First, life has been a blur since I returned from teaching the latest doctoral residency out of state. This particular cohort has 15 students in it, and their nascent dissertation topics are fascinating. We had a good three days together and lots of laughs to go with all the intense study. Teaching is a blast, but residencies are grinding, all-day events, and traveling can be exhausting.
Second, speaking of dissertations, my second one is moving along nicely, but I had to slow down the writing process a bit to learn the basics of Sumerian and Akkadian. Cuneiform writing is interesting, to say the least. Let’s just say that our generation did not invent emojis. 😊 I should be able to get back on pace after finishing up about four or five more paragraphs on the etymology of a key word in my study.
Third, it was marvelous having the boys yesterday. I missed them terribly while I was away. Below are a few pictures of their continued adorableness. I got choked up putting Samuel down for a nap in the afternoon. He’s such a kind and happy little boy, and I love him to pieces. Levi is starting to roll over and get chattier. It’s fun to see his personality emerge. As the old saying goes, “I could eat him with a spoon.” I’ll see them again tomorrow for Friday Fun Day. We have a few new activities planned for the day.
Fourth, our kitchen remodeling project is going well. The items that have been installed so far are stunning. If my calculations are correct, we’re going to save about $23,000 by securing and managing the contractors ourselves. I may share some pictures later—after the project is finished.
Fifth, this Sunday I get to preach on Daniel 9 and his vision of the 70 weeks. It’s a challenging passage to decipher, but once again, we’ll be dealing with prophecy, eschatology, messiah, atonement, antichrist, and the end times. I claim no expertise on some of these matters, but I can’t think of a more important subject to teach on. We’re getting closer to the imminent return of Jesus, aren’t we? May we all be ready for that glorious moment.
Sixth, my mother-in-law continues to decline. She’s not ready for hospice care yet, but she does need round-the-clock skilled care, and we’re trying to manage all the personnel to make that happen. Sonya is determined to get her mom across the finish line in her own home, which is an apartment we added to our house a few years ago. Never has a mother had a more devoted daughter. Still, what an ordeal. Those panic attacks I had about 12 years ago are trying to make a comeback. Thankfully, so far I’ve been able to keep them at bay without meds. A real panic attack is horrible and horrendous when it happens. I do not want to start having them again. One idea in the works to eliminate one or two of my secondary jobs. Stay tuned.
Seventh, getting older might be one reason the MIL situation is such a challenge. These days I crave solitude and quiet for reflection, research, and writing, but that’s just not in the cards right now. Speaking of age, my college swim coach told me years ago that my knees would become arthritic one day because of hitting the walls so hard in flip turns as a sprinter. I’m wondering if that joyful dynamic has begun since my right knee feels mildly sore all the time, especially in the morning. We’ll see what the doctor has to say about it next week when I go to see him for a routine checkup. At least I’m not gray yet! (Actually, that’s kind of odd for someone my age.) Still, my hair has gotten a bit thinner in recent years, and the grays are trying to make an appearance at the temples. Since I’ll probably look a bit different in a year or two, anyway, I might just grow a goatee and see what happens. 😊
Eighth, the demise of the Phillies was hard to watch again this year. They had the league championship well in hand, and then they squandered it. That’s not a surprise. I’ve often said that the Phillies are always good enough to give you hope, and bad enough to break your heart. This year’s flameout was especially disappointing. Still, they’re my team, and I’ll never stop cheering for them. I attended eight games in person this year and watched most of the rest as opportunity allowed. Our next Opening Day is Thursday, March 28, 2024.
Ninth, speaking of the Phillies, I remember them playing “Viva La Vida” and some other Coldplay tunes during batting practice a few years ago. So, below are a few selections just for old time’s sake. And what would an update post be without a meme or two? Until next time, enjoy this glorious fall weather we’re having in Eastern Pennsylvania.
The Phillies have again embraced Calum Scott’s version of “Dancing on My Own” as their victory song this year. We sang it several times Wednesday night at the ballpark when the team clinched a berth in the 2023 NLDS. The song is certainly atypical as a team anthem, but when an entire stadium sings the chorus at peak volume (and slightly faster than the original), it’s a raucous good time.
