basted the ribs, chicken, and pork chops like he did almost every Saturday while I was growing up.

Madison Leonard Almon was a very talented and charismatic man. Champion golfer, WW2 B-52 blister gunner who flew 32 missions in the Pacific theater, and could do almost anything better than anyone else... including backyard barbecue.

I was blessed in my childhood to live literally 1 street away from my grandparents. I could walk there in 4 minutes, run there in 2, and bicycle there in about a minute ....downhill! It was on my way to the Handi-pak on Rugby Ave. where I could get a comic book and Mountain Dew for about 45 cents.

As long as I could remember almost every Saturday morning, Pop Pop would start before the sun rose, to prepare food for friends and family. I would go there as soon as I woke up and he would always get on to me and asked what took me so long to get there.

He told me the story about building his backyard patio and barbecue pit with his brother, Fuzz. In my memory, it was a large level back yard adjacent to an unpaved alley that ran behind all the houses on that street. There were towering tomato stakes next to his large round compost pile. 

The patio had been built away from the house and was pieced together from flat gray river stones which supported a wooden picnic style table and a large round canopy umbrella that leaned slightly in a hole that had been cut in the table. It wasn't large enough to cover the entire table, but was plenty to protect Pop Pop, his radio, and cigarettes if a Saturday shower threatened the day.

The grill itself was a built from hand, modest yellow brick rectangle at the far end of the patio. it wasn't fancy at all by today's standards. Just a brick edifice that opened to a large metal grate on top and carried the bricks onward for a small 'chimney' or vent.

He and Fuzz originally built it as a wood burning pit, but the two 'engineered' an upgrade. Pop Pop was a longtime worker for Alagasco, so running the gas line was easy. Fuzz was a welder and furniture maker, and he fashioned this large heavy wire grating that could hold large cuts of meat without any concern.

It was a gas grill with two large burners under the lava rocks. But Pop Pop kept a metal plate over that to keep the heat consistent and for hickory chips that continuously soaked in water. The smoke from those chips and the drippings from years of previous mastery were just small parts of the unique flavor that made his grilling better than any other I have ever experienced.

I'm sure that it was the largest gas grill in all of East Lake and would hold its own to any gas grill by today's standards.

Before I move into his cooking procedure, I need to talk about the periphery events that made this such a magical experience. As I got a little older, Pop Pop decided to use the morning to teach me some skills.

One day I got there and he had an old rotary, reel push mover. He challenged me to see if I could cut the grass... thick zoysia. I pushed it for about 30 minutes and my brother finished up when he arrived. The mower became part of my Saturday routine, and it was a measuring stick for my growing up. Over the course of a few years, I got where I could cut his entire yard, front and back and he would pay me if he thought I did a good job.

Another important skill I acquired in Pop Pop's backyard was learning to shoot his pellet gun. He was the first to teach me how to sight a target and he placed a trash can lid on he back door to his basement with paper plates that were the targets.

It was his main arsenal to take out the squirrels who chose to trespass on his super large tomatoes. He didn't have the gun out every Saturday, but it was on of my favorites. We also threw horse shoes, chipped golf balls, and played dominoes when the weather was bad.

One final periphery accompanying the smell of hickory chips, grilled meat, and Jim Beam was either big band music or Leonard's Losers.... the pick 'em radio show where the host would finish a homespun analysis of each college game with the infamous- "Leonard's loser, in a close one.... Arkansas" or Ole Miss, or LSU, or anyone else who played Alabama that day. 

My mom, grandmother, and my aunts stayed at the house preparing for the large feast later on in the day. We had the best potato salad, baked beans, breads, and casseroles in America. Granny's pound cake was a dream as well. One special Saturdays, we took turns churning home made peach Ice Cream strapped in an old, rusty aluminum cooler decayed by the turning and rock salt.

But Pop Pop was the main course. 

He did his best to pass along the process to me. 

He took me to the special meat market where he tried to point out the best way to select the pork chops. This market also offered rabbit and quail which were non-Saturday specialties in his kitchen.

Just before dawn, the slow cooked mastery would begin. Pop Pop had a basting sauce for cooking and a home made barbecue sauce that would be added just before the finished meats were taken in for consumption.

I was there early enough on a few occasions to mix up the 'secret sauces' myself. 

The basting sauce was water, white vinegar, salt, and pepper. That's all. But he lavished it on the meats throughout the day using a small mop brush.

The barbecue sauce was a little more complicated: ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, spicy mustard, a little hot sauce, pepper, salt, that he would reduce on the stove until there was a good consistency. He never measured anything, just added stuff. Every now and then, he didn't like it and would pour in a few other store bought sauces to make it legit.

These 'recipes' are nothing new.... nothing special... the magic is in the temperature, time, and tender care.

Pop Pop cooked them all day- slow cookin'! He sat out by that pit for hours, telling stories, pouring drinks, while turning ribs, chops, and hotdogs. He would turn the meat, dab the basting sauce, and sit down. He was about as content during those times as any human can be.


There were special days. He beat a neighbor arm wrestling one day. And he caught the neighbor down the street cooking some of his grill in the oven!

There was a day I ate too many pork chops and he scolded me in front of everyone. Other than that, I usually got in trouble for not eating enough!

But it all seems to morph into one day. One beautiful time of nostalgia.

About eating time, the entire neighborhood seemed to show up. It was loud from lips full of liquor, it was chaotic and fragmented, it was an event like no other. After eating, we would watch football on TV or take a nap.

