Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Role Reversal

Friends,

Maybe it is because the last pro football game most weeks has been the most exciting that it causes me to comment on it...in this case, the final game of NFL week 16, on a very rare Tuesday evening, no less. Or, maybe it is just because I have a short memory. :-) Yet, the offering between the Vikings and Eagles was interesting for a number of reasons. Minnesota rookie QB, Joe Webb, had a standout performance as he led the Vikings to a 24-14 victory. The irony is that Webb looked like his competition, Michael Vick...and Vick, who made a number of mistakes, played like a rookie. With injured starter, Brett Favre, cheering him on, Webb played like a steely veteran...and may have earned himself a good look for being the starter for the Vikings next year. Yet, how to explain Vick? The Eagles will only go as far as he takes them. When he has played well, they usually win big, but...when he plays poorly, they struggle and lose, which was the case this week. And since sports tends to be the place where I offer unbiased opinions on my blog :-)...I have to say that I am always pleased when the Eagles lose.

The playoff picture solidified quite a bit, with the Eagles, Bears, Falcons and Saints making the show in the NFC, while the Packers can get in if they beat the Bears at Soldier Field...a daunting task. If the Packers lose, the Giants can get in with a win. If both Green Bay and New York lose, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can sneak in to the playoffs with a win. Meanwhile, the Rams and Seahawks will battle it out on Sunday evening for the sorry NFC West title in Seattle. In the AFC, the Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs and Jets are all in. The Colts can get in with a win, but a loss by them and a Jaguars win will put Jacksonville in. So, as it is every year, there are always things to be sorted out in week 17...just another reason to love the NFL. Now, if they can only get that labor agreement hammered out for 2011 and beyond.

Tim Tebow fans can feel good about the Denver rookie QB's performance, as he led the Broncos to a come from behind win over the Houston Texans, 24-23. Speaking of the Texans, they have lost 8 of 9, and one has to wonder if coach Gary Kubiak's coaches seat can get any hotter(?). The Bears outlasted the Jets in a shootout 38-34, in a a game where both QBs, Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez played well. Don't look now, but the Detriot Lions have won three in a row...which is news -- especially since they have won two in a row on the road, a place where the Lions have struggled for over a decade. The Saints kept fighting back from turnovers to take down the Falcons in Atlanta, 17-14. Don't hold your breath, though...these two teams could very well meet again in the playoffs in a few weeks. Finally, the 49ers bailed on the Mike Singletary experience as they fired their head coach after only a couple of seasons. I have always loved Singletary's passion for and commitment to, not only for the game of football, but also for the Lord. Singletary just didn't win enough games, as the Niners are only 5-10 this year, in a season where expectations started out high...a division title was expected. Singletary is a solid guy who will find another job, as a coordinator most likely, but...I just hate it that the 49ers brass believed that they had to make some sort of statement by firing him with one week left in the season. It was not a surprise that Singletary handled his dismissal with grace and class. Way to go, Mike.

Blessings,
Don

P.S. A brief NCAA note...putting the University of Maryland football program on my "serious dislike" list for firing head coach, Ralph Friedgen, after an 8-4 season. Granted, he was 2-10 in 2010, but he has consistently been a winner in the several seasons he has been the head man for the Terrapins. Before Friedgen came on board, the Maryland football team had not had a winning season in many, many years. I am disturbed that more and more football programs are selling out on good coaches who may have winning records, but the allure of more $ with a big name new coach is driving them...'tis the way it is anymore, unfortunately. There will never be another JoePa.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A True Rescue Operation

Friends,

In the course of this life, we must check our own spiritual pulses to be certain that we are remaining pure in Christ and seek to remain unstained by the world. In 1 John 5:14ff, John wants his readers to understand that God knows about the needs and problems in the daily lives of His children…and that He is concerned. Jesus helped many, many people when He was here on earth…and God still provides help for those who are in need. And He often uses us…you and me…His servants in order to accomplish his purposes. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns song…”If We Are the Body.” We are his arms, His hands, His feet…and we need to continue to provide help if we are able to do so.

This is especially important when our concern is a brother or sister who is spiritually ill. John is not speaking concerning the unintentional or unwitting sins that believers commit on occasion, but he is talking about habitual sins…the practice of sin. Some of the Christians at the time that John is writing are leaving the fellowship. Those who are faithful are not to hate their wayward brothers and sisters, but continue to love them. Hating a brother or sister would be a habitual sin…which would lead to (spiritual) death. This would be to have a heart focused habitually on sin, rather than seeking to be pleasing to the Lord. All of these matters require prayer...and these Christians need to pray for their own hearts as well as others' concerns. Genuine Christians ask that those who have fallen away be restored. If one repents, then this person has been rescued…they are safe. We can thank the Lord for second opportunities!

A Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life rather than to recover the car. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape his punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding his rescue. What a tangled web that we humans can weave for ourselves by being self-willed and not seeking God’s will. It is so easy for us to even appear to be doing God’s will, when in reality, we are really doing our own will in God’s name. This doesn’t work for very long.

God gives His people the power to overcome. This, in and of itself, indicates that we will be tested…the circumstances of life, our own selfishness and sin, and the Lord himself may test us…for our own good, yet not above what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). To the worldly man, the Christian life is unreal, because this person lives according to what he/she feels and not according to God’s will through His Spirit and in His Word. We must not lean on our own strength…it will fail us. We must lean on the Lord for our strength to overcome. John has shared in his letter over and over that we can have real life, but only in Jesus Christ. And we do! We have met the One True God in His Son…and the only reason that we may be able to offer assistance in rescuing others is because we have ourselves have been rescued by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

John concludes his letter with a simple imperative…“don’t give in to idols.” Surrounded by idolatry, early believers were under tremendous pressure to conform. An “idol” is literally “that which is seen.” It is lifeless…a useless substitute for the real thing. What Satan would use to cause early Christians to stumble, He uses today, as well. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we safeguard our hearts and minds and dwell on things that encourage our hearts and minds, then we can and will not only overcome, but we will also thrive and grow! We share a lot of spirit in fellowship this time of year, and it is a great blessing. The reason we are able to do so is because God sent His Son into the world with one mission…to rescue us from ourselves…from sin, Satan and destruction. I thank the Lord God that He cared enough to rescue us because He wanted us to be with Him!

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Special Teams Extraordinaire

Friends,

What a wild and wacky weekend of football was week 15 of the NFL season. What has to be the highlight of the year, so far, was seeing number 63, Dan Connolly, of the Patriots, rumbling 71 yards down the field on a kickoff, carrying the football like a loaf of bread. The Patriots offensive lineman had the experience of a lifetime...and the only thing that would have made it better is if he could have made it the six more yards to end zone. But, I am sure it was highlight reel fodder for some good yuks in the New England locker room following the game. The Patriots play the Bills this week, and Buffalo coach Chan Gailey was asked if he was concerned with Connolly's return skills, concerning which, he responded...with a laugh. Thanks, Dan, for a memorable moment. There were a couple of other significant returns that bear mention. DeSean Jackson of the Eagles concluded a ferocious comeback by the Eagles against the Giants, where they were down by 21 with seven and a half minutes to play. Thanks to some big plays and a successful onside kick, the Eagles came back to tie the game 31-31 with just a couple of minutes to play. Yet, with just 14 seconds left on he clock, Giants punter, Todd Dodge, inexplicably punted to Jackson, and the star wide receiver then wove his magic, scoring on a 65 yard punt return to cap an incredible comeback, 38-31. Finally, special teams guru, Devin Hester, of the Chicago Bears scored on a 64 yard punt return against the Vikings, Monday night, to set an NFL record 14 punt or kickoff returns for a touchdown. What is remarkable is that he has accomplished this in only five years, breaking the mark of 13 that it took former return star, Brian Mitchell, 14 years to set. Kudos to Hester who figures to add many more happy returns during his career...to the end zone, that is.

From the "let me get this straight" category...as mentioned last week, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has alienated players and fans with his strong arm tactics...most recently, benching highly-paid, (formerly) prized QB, Donovan McNabb, and cutting punter, Hunter Smith, who botched a hold on a missed extra point that cost Washington its game against Tampa Bay last week -- not much grace there. Now, we go from Mr Hyde, to Dr Jekyll...Tom Coughlin, coach of the Giants. You mean that Tom Coughlin, who has a reputation for being tough as nails? Yep...him. His punter, the aformentioned Dodge, who made the ill-fated punt to DeSean Jackson, was the subject to intense criticism following the Giants loss to the Eagles. Yet, unlike his counterpart, Coughlin did not cut the punter, but encouraged and restored him...after blasting him following the game, of course -- but his response was more...grace in action. I have to say, that even a few years ago one would have thought that these actions would be the other way around, but maybe I have read Coach Cough wrong...I have a new found respect for him...too bad I still despise the Giants. ;-)

Once again, there were other happenings in week 15. The Cowboys outlasted a comeback by backup QB, Rex Grossman, and the Redskins and held on to win 33-30. This has to help Jason Garrett's bid to have the "interim" tag removed from him as Cowboys coach. But, remember...we are dealing with the enigmatic, unpredictable Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, so we will see. The Ravens beat the Saints, 30-24, by running, running and running star halfback Ray Rice some more. I don't know that this means anything, though. It seems like most of the good teams this years could split a best of four series of games...if they were to play such a schedule. From the "give credit where credit is due" category, Green Bay backup QB, Matt Flynn, played very well in nearly leading the Packers to an upset of the Patriots, but who still lost, 31-27. The Colts avoided what would have been a stunning playoff elimination by beating AFC South front runner, Jacksonville, 34-24. The Colts who looked all but dead a couple of weeks ago would appear to be back in the drivers seat for the division, as they are now tied with the Jags at 8-6. Tim Tebow made his debut for the Denver Broncos and played very well. The Mile High team really needed to take a look at their prize #1 draft pick from this year, and he didn't disappoint, although the Broncos still lost to the Raiders, 39-23. With Denver in such disarray this year, it will be interesting to see who will hang on as the starting QB for next year...incumbent, Kyle Orton, who has had a very good year, or the highly popular, Tebow. Finally, as mentioned earlier, Devin Hester had a big game for the Chicago Bears, as the Bears dumped the struggling Minnesota Vikings, 40-14. The Vikings were slated to start rookie QB, Joe Webb, for week 15...but at the 11th hour, the old gunslinger, Brett Favre came back from the dead (that is, down and out...literally...with a significant injury) to start the game and give his team a boost. The plan seemed to be working well until early in the second quarter when Favre suffered a concussion, as he was slung to the ground, banging his head on the frozen field. He left the game and did not return. It would appear that Favre may finally be done playing...although, how can anyone really say for certain. He says that this is it...that he is done. Personally, I hate to see Favre leave...he has been the most exciting player of his generation, but even old gunslinger's have to step aside at some point. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and we will catch up with you again after the holiday.