Written by Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn, “Dancing on My Own” is a heartfelt reflection on the pain of losing someone you love to another. Specifically, the lyrics tell the story of a guy who has to watch his crush dance with someone else while he can only observe from a distance. Who can’t relate to such a sad state of affairs? Probably only the tiny tots who haven’t been to middle school yet. 😊
In a vulnerable moment, the singer feels heartbroken, lonely, and dejected by the pain of losing out. He can only fantasize about going home with the one his heart truly desires. He has a sense of resignation and acceptance, acknowledging that love has slipped away. Despite the heartache, he finds solace in expressing his emotions through dancing, even if it means doing so alone.
Does any of this sound like baseball to you? A pennant race? A quest for a World Series ring? Of course not! So, how did this tune shoot to the top of the playlist in the Phillies clubhouse? No one really knows, but here’s last year’s explanation from the inimitable Jim Gardner, retired news legend and Philadelphia icon.
Whatever the story, I’ll just keep dancing, too. And, hopefully, the Phillies will keep winning.
Maybe your church reinstituted the greeting time (or the “passing of the peace”) during the worship service in a post-COVID era. If so, the party’s over for us introverts. 😊 I just had to share this little gem from Instagram because it’s too good to keep to myself:
Also, the playoff game last night was amazing. The Phillies clinched a spot in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves with their 7-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. So, for the Phillies, the party’s just getting started. Except Atlanta is the best team in baseball this year, and they have a score to settle with us from last season. The road ahead will not be easy.
Anyway, this was my seventh time to the park this year. We had the worst seats, but it was the best game to attend. (My theology prof buddy and I were so high up, we could look down on the foul pole!) It was loud. Very LOUD—especially after the J. T. Realmuto home run and the Bryson Stott grand slam. The poor little boy next to me kept covering his ears.
My phone died early, so I was able to take only three pictures—one in the Xfinity Center where we had lunch, one in the ballpark right after the gates opened, and one of the massive scoreboard from our nose-bleed seats.
Well, another playoff season, another trip to Citizen’s Bank Park. Yes, the Phillies made it again this year, and I’ve got tickets for tomorrow night when we play game 2 against the Miami Marlins. They’re a pesky team, but I think we can get past them if we play to our potential. I’m much less optimistic about toppling Atlanta to vie for the pennant, though. The Braves are the best team in baseball right now, and they had an amazing year.
Of course, little could top being at game 3 of the World Series last year. The Phillies won that game with a record number of home runs for a World Series game. We even registered our volume on Penn State’s local seismograph—such was our collective noise level as a massive crowd of Phillie phanatics. Despite my pessimism this time around, I’m excited to be part of the atmosphere again. If you happen to watch the game tomorrow night, look for me on TV. I’ll be wearing red.
Well, apparently there is crying in baseball, contrary to Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own. Like every other Phillies fan around the globe this past Sunday night, I watched Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Diego Padres. As you may have heard by now, the Phillies won that game 4–3, and in the process, they also won the pennant. I may have gotten a little choked up during the post-game celebration. Raise your hand if you did, too. Be honest.
Now, I realize baseball is not everybody’s cup of tea, so this post is a personal reflection that goes beyond the world of sports. It’s more about those occasional flashes of joy that make our journeys sparkle once in a while, and for which we can be both happy and grateful. It’s about “high hopes” and learning how to wait patiently until those hopes are realized. (Thank you, Harry Kalas). Until a few weeks ago, it had been over a decade since the Phillies were involved in any postseason play. Now we’re in it to win it.
Sunday night: The Phillies had just surrendered a one-run lead in the seventh inning to put themselves on the brink of having to go back to California for the rest of the series. Nobody wanted to play Game 6 on Monday night at Petco Park. Not only would that squander our home field advantage, but it would also drag us right into the crosshairs of the Padres’ best pitchers. So, “the Phitins” wanted to clinch a World Series berth right here. Right now. This inning. Easier said than done.
