October 31, 2004

This Tuesday, the American people will once again return to the polling places to elect their leaders for the next two years, possibly changing the course of human history.

I suppose I should be excited (or at least worked up) about the election. However, sadly (but honestly), my attitude about the whole political process this year can be summarized in one word:


Now, on to something more exciting. After I hit the polling place on Tuesday, I’m going to pick up a brand-spankin’ new copy of the Devotion, the Newsboys’ second worship album.

In a typical (albeit a little hokey sounding) marketing move, my local Family Christian Stores is offering 20% off of any purchase if I show up with one of those “I voted today” stickers from my polling place, so I guess that’s where I’ll buy it.

I’ll have to hold my nose when I vote, but I’m hoping the experience will seem worthwhile when I start peeling the plastic off the CD case…


It’s Official – I’ve Relocated Here

October 31, 2004

I’ve been mirroring my entries from blog-city on this page for the last few weeks, and I’ve finally decided to make my relocation here permanent. The Highland/blogsphere connection just seems to gravitate in this direction.

I held out for a long while because blog-city had a lot more user-friendly blogging tools, but I’ve finally figured out how to get links and a few other things on this page, so it just made sense to relocate.

If you’re a regular blog-city reader, you should update your bookmarks to reflect this page as my new official blog.

Worship and Spiritual Formation

October 25, 2004

Once again proving that the best content on this blog is never the original content, I invite you to consider this insight from Jedi Master Dallas Willard:

“To bring the mind to dwell intelligently upon God as he is presented in his Word will have the effect of causing us to love passionately, and this love will in turn bring us to think of God steadily. Thus, he will always be before our minds.

* * *

In this way we enter a life of worship. To think of God as he is, one cannot but lapse into worship; and worship is the single most powerful force in completing and sustaining restoration in the whole person. It puts into abeyance every evil tendency in every dimension of the
self. It naturally arises from thinking rightly of God on the basis of revealed truth confirmed in experience. We say flatly, Worship is at once the overall character of the renovated thought life, and the only safe place for a human being to stand.”

I’ll return to the usual inane, blithering observations about soccer, politics, and my increasingly scrooge-like attitude about Christmas in the next entry…

Of Winners, Losers, and Soccer

October 24, 2004

“What was the score?”

The question was posed yesterday by one of the players (I can’t even remember which one anymore) on a U6 soccer team that I coach (we have affectionately named our team the “Tigers” in honor of our sponsor).

Its an innocent enough question. Parents (dads, mostly) are constantly posing the question to other adults in connection with the sports they love. Plus, there are probably a few brothers and sisters who have been heard uttering similar questions.

And don’t get me wrong. This team has a great set of parents. I mean, a really great set of parents. I doubt that there is anyone that has suggested to any of our players that they need to be concerned about the score. But, when it comes to sports, adults like to talk about how our teams and players are performing, so its a pretty common question for a five year-old to hear. I have no doubt that this particular player finally connected the dots and figured out that – yes – you could keep score in their games as well – and that someone probably is.

Truth is – I usually don’t even try to count the goals at this age, so I didn’t have a ready answer for this particular player. But I really wish there were some way to get that question out of our team’s collective consciousness – at least for another year or so.

Winners and losers and scores. Champions and runners-up and also-rans. Those will all come soon enough in life. Probably all too soon

At an average age that is approximately three years more than the Tigers, my U8 team knows how to keep score. They are counting goals during the game. They know when they are ahead and/or behind. They get disappointed with themselves when they lose. At the end of the day, I try to keep the pressure off of them in terms of generating a favorable outcome on the scorecard; I want them to reflect on how they are improving and on the effort they are making, not on the outcome of the game. But – they have become so conscious of the score – its an issue I can’t ignore. We have to talk about how well we’re doing in terms of scores and match-ups, because – like it or not – its one of the factors that motivates that team.

I don’t know any other way to put it than this: the game, the team mentality, the way you feel after a game (particularly a loss) – it just changes once the players become conscious of the score.

Just this morning, another Tigers player ran up to me and stood less than a foot in front of me, anxious to talk about yesterday’s game. So we talked. We talked about a goal that she had scored. We talked about how much fun we had. We talked about what a great job our team did. The whole experience had just been easy, innocent fun for parents and kids alike.

The sixty seconds or so that I spent with that player this morning were a huge reminder to me. As our U8 team evolves toward awareness of the “adult” issues involving scores and winning, and as I (sometimes more successfully than others) try to work out the best ways to motivate and teach that team in an increasingly competitive environment, it is a God-send to also be part of something where the kids are having fun just playing.

Experience tells me that, despite the best efforts of myself and all of the parents on my team, the “what-is-the-score” questions will just keep coming. But I’m hoping we can hold out as long as possible.

I’m having way too much fun to think about the score.