Blessings,
Don

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unique Lunar Eclipse

Friends,

There will be a total lunar eclipse beginning tomorrow morning at approximatley 1:30 AM (EST) and will continue for three and a half hours. The totality of it will be seen for over an hour beginning at approximately 2:45, where the moon, being shaded by the earth from the sun, will turn a coppery red. There will be approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide who will be able to see it. That a lunar eclipse is happening is not really big news, as there have been three in the past ten years. What is unusual is a total eclipse on the Winter Solstice, December 21st. The last time that this took place was the early 1600s, but the next one will occur in the year 2094. What is "nearly" as amazing to me is how on earth the "experts" are actually able to understand all of these calculations. :-) Below is a picture of a lunar eclipse.

Blessings,
Don



Friday, December 17, 2010

Signs

Friends,

I saw this and loved it, so now I share it --

Driving down a country road, I came to a very narrow bridge. In front of the bridge, a sign was posted: "YIELD." Seeing no oncoming cars, I continued across the bridge and to my destination. On my way back, I came to the same one-lane bridge, now from the other direction. To my surprise, I saw another YIELD sign posted. Curious, I thought, "I'm sure there was one posted on the other side." When I reached the other side of the bridge I looked back. Sure enough, yield signs had been placed at both ends of the bridge. Drivers from both directions were requested to give right of way. It was a reasonable and gracious way of preventing a head-on collision. When the Bible commands Christians to "be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21) it is simply a reasonable and gracious command to let the other have the right of way and avoid interpersonal head-on collisions. Stephen P. Beck.

Blessings,
Don

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Good Things

Friends,

One of the most recognizable streaks in sports came to an end Monday night...Brett Favre's amazing 297 consecutive games played streak. Even he marveled that the streak went on this long, during a recent interviewed. Most people compare it to baseball immortal Cal Ripken's streak of 2632 consecutive games played...which is an interesting comparison. I am not certain that they can be compared, but all I know is...I don't know how an NFL starting quarterback can take a beating every week and play every game for 19 years(?). I have always been a fan of Favre, the football player, although his personal agendas and issues in recent years have certainly diminished his legend to a degree. I do believe that when it is all said and done...a quarter of a century down the road...that he will be the most celebrated quarterback in NFL history. I have friends who argue his status as an all-time great, but Favre has to be in the top ten, if not in the top five of all-time greats. He owns just about every major positive statistic for NFL QBs...his being the all-time leader in interceptions, notwithstanding...

The Colts (see last week's message) were able to get back on track against Tennessee 30-28, although it wasn't easy. They are still battling injuries, and a shaky running game, but Peyton Manning did not make any significant mistakes...so that is a good sign. Speaking of Manning, it is remarkable to me that his younger brother, Eli, has throws 19 interceptions this year, and yet the Giants are 9--4. Let's hear it for the defense, eh? Well...Smith, Alex, replaced Smith, Troy at the helm of the 49ers this past Sunday, and you would think it was the second coming of Joe Montana. Smith threw for 255 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Too bad he was so inconsistent early in the year, as it may be too late to get the 49ers, who are 5-8 to the playoffs. Yet, anything could happen, as the 49ers are only one game out of first in the NFC Weak behind the Seahawks and Rams who are 6-7. The Chargers throttled the Chiefs 31-0, who were without starting QB, Matt Cassel who had an emergency appendectomy. Backup Brodie Croyle is going to have to prep better if they are going to stay ahead of the surging Chargers. Aaron Rodgers went down again with a concussion, and so did the Packers, 7-3, to the Lions. Once again, I am not sure what big bucks the backup QBs are being payed not to do their job when called upon, but...it's not a good thing. It may be a statement concerning just how overall weak the QB position is in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Patriots, Falcons, Saints, Steelers, Ravens, Jaguars and Eagles just keep racking up wins. Right now, it seems like the Patriots are #1...and then all of the rest. But, I am sure that it will get interesting before it is all over...this is one of the reasons why I love the NFL.

Blessings,
Don

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Sure Thing

Friends,

Among the more famous thoughts by Ben Franklin...in 1789, he said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Now, a wise man like Ben Franklin knew other things were certain, including spiritual matters…but, I believe we can understand what he was saying. Concerning the aforementioned certainties, we can agree with Mr. Franklin…yet, concerning spiritual truths, we should be the first to say, “we know for certain” what it is that lies ahead…what lies beyond death’s gate. The word “know” occurs thirty-nine times in 1 John…eighteen times in chapter 5 alone! There are times when believers question things that God says are certain. I have heard some say, “I do not know if I am going to heaven or not.” John says that if we are seeking God’s will, living the blameless life of a faithful follower of Jesus, then we should indeed “know that we are saved” (v.13). And, this does not mean that we are sinless or perfect…just that we are blameless, forgiven. God says so!

There are some divine certainties about being in Christ that we should not question, but simply trust in the Lord. This requires genuine faith -- "little faith” is going to struggle…"no faith” is going to be condemned…but “growing faith,” although it may be challenged, is going to reap a blessed reward! As we grow in faith, we grow in our ability to overcome the flesh, world through the love of God. It is important to understand that by using the word, “overcome,” that John is not describing some special class of believers. He uses the word as a name for Christians who are genuinely maturing in Christ. Those who truly live by faith in Christ have the victory! The better that we come to know and love Jesus, the easier it becomes to trust Him with our needs and for help, guidance in the battles of life.

Remember, some of the folks that John was writing to were those who were still questioning if Jesus Christ was the One in whom they should be trusting. Some of these people had been exposed to a number of false teachers…certain Gnostics…as we have shared previously, who deny Jesus’ deity. To nail down his argument, John presents, once and for all, some infallible witnesses to deal with the false teachers and those whom they had been influencing. The first witness – the water. Jesus came “by water and blood.” The water refers to His baptism and the Spirit who came upon Him like a dove. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The second witness – the blood. The Father gave further witness as the time drew near for Jesus to die. Concerning “the Name,” He speaks to Jesus from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:28b). Jesus would shed His blood on the cross…there would be darkness, earthquake, and tearing of the temple veil. Some false teacher’s said Jesus “received the Christ” at His baptism, and that He would lose it at the cross. Yet, on both occasions, as we have seen, the Father witnesses to the deity of His Son! The third witness – the Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to bear witness to the Christ at His baptism and at His death (John 15:26, 16:14). The Spirit’s witness is to be trusted, because He is presently working, and is “the Spirit of Truth.” The Spirit witnesses to us (Romans 8:15-16)…and His witness is our inner confidence that we belong to Christ, a confidence that we do not and cannot work for, but one that God gives to us. The Spirit also witnesses to us through the Word of God…as we read God’s Word, He speaks to us and teaches us. In all of these spiritual principles, we can know that we have eternal life, through Jesus Christ who has been witnessed. And, we are the Lord’s witnesses, as well...it is our responsibility to share the message of hope to a lost world!

You hear people say, “I wish I could have faith or have more faith.” Yet…everyone lives by faith! All day long, people live in a trusting relationship with others…this requires faith. We trust the doctor and the pharmacist…we trust the restaurant cook…we trust the person driving on the other side of the highway. If we can so trust men in these ways, how can we not trust God who knows all things and has power over all things? Jesus is God…this has been witnessed, and we can trust this! It is a sure thing. If we can’t trust this principle with our lives, souls, who or what can we trust?

Blessings,
Don

Friday, December 10, 2010

Air Apparent

Friends,

I saw a gorgeous red sky sunset on the way home from the Metroplex today, and I wish there had been a camera present to get some pictures. Yet, the atmospheric colors reminded me of the picture below, but from a different perspective. Here is a unique sideways shot of the atmosphere...with complementary labels.

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

6-6 Isn't Going to Cut It, Unless You Are In the NCAA

Friends,

It is amazing to see the Indianapolis Colts struggling this year (6-6) after so many years of winning twelve games or more. Peyton Manning has a very un-Peyton like 11 interceptions in three games. I am not a huge Colts fan, but I still have a hard time seeing the Colts and Manning continuing their current slide....and the Tennessee Titans, who are struggling even worse, may be just what the doctor ordered for them this week. And all of this to say, I can't imagine anyone outside of northern Florida who would have said that the Jaguars would be leading the AFC South at his point of the season...especially with a 7-5 record.