Standout catcher J. T. Realmuto started the bottom of the eighth with a single to left field against right-hander Robert Suarez. That turned out to be huge, given what was about to unfold. The tying run was now on base, and the go-ahead run was coming to the plate. But who would be the next man stepping into the batter’s box? None other than our star cleanup hitter and likely Hall-of-Famer, Bryce Harper.
Everyone was thinking the same thing. A two-run bomb would put us back in the lead and on the verge of clinching. Harper certainly has the guns to do it (even to the opposite field), not to mention the drive, the talent, and the history to do so—but how much magic can we expect from one player? He had already done so much for the team in the postseason, along with Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Zach Wheeler, and several others. But #3 lives for moments like these, and this was his moment.
Harper showed good discipline at the plate, laying off Suarez’s bread-and-butter pitch out of the zone. He then threw a 2-2 sinker toward the outer half of the plate. The location was good from a pitcher’s perspective, but somehow—with his trademark “violent swing”—Harper muscled the ball over the outfield wall and into the left-center-field seats for a two-run shot to take the lead. If you didn’t get to see it, take a look:
Fans at Citizens Bank Park went ballistic. Viewers at home went ballistic. I went ballistic. It was storybook stuff to be sure, and no one could have written a better script. It’s what every little boy dreams about from the time he can swing a whiffle ball bat. This dramatic video clip will be shown for decades to come.
It was another milestone in the history of the club—a team I’ve been cheering for since I was a little boy. That’s why I got choked up Sunday night. Not just because we held on in the top of the ninth to win the game, but because it brought back some truly precious memories. The last time we won the World Series was in 2008 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Before that it was in 1980 against the Kansas City Royals. Before that, it was—well, there was no before that.
The Phillies have won the World Series only two times since becoming an MLB team in 1883. Back then they were known as the Quakers. They became the Phillies later in 1890. For most of those 139 years, it’s been phrustrating to be a phan. I’ve often said that the Phillies are always good enough to give you hope but bad enough to break your heart. That’s been the story for most of my life, with a few notable exceptions.
Why then do I keep cheering for them? Three words—family, friends, and memories. My dad took me to Veterans Stadium for the first time when I was about six or seven years old. It’s a memory that finds deep lodging in my heart, even to this day.
I remember holding my father’s hand walking out from under the shadowy concourse into the bright, shining seating area. The sun sprayed the radiant green AstroTurf with a brilliance that illuminated a perfectly manicured ball field, dazzling this little rookie into silence. I was in awe at the sight of it. And the sounds of it. And the smells of it. It somehow felt like I belonged there. At that moment I fell in love with baseball in general and the Phillies in particular. I’ve been a “Phanatic” ever since.
I also remember my dad getting me a dish of vanilla ice cream poured into in a little red plastic Phillies helmet—my very first baseball souvenir (and one that may still be boxed away somewhere in my attic). We also got hot dogs, French fries, and Cracker Jacks that day, purchased from the vendors walking up and down the aisles hawking their treats. Dad was happy, and I was over the moon. I didn’t understand the game very well back then, but the Phillies won, and that resulted in a lot of loud cheering—something I had never experienced before at that level of intensity.
My family, friends, and I went to many more games over the years, and we got many more souvenirs. Of course, we watched more games on TV than we attended in person, but we always wanted to know how our Phillies were doing. We could catch the nightly news, or read the box scores and standings in the paper the next day if we missed a game on TV. (I had to share the tube with my dad since he was a Yankees fan. Obviously, I’m adopted.) My heroes back then were Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Dave Cash, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Bob Boone (who autographed a baseball of mine), Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox, and Bake McBride.
I got to watch the second World Series victory in 2008 on the big screen with my church family. Several parishioners still remember the final out of that game—a strikeout by closer Brad Lidge—and they wrote us messages this week recalling that wonderful time of fellowship and celebration. Some of the kids were even at church in their pajamas that night.
Oddly enough, the Christian message is another good reason to stay with the Phillies through all their peaks and valleys. As Jesus sticks with those of us who keep striking out spiritually until we become more healthy, stable, and productive, so I can stick with the Phillies through tick and thin, regardless of their winning percentage. The theological word for that is “grace.” We all desperately need it, so we should all be willing to give it.