That night, we ate leftovers.

And the next Saturday, we would do it all again!

I'm sure this is a part of Americana and memories in the millions.... but Pop Pop was the king of it all!


Thursday, July 16, 2020

mit·i·ga·tion



mit·i·ga·tion
/ˌmidəˈɡāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.

I was driving from Nashville to Birmingham in 2011 when I got a phone call from a student who wanted me to start a fishing team at our school.

Sounded simple, and I told him that I would do my best to make sure it happened.

Looking back 9 years later, it was one of the best things I ever did. There have been so many positive things about being an early participant of the growth of high school fishing in the state of Alabama.

There has been way more positive memories than negative.... it has been a joy!

Along the way, I discovered something I had never truly considered... and that is the importance of managing risk in the development of teenagers. As a long time football coach, I had grown accustomed to the idea that the activities  we do on a regular basis can result in injury and pain. I have had the terrible experiences of visiting football players in the hospital for various reasons in the past and I have had players get career ending injuries over the years.

And football can be deadly:

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research publishes one of the most widely referenced annual studies on the subject of football deaths in the US. Its surveys use reports from coaches and other athletic department staff members across the country, as well as media reports and independent research.

According to its 2017 report, more than 4 million kids and young people played some form of organized football that year. Of them, 13 reportedly died as a direct or indirect result of play: four direct and nine indirect. The survey defines "direct" as traumatic results of on-field play: spinal cord injuries, organ lacerations, head injuries and the like. "Indirect" deaths are caused by systemic failures because of exertion: heatstroke and most incidences of cardiac arrest, for example.
That means, for 2017, the the rate of direct fatalities was 0.095 per 100,000 players, and the rate of indirect fatalities was 0.21 per 100,000 players.

It is hard to get a firm number, but the demographic characteristics of decedents reported through national COVID-19 case-based and supplemental surveillance, by data source — United States, February 12–May 18, 2020 for individuals UNDER 18 years of age is 19 people (< 0.1)


So statistically, the risk of serious injury from playing football is very close to serious complications from the virus (yes, I know it can be transferred to someone with worse odds)

Even with those numbers, the fishing team activities seemed riskier to me. Towing a 2500 lb. boat on the interstate and backroads has danger. Putting that boat on the water and blasting off to your first fishing spot at 70 mph in low light conditions can raise the blood pressure.

I also have had the misfortune of having two of my anglers get hooks in them. One in the head and another one in the eyes!.... that one ended up at the Callahan Eye Clinic in Birmingham and, thankfully, ended well.

Any search of the news will also confirm the ultimate tragedy in the sports of fishing.... there have been young anglers lose their lives in terrible accidents, some preventable and others not.

What do we make of this?

Life incurs risk..... every single day.

I have found great joy in teaching young people how to mitigate risks through responsibility, education, and practice. It is a part of maturity and it actually inspires them!

I have seniors who can back a boat up into a space with only inches of margin. I am proud to see them respect the danger enough to take precautions. And as they manage risk, they grow more courageous and confident.

Unfortunately, I am not seeing this spirit being acquiesced during this time of planning and decision making in the midst of the current pandemic. This is a general statement of course.... there are exceptions.

But this 'spirit of timidity' and sadly, "spirit of divisiveness' is a combination of things:
  • Fear of litigation has hampered decisions of mitigation.
  • REAL DANGER- this virus is not a hoax folks.
  • TOUGH CULTURE- every spoken opinion can turn toxic
SO how do we respond?

I will continue to coach football and fishing- as I do, I have to look each parent in the eye and commit to them to do all I can to keep their child safe.... but I cannot PROMISE to keep them from harm.

We can't risk proof life, nor can we make any school Covid-19 free.

And I do understand we are trying to help protect the vulnerable....

The honest question is this....are shutdowns and austere measures on the mass populace the answer?

Every day- if God allows.... we wake up to new opportunities and risk.

This world can be a mean and scary place.... terrorists still plan and wait for opportunities... as do thieves and sex traffickers.

There are cruel people who harass and bully; harmful people who would injure you to simply take care of themselves.

We think we are secure- but the supply chain of both food and water could be suddenly interrupted. We have sworn enemies of our way of life who have mass weapons of destruction pointed right at us.

There are unseen contaminants, carcinogens, deadly bacteria and viruses moving in and out of your body on a constant basis.

If you dwell on these things you will want to run and hide.... that is what fear does.

But no- that is not how we are supposed to live.

We walk with wisdom- we look both ways before we cross a street, we don't play with fire, and we wash our hands and brush our teeth.

We surround ourselves with a loving community of family and friends and we hope to lean on them during times of crisis.

We make plans and have action steps if our house catches on fire.

I teach kids how to tackle with their eyes up and not hit with their head first.

I ask them to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes when fishing and to be careful when casting... especially with treble hooks.

I teach my children how to be aware of their surroundings, where to park, and how to protect themselves.


Here is a strange statement for this post.... I even understand there may be a day where I have to act in 'civil disobedience'- but it is based on principle AND it means I am subject to the consequences of those actions.


But the truly bottom line? I NEED to trust in my heavenly Father... what does He tell me to do and how to live-


[25] “Therefore I (Jesus) tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

[34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25–34 ESV)

Let us all be in prayer for our leaders and nation as we
mitigate... not subjugate
mitigate..... not risk proof life
mitigate.... not live in fear
mitigate.... not attack others
mitigate.... not forsake our duty to live by faith.


And then let's carry on in confidence, service, compassion, and hope!