Just when we thought the San Diego Chargers were getting on their typical late season roll, they are upset by the Oakland Raiders. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the lowly Broncos (bummer for Josh McDaniels), so they now have a two game lead in the AFC West with two games left to play. If the Chargers are going to somehow pull a rabbit out of their hat, they have no better opportunity than this Sunday when they face the Chiefs. If they lose, they will likely be out of the race with only three games left after this week. (Special note -- can one really ever count the Chargers out? If we remember right, they Charged from several games behind last season to overtake the Broncos on the last weekend, so...)

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons seem to have cemented themselves as the leaders for home field advantage for the playoffs. Of course, it is still awfully early to be making this call, but they have really been playing well of late, and it is going to take a couple of significant losses for each of them to fall from their lofty perches. (Was that just the kiss of death? Probably not. :-) Yet, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I hope that they will exact revenge for an early season defeat to the Falcons that should not have taken place (once again, we remember that kicker, Garrett Hartley, missed a twenty-something yard field goal as time ran out that would have sealed the win for the Saints). I have to say, though, that until someone unseats the defending champs, I am liking their chances, as they are on a winning streak of their own. The team that could and should unseat the Saints? New England just throttled fellow 9-2 team, the New York Jets 45-3...and they might be a good bet. Speculation is fun, but with a quarter of the season to go, many things can still change, so buckle your chin straps and hang on...

Blessings,
Don

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vocalizing Joy

Friends,

A consideration for the holiday season and for "the post-season" is to proclaim our joy and thanksgiving. There is tremendous value in the very act of vocalizing our joy. C. S. Lewis once confessed that for many years he was uncomfortable with the Scriptural admonitions to praise God. He once considered it a rather arrogant request. But in his book “Reflections on the Psalms,” he writes: “…The most obvious fact about praise…whether of God or anything…strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise....the world rings with praise....I had not noticed that the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...praise almost seems to be inner health made audible...”

An intangible relationship exists between the body and the soul. Sometimes the health of the inner soul can bring health to a sick body. And sometimes the body can bring the soul into a state of blissful happiness. The act of rejoicing, praising, or giving thanks with our mouths may serve to express the joy of our hearts but it may also relief the sorrow of a troubled act and replace it with joy. The demonstration of our faith through acts of rejoicing transforms our feelings. In other words, we can, indeed, act our way into a better way of feeling. Richard Foster in “the Celebration of Discipline” echoed this theme when he wrote, "Joy begets joy. Laughter begets laughter. It is one of those things in life that we multiply by giving." The more we rejoice, the more we will want to rejoice.

Blessings,
Don

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Players Fined...and Patriots West Looks Fine.

Friends,

It's is just about time for kickoff for week 13 tonight with the Texans and Eagles facing off...and I haven't sorted out week 12 yet -- it's been a bit hectic this week. Week 12 was a pretty boring compared to recent weeks, although one thing remained the same -- Steelers LB, James Harrison, was fined $25,000. I have heard enough of this guy already. He doesn't like being fined for head on helmet hits. The league already has dozens of guys on the IR...and the NFL is trying to slow that number down. Eliminating helmet to helmet hits and head on helmet hits will prolong players' careers. And since the league wants to extend the schedule to 18 games next year, this might just be a good idea. You also probably saw the footage of Texas wide receiver, Andre Johnson, being taunted by Titans defensive back, Cortland Finnegan...and the fight that followed. It was not a pretty sight...but, both players received only fines, but no suspensions, which was surprising. And the good (bad) news is that the Texans and Titans, being division rivals, play each other again later in the season, so there could be even more fireworks.

The Kansas City Chiefs' offense appears to be full stride at this point in the season, as they beat down the Seahawks 42-24. What makes this offense tick? Dwayne Bowe leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns, as he and quarterback, Matt Cassel, have developed quite a chemistry. The dynamic running duo of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are the best running back set in the league this year. I guess the Chiefs really are becoming "Patriots West." The Vikings won new coach, Leslie Frazier's, debut as they defeated the Redskins 17-13. The Bills were a dropped pass in the end zone by Steve Johnson from upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers in OT. Alas, they were not able to pull off their third win in a row. Jay Cutler led the Bears to a win over the favored Eagles and Mike Vick, 31-26. Cutler, who has a history of throwing untimely picks, had four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The surprising Bears are 8-3 and leading the NFC North. Finally, Peyton Manning and the Colts are going to have to get a running game going if they are going to get out of their funk. Manning threw four picks in a blowout loss to the surging San Diego Chargers, 36-14. The Colts have lost three out of four and do not look anything like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. Somehow, they always seem to get to the playoffs, but their streak of twelve win seasons is likely going to end at 6. Here's to week 12, just in time for week 13... :-)

Blessings,
Don

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Funny, the Foolish and the Forgiven.

Friends,

Here is a list of answers to some of life's puzzling questions --
1. In every episode of Seinfeld there is a Superman somewhere.
2. Average life span of a major league baseball: 7 pitches.
3. A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.
4. “Hang On Sloopy” is the official rock song of Ohio.
5. The reason firehouses have circular stairways is from the days of yore when the engines were pulled by horses. The horses were stabled on the ground floor and figured out how to walk up straight staircases.
6. Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history. Spades - King David; Clubs - Alexander the Great; Hearts - Charlemagne; and Diamonds - Julius Caesar.
7. An ostrich's eye is bigger that it's brain.
8. The longest recorded flight of a chicken is thirteen seconds.
9. Hershey's Kisses are called that because the machine that makes them looks like it's kissing the conveyor belt.
10. The Bible has been translated into Klingon.

These are just some of the marvelous answers the world has to offer. :-) They're great answers if you're playing Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy but they're not much help when your life is in jeopardy. They're not much help if you need guidance in a relationship or forgiveness for something that broke that relationship. And they're not much help when you begin to question the purpose and meaning of life...or even when you begin to question whether life as we know it is all that there is.

There are signs of the presence of God everywhere -- every time someone reaches out to care for someone else...every time the poor and hungry are fed and cared for...every time a missionary doctor brings healing to those who are hurting...every time a child smiles and laughs because they know they are loved...every time another Habitat House is started or completed...it is a sign of God's presence. But, we often miss them, because we aren't looking with the eyes of faith. God chose what is foolish to shame the wise. God chose what is weak to shame the strong. God chose the lowly so that we couldn't boast about anything but Christ Jesus and the grace, redemption and forgiveness we have experienced through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I believe that God laughs joyously every time the foolishness of the cross changes someone's life...or gives someone hope...or heals someone's wounds...or lifts someone's burdens. Thank you, Lord, that your foolishness is far greater than our wisdom! (1 Corinthians 1:18ff)

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Friends,

Well...I always seem to be about a week ahead of myself with these football messages. I pondered the state of the Titans last week, wondering what was wrong, and...voila! The latest and greatest struggle between coach Jeff Fisher and qb Vince Young hath boiled over. This is probably what was simmering last week. The amazing thing is that no one has heard a peep out of Randy Moss, which is probably a good thing. Nonetheless, coach and qb had a blowup of epic proportions following the Titans overtime loss to the Redskins Sunday with Young walking out of the team locker room, saying, "I am walking out...not on the team, but on the coach." This kind of insubordination is intolerable, but there seems to be some deep rooted angst involved on both sides of this dispute. Young had injured his thumb on his throwing hand late in the game and the coach pulled him out. Now, this whole matter is convoluted, because Young wanted to go back into the game even though his thumb was damaged, but Fisher stuck with untested rookie, Rusty Smith, instead, and the Titans ended up losing the game. The Titans placed their starting qb on injured reserve, Monday, so he is no longer available for the rest of the season. This move begs the question -- did they place Young in the IR because he is truly seriously injured, or is it a followup to the coach's threat that Young would not start for the Titans again this season? One still has to admire Young's courage for wanting to be on the field trying to lead his team to a win, especially given that his toughness has been questioned in the past.

That there has been friction between Fisher and Young, there is no question. Young has been somewhat problematic since he has been with the Titans. He spent the first several games of last season in Jeff Fisher's doghouse and on his bench, only to come back and nearly lead them to the playoffs after they started 0-6. Fisher also benched his two time pro-bowl QB early this year for some reason and started veteran Kerry Collins. All Young has done is lead the Titans to 30-17 record when he has started, which is pretty good. I think there is enough blame to go around, but I put the greatest blame on the coach who just doesn't seem to like his star qb. Some will say that head coaches don't need to be psychologists, and that may be true, but I don't think they need to be as clearly antagonistic as Fisher has been with Young, either. It is all probably water under the bridge, because it is unlikely that coach and qb are going to be able to coexist any longer. The real question is -- will owner, Bud Adams, let his long-tenured coach walk away, as he has been publicly supportive of Young...or will he trade or cut the volatile qb, the leader of his team? It will be interesting to see how it goes, especially since Adams has said that both of them are going to work it out and continue to work together. Okay.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys won their second straight under new coach Jason Garrett during NFL week 11, although they will have a stiff test on Thanksgiving against the Saints. The Jets are the new cardiac kids of the NFL, as they found another way to win a game in the last few minutes for the third week in a row. They could just as easily be 5-5, instead of 8-2, but as the saying goes...good teams create their own luck. This appears to be the case with the Jets. The Jets main division rival, the Patriots, held off the Colts in their annual battle of the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Tom Brady has been on a roll of late, and he played better than Peyton Manning, who literally threw away an opportunity for the Colts to tie the game near the end of regulation. Manning threw a senseless interception when they could have made a relatively easy field goal to put the game into overtime. I think Peyton Manning is a great guy and very good quarterback, but he is going to have to overcome his late game "Favre-like" picks that keep his team from succeeding (see last season's Super Bowl).