Having become a baseball junkie early on, I tried out for our middle school team and made the roster. By the start of my second year, I had worked myself into a starting position in the infield, and I loved every minute of it. Game days were always the best days, even when we lost. There’s nothing like going home tired, sweaty, and dirty after a game, knowing you did everything you could to help your team win. If you fielded well and got a hit or two, so much the better.
As life would have it, I was better at swimming than baseball, so that’s where I put my athletic energies in the years to come. I made it to the NCAA Division 1 Nationals, twice, and it wound up paying a big chunk of my college tuition, so that was the right call. But deep down, baseball was always my favorite sport. There’s just something about the game that captivated me as a little boy, and it’s never let go. Over time I learned that every pitch has a strategy, and every strategy has a counterstrategy. So, the issue is always one of anticipation and execution. Good teams do both well.
Back to this past Sunday. Right after preaching the morning service at our church, I came home and lost my voice. Laryngitis set in a few hours before the game, so, I couldn’t even yell for my team during that amazing come-from-behind, pennant-clinching victory. But I sure did grunt and snortle like a muffled rhinoceros a few times.
Then there were the silent but exuberant gesticulations of this little boy in a man suit whenever the Phillies put runs on the board. Sonya now knows how Michal felt when David danced before the Lord (cf. 2 Samuel 6:14–20), though I didn’t actually do anything that could remotely be called dancing. I just lumbered around the living room like a drunk baboon looking for a lamppost to lean on. (I’ll blame it on the meds I was taking.) In the end, though, myriad expressions of delight found ways to ooze out of my body from other portals besides my pie hole.
What will happen in the 2022 World Series? I have no idea, and I make no predictions. Houston has a great team, and I have a personal no-trash-talk policy. Athletes at this level are so good, any team can beat any other team on any given day. It’s just a matter of who’s clicking and who’s finding their groove in the moment. I never expected the Phillies to get this far, and I suspect very few other people did, too. So, even if they come up short at the end of this round, I’ll still be proud of them.
In the end, the best of our sports heroes are just human. They have good days and bad days. They have moments of great accomplishment and moments of great disappointment. They have seasons of good health and seasons of nagging injuries. They have big dreams and big hopes, just like the rest of us. Let’s let them be human and have some fun together, regardless of the outcome.
One dream I’ve had for a long time is to see the Phillies play in a World Series game—in Philadelphia, the city of my birth. I am blessed beyond measure to share with you that this longstanding dream will finally come true.
As of now, it looks like I’ll be going to Game 3 (Monday, October 31) or Game 4 (Tuesday, November 1). Look for me on TV. I’ll be wearing red and white. And if I get my voice back, I’ll be cheering as loud as everybody else, too.
I plan to buy myself a little red plastic Phillies cap filled with vanilla ice cream (yes, they still sell them!), and I’ll think of my dad while I’m eating it. I’ll no doubt revel in the magical atmosphere again, just like I did my first trip to the ballpark. Just like I did on Opening Day this year, which was another first for me. Yes, I was there when Kyle Schwarber started the season off with a first-at-bat home run, something now known as a “Schwarbomb.”
And, like everybody else, I’ll be waving my red “rally towel” for the Phillies, grateful beyond measure that my father introduced me to this wonderful sport all those years ago. While I’m there, I’ll be keeping the seat warm for little Samuel. Maybe someday day he’ll want some ice cream in a red helmet, too.
Our neighbor across the street got SamJam a Phillie Phanatic doll. That was especially kind of him since he’s a Cardinals fan. At first Samuel was perplexed. Then he was intrigued. Then he smiled. Then he giggled. He was quite captivated by the long red tongue sticking out the long green nose. Best mascot ever.
Holy Week can be one of the most significant times in a believer’s worship year. During these days, we clear our calendar to focus exclusively on the events of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection, which are at the heart of our faith. Our attention during this special week is directed toward the person and work of Christ as:
the triumphant yet humble King (Palm Sunday);
the servant of God and mediator of the new covenant (Maundy Thursday);
the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Good Friday); and
Christus Victor—the risen Savior of the human race (Easter Sunday).