The Unlikely Divine

October 19, 2004

I’ve been subscribing to the Daily Meditation newsletter from HenriNouwen.org for about a month now. Each day, I receive an email from the Henri Nouwen society that contains one or two paragraphs from Nouwen’s writings.

The tid-bits that are sent to my inbox each morning are very thoughtfully selected, life-filled reflections on faith and on the mission of God in the world.

Today’s email was particularly striking to me:

Our faith in God who sent his Son to become God-with-us and who, with his Son, sent his Spirit to become God-within-us cannot be real without our faith in the Church. The Church is that unlikely body of people through whom God chooses to reveal God’s love for us. Just as it seems unlikely to us that God chose to become human in a young girl living in a small, not very respected town in the Middle East nearly two thousand years ago, it seems unlikely that God chose to continue his work of salvation in a community of people constantly torn apart by arguments, prejudices, authority conflicts, and power games.

Still, believing in Jesus and believing in the Church are two sides of one faith. It is unlikely but divine!

I’m not quite sure what to make of all of this business about “faith in the Church,” but lately I have been increasingly astonished by the amazing truth that Nouwen points toward in these two paragraphs: God chooses to DWELL in imperfect, fragile, sometimes stubborn and even prideful, human vessels – and to use those vessels to act on His behalf in this world.

Equally striking was Nouwen’s discussion of the “unlikely divine.” I wonder: how often have I been surprised to find a divine indwelling in the most unlikely of places? A child. A mentally challenged individual. A tatoo-covered drummer with his hands lifted to the sky as he and his band prepares to lead a group in worship. A quiet, unassuming couple that turns out to to be quietly going about the work of the kingdom – some of the most generous people I’ve ever known.

Funny thing, the Kingdom is. Sometimes you have to look very carefully, but when you do, it shows up in the strangest places.

October 18 – A Big Day

October 18, 2004

October 18, 1965 was a big day in my life, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I was less than a year old, living in a tiny house with my parents in an equally tiny Texas town, where my dad was a band director at the local High School.

Little did I know. Little did they know. That was the day Sheila was born, only a couple of hours down the road – in Wichita Falls.

For almost seventeen years, I have had the privilege of calling this remarkable woman my wife, and for much longer, of calling her my best friend. For thirteen years, she has lovingly raised (and educated) our children – often attuned to that process much more keenly than I have been.

The birthday card I bought for Sheila today quotes Song of Soloman 8:7 – “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”

What a perfect verse to describe what is on my heart today.

Happy Birthday, honey!

A Little Cranky This Week

October 15, 2004

You’ll have to forgive me. I’m in a bit of a cranky mood this week, and I need to blow off some steam.

I can summarize the issues that have influenced my frame of mind in two words: “Christmas” and “Politics.”

Earlier this week, we had our first “time to start planning for Christmas” conversation, and I can already feel the holiday stress levels building. Presents. Travel. Meals. More presents. Parties. Holiday shopping. Trinkets. More presents. Indoor decorations. Outdoor decorations. More parties. Special programs. More presents. More shopping. More. More. More.

It just drives me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of setting aside a time to remember the first advent of Jesus and to anticipate His second coming. And a major national holiday like this one offers an ideal time to get together with family members that I don’t otherwise get to see that often. But the increasingly complex maze of social obligations and expectations that have come to surround this holiday (to the delight, I might add, of the multi-million dollar Christmas industry) makes me pull my hair out.

Bah. Humbug.

Now…on to being a Grinch about the second subject:

I’ve had it with low-ball political attack ads that attempt to smear and distort.

I know. I know. They’re on the air because they work. Lets face a very grim and unfortunate reality here: most of the political game these days doesn’t involve convincing anybody that your policies are the best ones for the state or the country. Instead, the game involves getting people who already agree with you sufficiently motivated to go to the polls and, conversely, discouraging everyone else so that they stay home.

And is there any doubt that – right or left wing – the primary tool to motivate people to political action these days is anger?

The more anger, the better. Thus, the messages go like this (or, at least, make these implications): “They’ll raise your taxes!” “They’ll take your social security check!” “They won’t respond to terrorism appropriately, and put us all in danger!” “They’ll wipe out the environment!” “They’ll encourage gay and lesbian relationships!”

And on and on it goes.

The accusations are almost always overly simplified, distorted, and spun for maximum effect. The object: make everyone who agrees with you so angry at your opponent that they’ll run right out and vote for you. As a side benefit, some of the opponent’s supporters, discouraged by the new information about their candidate, may stay home on November 2.

I don’t want to vote for someone becuase I’m angry at what the other guy might do. I want to vote for someone because they represent my ideals and values in life, and because I hope that those ideals and values can be translated into good public policy. But its hard to believe that anyone can be trusted to do that – even if they say they will – when they sell themselves out to the spinsters and smear-mongers of the political media industry.

I’ll say it again: Bah. Humbug.

How many days until December 26?

I need an Advil.