Speaking of Favre -- wherefore art thou? He is playing, but he looks like a shell of his former (last season's) self. The Vikings were dismantled by the Packers, 31-3, and it cost head coach Brad Childress, his job. This disturbs me in multiple ways, and I am not certain which aspect disturbs me most(?) Childress led his team to the NFC Championship game last year and were just a couple of plays away from the Super Bowl (thanks to Favre), but this year, the Vikings are 3-7 (mostly thanks to Favre), and so the coach pays the price...doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The other thing that bothers me is that it seems that some of the Vikings layed down and didn't give the full effort this past Sunday...much like the Cowboys seemed to do under former coach Wade Phillips when star qb Romo went down. Do these multi-millionaire players really need further motivation to get up for a game...other than the fact that they should love the game they play? Some of them are -- either just drawing a paycheck, or wanting to get rid of a coach that they don't like...or both. I think that the wealth of riches contributes to a general malaise when things are not going well...and such weakness affects not only sports, but the entirety of our society. I am not certain what the solution is. I feel bad for Childress...even though he made some mistakes, for certain. At the same time, I don't feel bad for Fisher. Funny game isn't it?
:-)

Blessings,
Don

P.S. An article in AOL Fanhouse today concerning the Lions provides some credence to the above argument...unfortunately. I don't want to see the game I love become a joke...wiser heads and good leaders, hopefully, will prevail.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Loss and Gain

Friends,

It has been a challenging couple of weeks dealing with the illness of a young friend, culminating in her passing last evening. Jamika was at the Foster's Home for Children for a little over a year until July of this year. No one is really certain how or why Jamika ended up her condition for the past few weeks -- in a coma and on a machine to keep her lungs and kidneys operating -- and we will probably never truly know why these circumstances took place. The Lord understands these matters, and it is enough that we understand this -- there is peace in knowing that He is in control. There were a number of people who ministered to her mother from the church and from the Foster's Home, and this was much appreciated. We are also grateful for those who cared for her at the hospital and sought to help her to heal.

We had a special memorial service for her this evening that was attended by about 50 church members, Foster's Home folks and others from the community. We cried and we laughed...it was good for all of us. We will all miss Jamika, and we are happy that the Lord brought her into our lives...even if only for a brief time. She was a vivacious youth who changed dramatically in the time that she was with us...and for this, we are thankful. We will, likewise, be different...changed for the better because of our association with her.

Blessings,
Don

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Gulf Coast from Above

Friends,


Here is an interesting shot from the International Space Station of city lights along the Gulf Coast. Immediately below the left wing of the station is the city of New Orleans and the Mississippi delta peninsula of Louisiana, albeit from a sideways perspective (about 110 degrees from horizontal). Below it are the cities of Beaumont, TX, and Houston TX (at the very bottom).


Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Coming Out Party

Friends,

Well...sort of. Michael Vick has been around for several years. Most folks know his story. Yet, last night was the arrival of "the new Michael Vick" it would seem, as he led the Eagles to a 59-28 thrashing of the Redskins. After his release from prison a couple of years ago, Michael Vick signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles to be Donovan McNabb's backup. He played sparingly last year and showed signs of a QB that had been out of action for a couple of years...but, there were also flashes of brilliance -- a long bomb against the Cowboys alerted Eagles coaches that there might be still be some flash. They believed in him enough to bring him back this year, albeit as new starter, Kevin Kolb's, backup. Yet, when Kolb sustained a concussion early in the season, Vick was pressed into action...and boy, did he act! He played very well...so well, in fact, that when Kolb came back, the starting QB position was no longer his, but Vick's. Vick was always a good runner -- a la Randall Cunningham and Steve Young -- before he was incarcerated...and he could make some good passes, although not consistently. Yet, as of Monday, November 15th, 2010, he has arrived. Vick has now become the most dangerous player in the NFL. Why? He has learned a pocket presence. He no longer runs first and passes as an afterthought. Now, he stands in the pocket and looks for his talented young receivers, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant. As he proved against the Redskins, when there is no pass to be made, he can find the hole and scramble for the yards he needs. In short, he has become a complete player. Barring a set back or injury, Vick might not only carry his Eagles into the playoffs, but all the way to the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to watch it all unfold.

In another coming out party of sorts, it appears that the Cowboys may not be dead just yet.
Is it too late to make the playoffs? Probably. But, Jason Garrett's arrival as Dallas' coach, appears to be something like what the doctor ordered for a team that was lackluster. After a week of challenging practices in pads and an upgraded dress code, it appears that Mr. Garrett is already putting his stamp on the team. Some might say that the Cowboys were just playing for pride against the Giants Sunday...but, if this was the case, what about their "pride" the week before or the week before that... I don't necessarily think that the Cowboys are going to win out, but I do believe that they are going to respectable, which is something that they were not for the first half of the season.

There were a number of upsets in week 9. The Giants, Steelers, Chiefs, Titans, Ravens all were supposed to win, but ended up losing. Ahh...you just have to love the unpredictable NFL. The Eagles were not the only team to ring up 35 unanswered points in the first half of a game this past weekend, the Broncos also did so against an apparently "unsuspecting" Chiefs team. Denver went on to win 49-29, and judging from Chief's coach Todd Haley's post game snub of the obligatory handshake with Josh McDaniels, it would appear that Mr. Haley was none too happy with the game's proceedings. Oh well, they will meet again...and what goes around usually comes around. The Patriots looked like the world beaters of a few years ago by soundly beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26. I have to say that I took a lot of delight in seeing the Steelers be handled so easily, but they will be back another week. Yet, if Tom Brady plays with the fire that he did on Sunday night, New England is going to be an awfully tough team to beat in the AFC. Not sure what happened to the Titans game plan for the Dolphins, but they apparently tossed it out the window. Randy Moss was not much more than a very expensive decoy in his first game with his new team, as he had one catch on four targets. Three other Titans receivers had at least nine targets. Also, coach Jeff Fisher started grizzled veteran, Kerry Collins, over explosive (exploding?) Vince Young, which makes one have to wonder what is going on in that locker room. Collins was injured during the first half and Young ended up playing the second half. For all of the trouble that people were thinking Randy Moss might be for the Tennessee locker room, he may have come into a locker room that was already in turmoil and he may not have had a thing to do with it...imagine that. ;-) Meanwhile, the Dolphins put together a 29-17 victory with three QBs, as fragile Chad Pennington played all of a couple of downs before reinjuring his bad shoulder and was lost for the year. Later, former starter, Chad Henne, suffered an injured leg and appears to be lost for some weeks if not for the year. This left third-string QB, Tyler Thigpen, who played well in relief. Hopefully, he continues to do so, as he is going to be the main guy for the Dolphins behind center for the forseeable future. That's it and that's all for now...on to week 10.

Blessings,
Don

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sacred Sacrifices

Friends,

As is inscribed on a Korean War memorial in Washington D.C., "Freedom is not free." Someone has to pay the price for our liberty. The Veteran's Day holiday, as well as Memorial Day, causes me to just stop and ponder things...and I am thankful for this. It has been good to see all of the wonderful messages on facebook today...what a blessing! I don't think that I could appreciate or understand the concept of sacrifice when I was younger the same as I have come to appreciate it now that I am older. I believe that this simply has to do with experience and maturity. I am grateful that my dad served in the army. He was never in a combat situation, but I have heard him talk about his experiences and it further caused me to be appreciative. Many other people have given their lives in service for our country. I am grateful during this Thanksgiving month for all of the men and women, younger and older, who have served and who are still serving in order to keep our country free from tyranny. It seems that the tyranny is much less definable than in the past, and therefore, I believe it is more dangerous. We need vigilant intelligence and military people to continue to help us in the ways that they do.

At the same time, this day also makes me think about my Savior's sacrifice. I am ever grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and for me, in order that I may live forever. As I get older, I believe I better come to understand the concept of sacrifice as it relates to Jesus, as well, and I am also grateful for this. It just makes me consider, once again, that Jesus' sacrifice is sufficient for all mankind, but efficient only for those who choose to accept it and become His followers. If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, please respond, as I would be happy to communicate with you. Have a blessed day!

Don

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reversal of Fortunes

Friends,

Well, I guess I spoke one week too soon concerning the plight of the Bengals. After they lost their fifth game in a row last night to fall to 2-6 on the season, Robin (Chad Ochocinco) seems to have had enough of Batman (Terrell Owens) getting the vast majority of the team's receptions. So, there appears to be trouble in Gotham (Cincinnati). In fact, Owens has been the most targeted receiver in the NFL this year, so there is no mistaking the fact that Bengals QB, Carson Palmer, has been feeling pressure to get T.O. the ball. This was supposed to be the year the Bengals cemented their place atop the AFC North, but they appear to be on course for a disappointing season. Meanwhile, the Steelers and Ravens appear to be their formidable selves...both 6-2. Perhaps the most surprising team in the NFL after week 9 is the fourth team in that division, the Cleveland Browns, who were supposed to be an afterthought. Yet, the Browns, led by surprising rookie Colt McCoy, have defeated the defending Super Bowl champ, Saints and the Patriots, who were 6-1, in successive weekends to improve to 3-5. We'll see if the Browns can keep it up. Their recent history would seem to be working against them...and especially now with news that coach Eric Mangini appears to be tinkering again and may not start McCoy this weekend. Eric...if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

It is a tough time in Cowboyland. After falling to 1-7 following an embarassing Sunday night defeat to the Packers, 45-7, Jerry Jones has chosen to dismiss Wade Phillips as the team's coach. There is no doubt that the team has been underachieving since star QB Tony Romo went down with a broken collarbone. It is hard to discern just how much fault lies with Phillips for his lack of toughness and discipline, as there certainly is a significant group of players, primarily on the defense, that quit on him over the past couple of weeks. There is plenty of blame to go around. If we listen to the sportswriters, among many others, they believe that most of the fault should lie with owner/president (and pseudo-general manager) Jerry Jones. A strong case can certainly be made for this. Now, embattled offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, receives an eight game audition for the rest of the 2010 season to prove himself as to whether he should be the Cowboys' long term head coaching solution. There is nowhere to go but up, which should be to his advantage.

The aforementioned Steelers and Ravens, as well as the Saints, Gaints, Packers, Falcons and Chargers continue to roll on. The rejuvenated Michael Vick led the Philadelphia Eagles to an upset win over Peyton Manning's Colts. The Oakland Raiders continue to surprise, winning their third game in a row over the Chiefs to improve to 5-4. The Old Gunslinger (Brett Favre) led another amazing comeback for the Vikings, as Minnesota defeated Arizona 27-24 in OT. The Vikings were down 24-10 with five minutes to go, but Favre did what he has done so may times throughout his career...and passed for a career high 446 yards to boot. Somehow, one has to believe the 3-5 Vikings are going to make some noise this year, before all is said and done...even without Randy Moss. Speaking of Moss, he has signed with the Tennessee Titans. They hope that his ability to stretch the field (pull defenders off of the line of scrimmage) will help to open up the running game for star running back Chris Johnson. If their plans come together, the Titans could be a very dangerous team in the AFC.

The Seahawks have been blown out on consecutive weekends, which makes one wonder what is happening in Coach Carroll's world. Just when it seems the Lions might be turning the corner, they find a terrible way to lose a game to the Jets that they had in the bag, and on top of this, they appear to have lost fragile QB, Matt Stafford, for the year. Finally, I just have to mention the 0-8 Buffalo Bills at the mid-point of the season. Chan Gailey's bunch plays hard and and has been in most games, but just can't get over the hump. I am hoping that they can get a victory and avoid the winless season...and perhaps this will be the week, as they play the Lions. How ironic would that be? :-)

Blessings,
Don

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Free in Christ

Friends,

The Jews bring an argument to Jesus after He has been encouraging the believers about the freedom that they could have in His message. This is one of the most intensive passages in the New Testament (John 8:31-59), but so important for the conviction of the heart. Jesus says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (vv. 31b-32, NIV) As earlier in chapter 8, the Jews do not understand Jesus’ message. He is speaking about true, spiritual freedom from sin, while they are still thinking about political freedom (from Rome). Jesus explains that the difference between spiritual freedom and bondage is a matter of whether one is a son or a servant. The servant may live in the house, but he is not part of the family, and cannot be guaranteed a future. And these religious leaders were servants or slaves...but of sin. How could they be set free? Only by the Son whom they do not understand and whom they despise.

These Jews claim to belong to Abraham, but they are very unlike Abraham is critical ways. Their nature is evil…they reject the truth; further, they are seeking to kill Jesus because He speaks the truth. They say that they love God, and they may be well-versed in their religious traditions, but do not understand Jesus or His teachings. Jesus claims that by faith Abraham could see and understand many spiritual concepts that they are unable to comprehend. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac -- a foreshadowing of what would happen with Jesus Himself -- reveals the depth of Abraham’s faith. If only these “proclaimed children” of Abraham's had even a small of amount of that kind of faith, they would understand the truth about Jesus. There is an amazing incongruity to all of this. The worst bondage is the kind that the prisoner himself does not recognize. They may claim to know God and love God, but their hearts are far from Him. The Pharisees and other religious leaders believe that they are free – instead, they are in bondage to their "father," Satan.

These religious leaders cannot refute Jesus’ statement, so they attack Him. This is a proven tactic for debaters -- if one side is losing the debate, it becomes personal. As we come to understand in Jesus' dealings with the Samaritan woman, the Jews considered Samaritans to be second-class citizens. So, for a Jew to be called a Samaritan would be a huge insult, but this is what they say about Jesus...that He must be a Samaritan. They add to the insult by saying that He is demon-possessed. Jesus does not dignify the slurs with an answer…they are dishonoring Him, but He is honoring His Father. He tells them that they will die in their sins, because of their unbelief, still He invites them to trust His Word and “never see death.” They understand that Jesus is claiming to be God by proclaiming Himself “Lord over death”…and this convinces many of them, further, that He has a demon. Jesus’ final statement in v.58, “Before Abraham was…I am” is powerful and divine, another affirmation of His divine Sonship. The Jewish leaders receive it as such, and seek to kill Him, but Jesus is able to slip away, since it is not yet His time.

I had the opportunity to participate in a men’s retreat several years ago. At the beginning of the retreat, the leaders gave each one of us a softball sized rock to carry around for the entirety of the weekend. Predictably, the rock became a burden…and a burden it was supposed to be, physically and symbolically. We were to write any sins that we were struggling with on the rock, which once again, signified the burden that our sin had on us. At the end of the retreat, we all took our rocks out to an open area and tossed them into a large open grave. After we all had relieved ourselves of our burden, each of us took scoops of dirt and buried them…a poignant moment. What a relief it was to be set free from the burden…both physical and spiritual.

This is what Jesus came in order to do -- set us free from our burden. From the Garden of Eden, humans have had the burden of sin weighing them down. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and then raised from the dead so that He could take that burden from us and set us free. If only the Jewish leaders had taken up Jesus’ offer. But, the most difficult people to win are those who do not realize that they have a need…and the Jewish leaders were altogether self-sufficient. It is remarkable how many people…how many believers, even…choose to continue to carry their burdens around rather than be set free and to live free in Christ. The greatest prison is one without bars…it is an unrepentant heart. When people stay in such a state for long, they become desensitized to their struggle and to sin and cannot see Jesus. This was the case with the Jewish religious leaders. We have every opportunity to choose freedom and choose life. We can allow Jesus to tear the bars away and live in our hearts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cY7ZVsV-_I&feature=related

Blessings,
Don

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unusual Comet

Friends,

A spacecraft, Deep Impact, that was used to track and photograph a comet five years ago was awakened from its slumber in order to capture some fascinating shots from about 435 miles away of another comet, Hartley 2, that is approximately 2.9 billion miles away. Not to be confused with Halley's comet, Hartley's is much smaller, only 1.2 miles in length, as opposed to Halley's which is several times larger. The comet, which has a unique bow tie shape, emits jets of ice and dust off of either end, but is remarkably smooth in its central section.

Blessings,
Don


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teams in Turmoil

Friends,

This past Sunday had to be one of the strangest for the National Football League in recent memory. Two of its more storied franchises, the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins, appear to be coming apart at the seams. This is countered by the fact that the Cinicinnati Bengals, which everyone expected to be "team turmoil", has been strangely silent...even though they are 2-5. Not much seems to make sense in sports these days (see my previous baseball blog), which may be a good thing, but...Vikings coach, Brad Childress, cutting Randy Moss after one month and Redskins coach, Mike Shanahan, benching star QB, Donovan McNabb, makes no sense. The Vikings should have known what kind of "character" they were getting when they gave up a third round draft pick and signed Moss. He has proven to be just a tad difficult in the past...most recently with New England...so it was unlikely that he was going to be any different with the Vikings for his second go-round. Shanahan, likewise, should have known what he was getting in QB McNabb, who does things his own laid-back way. He wore out his welcome with Eagles coach Andy Reid...and he was not going to be a good fit in the Redskins coach's precision West Coast offense. Taking nothing away from the fact that both players are eccentric, to say the least, both coaches and organizations, now, have a lot of questions to answer.

In other news, the Cowboys are 1-6, but don't seem to be able to do anything about their losing ways. According to Jaguars QB, David Garrard, he said he didn't think the Cowboys were "into it" (the game, that is). This could be a general statement about the mindset of the modern athlete in their struggle to deal with adversity, or it could just be a statement about the lack of mental toughness for the Cowboys individual players...not sure, but probably the latter. But, the Cowboys "D" certainly made Mr. Garrard (who threw four touchdwon passes) look like Dan Marino, at least for one day. All of the sudden, something has gotten into the Oakland Raiders. Laughingstocks for the better part of the past decade, they have hung 59 and 33 points, respectively, on their opponents the past two weeks. Whodathunk? At least for now, it is just like the old days in the AFC West, with the Chiefs and Raiders battling it our for supremacy. However, no one should sleep on the perpetually slow-starting Chargers who appear to be coming out of their typical early season funk. The Saints finally looked like the champs from 2009 in beating the Steelers 20-10. One could hope that their "D" will continue to play tough. Once they get their running game back in order, I am believing that they are going to be one of the top teams in the NFC. In something of a surprise, the Packers upset the Jets 9-0. I am not overly surprised that the Packers won, but that the Jets scored squadoosh. They coudn't get a running game going, and the up-and-down Mark Sanchez has been a shrinking violet again the past few weeks. Finally, the Colts who seem to have as many injured players as healthy ones, continue to assemble a group of people that get the job done. It would seem that you could throw just about anyone with some moves out on the field with Peyton Manning and he is going to turn them into a star. Manning just has that magical leadership quality...and he will not be denied victory very often. As long as he is their QB, the Colts will truly be a marvel to watch.

Blessings, Don

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Tale of Black Beard and Other Pitching Stories

Friends,

This post is probably going to be as off-beat as the characters I will be writing about. I had a friend ask me recently about San Francisco Giant's closer, Brian Wilson's beard, saying...is that beard real? I mentioned something about dye...or something to that effect. :-) That Mr. "Fear-the-Beard" Wilson is a strange character, there can be no doubt, especially given his interview with Jim Rome a few month's ago...as unusual an interview as you will ever see. Wilson's crossing his arms and pointing upward with his index finger following a save is also a unique sign (related to martial arts), and it basically means -- he will fight even with his back against the wall, and will live to fight another day. Think Karate Kid or some such. Nevertheless, I think that most closers are strange birds. Most of these guys just march to the beat of a different drummer...they are unafraid to stare stress and disaster in the face without blinking. No one can doubt Black Beard's effectiveness. He may be the greatest of his time, or at least for the 2010 playoffs, recording six saves and striking out sixteen in over eleven innings. He also just closed out the Rangers in the World Series last night...all in a days work for Wilson.

We baseball enthusiasts have known for a long time that good pitching beats good hitting. Well...we don't have to look any further than the just-concluded World Series to see the evidence of this. The Texas Rangers came into the World Series tearing the cover off the ball and had just trounced the mighty Yankees in the ALCS. In fact, most prognosticators were saying "Rangers in five or six games to win the World Series." So much for predictions. The four young home-grown starters for the Giants -- Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner -- simply were not going to be denied. All Lincecum did in the playoffs was beat Derek Lowe, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (twice) on the way to proving that he is probably the most imposing pitcher of his time...not bad for a guy with a quirky, but powerful motion, and who probably weighs no more than 160 lbs. He maximizes his mental and physical abilities in a way that, perhaps, no other pitcher has ever done. Yet, young Mr. Cain didn't give up an earned run in any any of his starts in the post season, which is remarkable. And if this isn't enough, the 21 year-old Bumgarner was the youngest lefty to win a World Series game, pitching eight shutout innings of three hit ball in the pivotal game four of the Series. This is to say nothing of the good, clutch hitting the Giants had from (what a lot of people would say) are primarily a group of cast-offs. I don't know if this is a fair assessment -- probably not. Their hitters are all proven major league vets, with the exception of exciting rookie catcher, Buster Posey. But, with the pitching the Giants had, one could probably get Tom, Dick, Harry and six other folks and compete fairly well most days. :-) This segues into some praise for Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who is one of the "good guys" in baseball. He is a wily veteran who molded his group of 25 guys into a "team" that came together the last couple months of the season. And this is taking nothing away from Rangers manager, Ron Washington, and team president/minority owner, Nolan Ryan, who did a masterful job with their 25 men to get them to the big dance -- kudos to Ryan and Washington. So, even though I love the Rangers and applaud them for beating down the dreaded Yankees to get the the Series, I have to say "hats off" to the Giants and their young pitchers who carried the week, and who proved the adage once again...nothing can beat good pitching (unfortunately, in this case).

Finally, I guess it was somehow fitting that pitching carried the day in the Series, even though I didn't much like it. It was, after all, the year of the pitcher. There were (an unheard of) five no-hitters in 2010, and two of those were perfect games...by Roy Halladay (Phillies) and Dallas Braden (A's). The other three no-hotters were by Ubaldo Jiminez (Rockies), Edwin Jackson (Diamondbacks), and Matt Garza (Rays). It is interesting to note that Halladay also pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs this year against the Cincinnati Reds...only the second time such has happened in history (the other being Don Larsen's game 5 perfect game in the 1956 World Series). Speaking of Matt Garza's Rays, they have the ignominy of being no-hit twice in the past two years, which is pretty amazing in and of itself. It is hard to understand why all of this happened in 2010, except some say it has to do with hitters' confidence. Some say there is a correlation to MLB's crackdown of performance enhancing substances, which it could be. Or, it could just be because the pitching has just gotten that much better. Time will tell.

Blessings,
Don

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Looking Up

Friends,

We are often enticed to look down at the ground so to speak, as if the earth or nature is going to provide answers to life’s questions and struggles. We also tend to look around at other people hoping for a solution to our insecurities and issues. What we need to do, rather than looking down or looking around is just take some time to look up -- not just because we need to see God’s beauty in creation or in the night sky, but to keep our spiritual focus on things above. Too often in life, we let our circumstances dictate our actions, our thoughts, even the way we see things. Too often we do not notice the beauty that we are surrounded by or the special heavenly gifts our Heavenly Father bestows upon us. We even forget about the answers to our morning prayers that are faithfully fulfilled during each and every day. We have blurry spiritual eyes, and we need to put on our heavenly eyeglasses in order to see reality. As long as we limit our view to an earthly perspective, we will miss the daily blessings bestowed on us from our Father in heaven. Only by concentrating on Jesus and walking with Him will our view be lifted up high. Only then will we be able to see our circumstances from God's viewpoint. All fear will leave us, as we will know that we have indeed a caring Father in Heaven. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sound of Music

Friends,

This is no ordinary fare for me on the blog, but just coudn't resist. I saw a friend "like" the Sound of Music on facebook, and so I did the same, knowing that there are other "musicals" enthusiasts out there. Now, I have come to realize why -- today is the 45th anniversary of the release of the movie, and the lead cast made an appearance on Oprah today (imagine that :-). Anyway, for the sake of nostaliga, and with the promise that I wil get back to one of the main themes for this blog soon, here are some pics to ponder...

Blessings, Don




Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Upside Down League

Friends,

Today is the beginning of the NBA season, and...it just doesn't hold much allure to me. As I have blogged before, the NBA is so predictable. We know that the same six teams or so are going to fighting it out to the end with the Lakers winning the title again -- boring. So, now we come to the NFL and the 2010 season where there is not too much that has been predictable. Most folks expected the Jets, Colts, Steelers, Ravens and Patriots to be atop the AFC, but the Chiefs have unexpectedly cast themselves into the mix The Texans and Titans, from the South, are also playing well, which creates some real drama for that division. It is the NFC that has analysts and common folks collectively scratching their heads. The Cowboys were supposed to be the first team to host a Super Bowl at home...and they find themselves 1-5, now, and do not have their starting QB, Tony Romo, for most of the rest of the season. The Giants started out an awful 1-2 in the East, but have reeled off four wins in a row in rather impressive fashion, and now may be the team to beat in the NFC. That is, unless the Seahawks (4-2), Buccaneers (4-2) and Redskins (4-3) do not have something to say about it -- you're kidding me right? These three teams have been bottom dwellers the past few years, but here they are atop or near the top of their divisions. Ahhh...gotta love the NFL, where parity is a reality. On any given Sunday, any team can beat another team...and in any given year, a bottom feeder can rise to the top, and a top dog can sink to the bottom.

The big drama for week 7 involved none other than Brett Favre. This week, the news was more related to on-field issues than off-field (which is good, I guess). Favre came out of yet another rough start...against the Packers, no less...and now has two small fractures in his already banged up ankle. He was also publicly criticized by his coach...and here I thought that Favre was the coach. :-) The big drama is whether his 291 start streak is in jeopardy. With 99 percent of NFL QBs, it most certainly would be, but...we're talking about the Old Gunslinger here. He will tell them that he is going to play and they will probably shoot his ankle with some painkillers and send him out there for week 8 against the Patriots. One begins to get the idea (which I have already pondered, actually), that Favre will not come off the field until they cart him off, once and for all...and it could happen this Sunday. I do believe that when this happens, that he will be finished...but, how can anyone say for certain(?).

It is apparent that the Saints aren't marching anywhere this year without running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Thankfully, they are both slated to be back in New Orleans' lineup this week...and none too soon, since Sean Payton's bunch was thumped by the steadily improving, but perennially lowly, Cleveland Browns 30-17. Thomas' running style is the solid, pounding variety that backups have been unable to provide. Bush provides such an unpredictable element that opposing defenses have to plan for...and it keeps opposing coordinators off-balance. The Saints will be happy to have his shifty, quick bursts back in the offense.

Finally, when I checked the scores around lunch-time Sunday, you know that I had to do a double-take when I saw the score -- Raiders 31-Broncos 0 -- with 13 minutes left in the second quarter. This was almost surreal. The Raiders have been nothing, if not terrible, on offense since Rich Gannon left nearly a decade ago. Meanwhile, the Broncos have not had that poor of a showing this year, even though they were 2-4 coming in o last weekend. There had to be much rejoicing for Raider nation when the final outcome was 59-14 in favor of the silver and black. A person just has to wonder...one, if the Raiders can possibly keep this up, and two, just how long of a leash does young Josh McDaniels have with Pat Bowlen's pride and joy? Well, there is much that remains to be seen as the final ten weeks unfold. I have to believe that major injuries, like Favre's and Romo's, are going to continue to play a major part as the season unfolds (and the higher-ups want to expand the season to 18 games???). At the rate that things have been changing this year...I am willing to bet that it is going to get very interesting before it is all said and done.

Blessings,
Don

P.S. Yes, Dolphin fans, you were robbed of a win...we Seahawk fans remember a Big Ben wrong call around the goal-line in Super Bowl XL painfully well...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rangers' First World Series

Friends,

It has to be a dream come true for two groups of people that the Texas Rangers have reached their first World Series...die-hard Rangers fans who have waited for 39 years for their team to finally arrive, as well as the Dallas Cowboys, who have to be pleased that the Rangers are taking a lot of attention away from them and their underachieving season. In fact, I think Jerry and Co. should send a big thank you note to Nolan and Co. signed by all in the Cowboys organization. ;-) But, seriously...it is a wonderful things that the Rangers have left the short list of team never to play in a World Series...with the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos being the only other teams not to make the big stage. So, as a lifelong Mariners fan before I moved to Texas, and now a die hard Rangers fan...one has to know how painful a baseball journey it has been for yours truly, and how much of a joy it is to see Texas arrive at baseball's pinnacle series.

Now, the wait is over...it is show time! The Rangers will play the San Francisco Giants, a team that has not been to the World Series since 2002 in the middle of the Barry Bonds era. It should be an interseting matchup between a power pitching team (Giants) and the power hitting Rangers. The old adage is that good pitching will always beat good hitting, but those people didn't play the 2010 Rangers who have been just tearing the cover off the ball in the postseason. I will say this...if the Giants pitch like the Yankees, this will be a short series in favor of the Rangers. If they pitch well, I still like the Rangers' pitching ace in the hole, Cliff Lee to carry them to their first World Series title. It may take six or seven games, but I do like the intangibles of Nolan's group. They have an awful lot of momentum and team spirit right now. As I mentioned in a recent blog, it is hard not to credit the dramatic and positive influence that Josh Hamilton has been on this team's success. Josh has an incredible story...and what a story book finish it will be if he can do his part to help lead Texas to the baseball promised land. Go Rangers!

Blessings,
Don

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bigger...Stronger...Faster

Friends,

There has been a lot of talk this week about the safety of NFL players by those who are administrators for the league. After four highly visible, devastating helmet to helmet hits this past weekend that resulted in concussions, it was decided today that there will be immediate fines and suspensions for such hits...even for first time offenders. This has, predictably, created an uproar among NFL commentators (many of them former players) and current players. Many of these former and current athletes believe that the rules changes that are being implemented today are going to cause the NFL to become "softer" and make guys "let up on their hits." They claim that this is antithetical to what football and the NFL is all about...and that is -- the goal for the defender is to try to separate the offensive player from the ball. This may be true, but some wiser heads are saying that the enforcement of the safety rules that are already in place concerning helmet to helmet hits is necessary for the short term and long term well-being of the players.

The NFL does have a problem. Players today are bigger, stronger and faster than those who played even ten years ago. When these guys collide with one another going umpteen miles per hour (which seems to have the impact of a car wreck, in my estimation), concussions continue to mount. In fact, there are twice as many concussions this year than there were at this same time last year. Those players who made the controversial plays this past Sunday, James Harrison of the Steelers, Brandon Merriweather of the Patriots and Dunta Robinson of the Falcons have been fined ($75,000, $50,000 and $50,000 respectively) by the league for their hits. They have complained that the penalties are unfair...in fact, Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, who has already had a reputation as a player with questionable tactics, has even hinted that he will retire rather than change his ways. (To this, I say -- go ahead and retire...perhaps this will make a contribution toward cleaning up the game). This is going to be a difficult process and it is a challenging and controversial subject...there can be no doubt. Yet, contrary to the fear-mongering, I do not believe that the purpose of the NFL higher-ups is to "soften" the game at all, but it is to take away that cheap shots that threaten players' careers...and to this, I applaud them. I want to see my favorite sport...and the favorite sport of millions of Americans...continue to grow and prosper. If this is going to take place, then there are going to have to be some necessary adjustments. I really hope that the leaders of the league do not disturb the integrity of the game, but they do need to keep their own integrity intact by making these necessary changes.

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Magnificent Lee

Friends,

After Cliff Lee's remarkable pitching performance in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, people are beginning to talk. After Lee shut down the Yankees, allowing two hits over eight innings...and following two stellar performances against the Rays in the ALDS...some are beginning to speculate that he may be on the short list all-time of great playoff pitchers. In fact, there are a lot of prisoner-of-the-moment sports folks who are already saying that he IS already the all-time best playoff pitcher. I don't know about this just yet, but I will say this -- when your name is being mentioned with the likes of Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson, as well as Mariano Rivera, you have entered into some mighty elite company. Lee has a 7-0 record and a miniscule 1.26 ERA over eight career post-season starts. It just so happens that he is pitching for the Texas Rangers who have had zero post-season highlights in their history...that is, until this year. Now, thanks to him and his teammates' marvelous efforts, Nolan Ryan's team is but a couple of wins away from their first World Series. Now, this isn't going to be a cakewalk. After all, the Rangers are playing the Yankees...they of the 27 World Series Championships in their history, and defending MLB Champions. It may not be easy, but I do like Texas' chances. Here's to hoping that Mr. Lee gets the opportunity to pursue and win his first World Series title so that he may remove all doubt as to who is the most dominant playoff pitcher of all-time.

Blessings,
Don

Monday, October 18, 2010

Into the Light

Friends,

Some thoughts for my friend, Jim, :-) and anyone else that may be blessed... At this point, you are aware of the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped for 70 days about a mile underground. It has been a joy to see the footage of the reunions and just to know that these men who could very easily have perished far underground are now safe above ground. It has also been interesting to hear and read some the parallels that have come about as the result of this story. How similar is this experience to our own experience in coming from the darkness and into the light? It is hard not to see how God can use this event in this way. It is interesting that it took a steel encased tube to be the conduit by which rescuers could lift up these men out of the ground and back to safety. In a like way, Jesus is our "conduit" who leads us out of the darkness and into the Light. It was hard not to notice the miners' sunshades provided to protect their eyes. To come from such darkness as the depths of the earth into the light of the sun would be an incredibly bright prospect, indeed. Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross so that we could come out of the darkness of this world and into the marvelous light of His life. I am sure that for many, the transition from the world to the Light is at first blinding, but as we get accustomed to seeing with spiritual sight, we are able to "see" the darkness for what it is...and appreciate and enjoy the Light of Him who came to rescue us.

Blessings,
Don

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturn's Rings Distortion

Friends,

If you thought that tsunamis were particular only to our home planet...not so. There are enormous, mile-high tsunamis of ice particles that are moving around the interior of Saturn's rings...and it makes for an interesting spectacle. The waves are created by the largest of Saturn's moons, Titan, whose gravity provides for the dynamic effect of huge peaks and gaps. Below is an graphic rendition of what this looks like...
Blessings,
Don

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Rangers Do Things the Right Way

Friends,

There is a pleasing story running on AOL Fanhouse concerning the Rangers. The Rangers celebrated their ALDS clinching win with Ginger Ale instead of champagne, so as not to cause teammate Josh Hamilton stumble. (He has battled substance abuse in his past). Rather than ask for heads to roll when people make mistakes, as would many leaders and organizations in our pragmatic society, the Rangers organization chose to help Hamilton and Manager Ron Washington through their struggles this past year. So...is the ALCS opportunity as much about blessing as talent and strategy? Some may laugh, but one has to wonder... Yet, I will say this -- God rewards those who try to things the right way, and from all appearances, Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers baseball club are setting a good standard for other clubs and businesses to follow. We need more people today to show that it is not all about #1, but that selflessness and service are a route to blessing others...and as the result, blessings flow back.

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Drama On Top of Drama

Friends,

ESPN really knows how to pick them. Last night's MNF game between the Jets and the Vikings had plenty of intrigue going into the game, with the Rex Ryan's on a roll and the "under fire" Favre connecting with new teammate Randy Moss for the first time. The first two-and-a-half quarters of the game were not exactly dramatic, and could probably be described as "plodding" and "boring." But, the last quarter is, as they say..."why they play the game." Favre was his feisty, vintage self, as he threw three touchdown passes in the final quarter plus and nearly pulled off a comeback in a game that was lost. It was good football drama. But, the "other" vintage Favre threw an interception in the last minute to seal it for the Jets, 29-20.

There were other games played on Sunday, week 5. Like the Vikings, the Cowboys fell to 1-3, after they fell behind the Titans early, but just couldn't reel them all the way in. Tony Romo was pretty good in leading Dallas back, but a late "excessive celebration" penalty against Mark Colombo (which was a ridiculous call, by the way) after a touchdown gave the Titans a kickoff from the Cowboys 15 yard line. The Titans "no-name" kick returner promptly returned it deep into Cowboys territory and they promptly scored the game-winning touchdown for a 34-27 victory. So, the 1-3 Cowboys will play the 1-3 Vikings up there next week...speaking of drama.

It is clear that the Saints are not the same team without playmaker Reggie Bush. But, I say that they are also missing starting running back Pierre Thomas just as much. Without the threat of a good running game, teams are loading up to defend the vaunted Saints passing game and are forcing star QB, Drew Brees, into mistakes. This is precisely what happened Sunday as the Saints were upset by the Arizona Cardinals and rookie QB Max Hall, 30-20. The defending champs aren't in any significant danger, yet, but a quick return for Thomas and Bush will certainly be welcome for New Orleans.

Time for a shout out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1), who defeated the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) 24-21. The Bengals won the AFC North in 2009 and were supposed to challenge for their division again, but one has to wonder about the chemistry of that team, as it seems like there are just too many contrary personalities to keep it together and working. The Buccaneers have a young QB (Josh Freeman), a young defense, and a young coach (Raheem Morris)...and yet, they just continue to beat teams that they were not supposed to beat. At this point, it would seem that the Buccaneers are not going to be a pushover. Although I am not a Bucs fan, one has to give them props for where they are at for 2010, and that is -- on top of their division after five weeks.

The "Slip Sliding Away" award may have to go to the Green Bay Packers if they have any more injuries...in fact, it may have to go to them anyway. Already missing star RB Ryan Grant for the year, the Packers have lost key defensive players...some for weeks, and others for the season...and are also missing their top two tight ends, and may not have starting QB, Aaron Rodgers, for this coming Sunday due to a concussion. They need a "get well soon" card.

Blessings,
Don

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pats Riot in Miami

Friends,

This week's version of MNF was a massacre...and it cost a coach his job. The New England Patriots throttled the Miami Dolphins in their house, 41-14. The Pats special teams, in general, and Patrick Chung, in particular, steamrolled the Dolphins special teams for a blocked punt as well as a blocked kick that went the other way for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Dolphins special teams coach, John Bonamego, is now looking for another job as the result of the debacle. But then, as if Mr Chung had not yet made his mark...he also intercepted a Chad Henne pass and went 50+ yards for a pick six. The former Michigan QB had an evening to forget. Hopefully, he will bounce back after a bye week and work some things out. On top of all of this, the Patriots are the first team in NFL history to have a passing TD, rushing TD, interception TD, kickoff return TD and blocked field goal TD all in the same game this evening. If you think about it...that is pretty amazing.

Well, there were some other games played over the weekend, and a few things worthy of note for week 4. For all of the offensive talent that the Cincinnati Bengals have...including the T.O. and Ochocinco show...it doesn't seem to be working, as the Bengals lost to previously winless cross-state rival, the Cleveland Browns, 23-20, and are now 2-2. It just has to make one wonder how that locker room is...is the team chemistry at the boiling point yet? If not, I am willing to bet it will be before the season is over. Now, the J-E-T-S are playing like the team that Rambunctious Rex thought they would be. "They are who we thought they were..." to quote a famous line by Dennis Green after beating the hapless Bills 38-14 to go to 3-1. The Jets have pretty well handled all three division rivals in consecutive weeks after a season opening loss to the Ravens. And speaking of surprises, the Rams continue to perform with Sam Bradford at the helm, handling the Seahawks 20-3, and are on top of the NFC West at 2-2...not that this is much to brag about. The bigger story may be their defense that continues to beat up on opposing offenses. One final note...I doubt that the Colts are on the rocks, but after losing 31-28 to the Jaguars thanks to a last second 59 yard field goal and their kicker, Josh Scobee, they are clearly not as strong defensively as they were last year. However, hard to count against Peyton Manning and company. We will see when they face the 3-0 Chiefs next week.

Blessings,
Don

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Winning...A Matter of Perspective

Friends,

It was fun to watch my kids play soccer while they were younger…nothing much cuter than a bunch of five year olds running around a little field chasing after the ball. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to coach Alyssa’s under 12 soccer team. We had a great group of young athletes who were talented and played well together. Our team would go 5-0 in the Fall and then 4-0 that next Spring. We entered the Spring Jamboree and won all of our games in order to get to the final championship game. It was late in the afternoon and all of the players and coaches were tired after a day of tournament play. We played a Prosser team to 0-0 tie at the end of regulation time. We then went through two short overtime periods and it was still tied. We went to a penalty kick shootout in order to decide the whole ball of wax, and...we ended up losing 5-4 -- a very tough way to go out.

So…what do you do, then? You suffer with the girls and parents for a bit…but, what perspective does a young person or an adult take from such an experience? Some in the world would say – we were the first losers and nothing else really matters. We chose to take a more spiritual, realistic look at it all. We celebrated as a team that had such a wonderful time together, had grown together as soccer players and as human beings. We celebrated being 13-1 and chose to learn from the loss as much as from the wins along the way. Sure, it would have been nicer to win, but what is it that really mattered? We need to ask ourselves…what are the greater issues to be discovered and learned through life experiences? It is all a matter of perspective.

Some opponents saw Paul’s ministry as a wreck instead of the gift of God that it truly was. Though these people accused Paul of a lot of wrong-doing, he had nothing to hide, either in his personal life or in his preaching. Paul was open, honest and sincere…there was no deception or distortion in his life or preaching. Paul’s positive attitude contributed to productive ministry for God. Paul did experience some disappointment because of his trials in Europe and Asia. Would he lose heart when his life was so focused on doing so much good for so many? Paul had no reason to lose heart (Galatians 6:9)...for God, in His grace and mercy, had called him and enabled him -- and he knew it! He was called to dispense grace and mercy to others and he did just this. Paul showed great courage through his life and ministry…having been beaten with rods, stoned (perhaps to death), whipped, shipwrecked and imprisoned. It all helped his perspective concerning what truly mattered in life...for Paul, it was all about living for Jesus. In all of these matters, Paul understood that winning wasn't just the end of the journey, but it was how he lived the journey...as a winner!

Blessings,
Don

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Balloon Rally

Friends,

Well...these are not exactly space shots, but they are wonderful pictures by my friend Mike Carpenter at the annual Prosser, WA balloon rally. We had the opportunity to go assist with one of the balloons one year and it was a blast. However, I did come to a stark conclusion -- when the balloon we were chasing was trying to come down in a field and was going to miss it, I tried to slow it down by grabbing on to a drag cable -- ha ha! I ended up getting dragged alright...for about 30 yards, and the funny, memorable experience provided a few scrapes and bruises, but it was great fun. We did end up getting it down in a field a few hundred yards away. Anyway...a couple of pics to appreciate...

Blessings,
Don




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Battle for Texas

Friends,

It was a game they had to win. It is hard to believe that the Dallas Cowboys were staring at some serious trouble (potential to go 0-3) in week 3, but that is preceisely where they were coming into their game against the Houston Texans. Yet, their defense was ready for the task and played as they were supposed to play...they shut down the Texans excellent offense to win 27-13. It didn't hurt that Marion Barber and the running game showed up for the first time this year, either. We'll see if this is the real Cowboys team or if week three was a one hit wonder. I believe that the former will prove to be true.

What is up with the NFC West? It was supposed to be a baaad division...and it is. :-) But, who would have thought the 49ers and Cardinals would be the teams that would be downtrodden and that the Seahawks and Rams would be showing some promise. Seattle beat San Diego, who was supposed to be a strong contender this year and the Rams thumped the Redskins. It will be interesting to see if it holds...we will find out more about Seattle and St. Louis as they face off this week for the first of their two division games. A special note of wonder and appreciation for Leon Washington of the Seahawks. He blew out his knee with the Jets last year, but Sunday ran back two 100 yard kickoff returns. I guess Mr Washington is back...good for him. Meanwhile, this was supposed to be the year that Mike Singletary's crew would rise up and seize this hapless division, but they appear to be the same team of turmoil that they have been for over a decade now.

Whodathunk the Chiefs would be undefeated and on top of the AFC West...or the same for the Bears in the NFC North. But, the real surprise to me is...hold on to your hat...that the Steelers are undefeated and on top of the AFC North(?). We knew the Steelers were going to be their fearsome defensive selves with Polamalu back...but they have won with a different starting QB every week, I believe. This is amazing! What will happen when Big (Formerly Bad) Ben comes back? It could be a big year for the Steel crew.

Speaking of formerly bad...the NFL story of the year and player of the year to this point has to be Michael Vick. He has energized the Eagles (2-1) with amazing play (unfortunately for a Cowboy fan), so I have to tip my hat to him. It also puts off the opportunity for Stephenville resident, Kevin Kolb, to take over the QB helm of Andy Reid's team. He has been a good, supportive trooper for Vick and the team, so hats off to him as well. However, I won't mind if the Eagles lose both of their games to Wade's bunch. :-)

Blessings,
Don

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Childlike Innocence

Friends,

Some thoughts from “Learning from Living.”
If a child lives with criticism…he learns to condemn;
If a child lives with hostility…he learns to fight;
If a child lives with ridicule…he learns to be shy;
If a child lives with shame…he learns to feel guilty;
But…
If a child lives with forbearance…he learns to be patient;
If a child lives with praise…he learns to appreciate;
If a child lives with security…he learns to have faith;
If a child lives with approval…he learns to like himself;
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship…he learns to find love in the world.

When Jesus wanted to describe to His disciples those who would enter into the kingdom of heaven, He brought some little children into His midst. Those who would enter the kingdom should become innocent as little children are innocent (Matthew 18:1-6). Just a short time later, Jesus is still with the disciples and again some children are brought into Jesus’ midst in order that He would pray for them (Matthew 19:13-15). Yet, the disciples rebuke those who brought the children, as if to say -- Jesus is too busy and important for such trivial things. The disciples obviously did not learn from the earlier situation concerning the importance of children and what it is to be innocent. Jesus reaffirms that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I believe that this is one of the most critical of spiritual realities -- innocence. And this is not to be naïve or gullible, but to be fully and completely submitted to God’s will as His child! As we learn and grow, we learn to invest in love, submission, grace and maturity. We are never going to be sinless people, but we must be humble people…and if we are, then we can and will be blameless, because we are living according to God’s will. If we have truly been made right in our relationship with our Father, through the blood of our brother, His Son, then we can and will be innocent like the little children that Jesus called to Himself...for the kingdom of God is for such as these!

Blessings,
Don