Holy Week itself grew out of the simple observation that 28 of the 89 chapters in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)—32 percent—are devoted to the period of time between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his ascension into heaven. Yet this period is less than 1 percent of Jesus’ entire three and a half years of public ministry.
In terms of literary style, then, such space allocation suggests that while the birth, life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus were important to the authors, it was the passion of Christ and his resurrection from the dead that were centrally important to their purpose in writing. It’s almost as if each of the four Gospels is a Passion Narrative with an extended introduction!
By way of analogy, modern writers and filmmakers often arrange for the action of their stories to slow down when they reach their most critical moments, using techniques such as freeze frame, slow motion, and extended coverage. The technique of slow motion is used, for example, in the important race scenes in the movie Chariots of Fire, where the director captures and accentuates each runner’s agonized expression before the finish line. The impact is significant.
The amount of application of such techniques in storytelling is proportional to the importance of any given scene to the larger work. It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that the Passion Narratives present to us the incomparable love of God in slow motion. Believers seek to revel in that love during Holy Week, changing up our routines and realigning our schedules to Gospel-centered considerations.
As such, I won’t be posting chuckles and other items along those lines during the coming week. Anything appearing here will be topics and themes associated with Holy Week. Therefore, below are a few odds and ends before I sign off for a bit.
First, Samuel’s nephrology appointment is this coming Tuesday. Hopefully, we’ll get to see if his kidneys are improving and learn if any advanced treatments will be necessary. Thanks for praying!
Second, we found out earlier today the gender of Samuel’s new cousin. There’s a little girl on the way! My nephew’s wife is scheduled to have her baby in August, and we’re all over the moon.
Third, I had a blast at the Phillies’ game yesterday. I went with a theology prof who loves the game of baseball as much as I do (even as we lament the politicizing of professional sports in this country). Neither of us had ever been to Opening Day before, so that was a real treat for both of us, especially since the weather was perfect and the Phillies won. Below are some snaps of the opening ceremonies.
Finally, the Dutch Apple’s production of Singing in the Rain was very well done and well worth seeing. We went today with a family friend who likewise loves the arts.
Blessings to all—whether you observe Holy Week or not!
We had a blast at our church’s first-ever Trunk or Treat event today. After a few days of hard rain, the sun came out this afternoon at just the right time, and the weather was perfect for the entire gathering. That was a specific prayer we prayed, and the answer seemed like a wink from heaven. 🙌
We partnered with one other local church, and we wound up serving well over a hundred children, most of whom wore cute or creative costumes. All told, we had about 275-300 people on site. They came from as far as Reading, Mohnton, and Lebanon. They cleaned us out of all the free children’s Bibles we made available, along with some church and gospel literature, and the balloon animals we were making for the kids. Candy was the only thing left over. No complaints there! 🙂
My trunk was a shrine to the Philadelphia Phillies. Talk about scary! But it led to some fun conversations about never giving up on what you truly love, even if it takes a while for you to realize the dream. 💙 (The Phillies didn’t make it to the playoffs again this year.) That, of course, led naturally to some conversations about God’s persistent love for us in Christ. The sign on my SUV said, “Jesus is my victory. The Phillies are just my team.”
The good thing about having all my ball equipment in the trunk is that toward the end of the day, I got to throw a baseball with a man in our church who was semi-pro back in the day. He was a pitcher in the Cubs farm system decades ago. (The man is in his 70s now, but he can still hurl!) He may not have the pop he used to, but he could still throw a curve ball and a knuckle ball, each with good movement. That was most enjoyable. Except for the blue Cubs hat he wore, announcing the World Series Championship they won back in 2016. 🙂
At one point, someone who was dressed as the Grim Reaper came and stood quietly in front of me. I said, “Do we have an appointment today?” She extended her scythe toward me without saying a word. I said, “Well, thanks to Jesus, I’m ready to go. When do we leave?” She started laughing, and then I gave her a handful of candy as an incentive for her not to take me just yet.
I was proud of our people for taking this step of faith in a new outreach. They’re already talking about next year and some things we can do to make it even better. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the moment. And the leftover peanut butter cups. 🙂
1. Holy Week 2021 was a rich and meaningful time for our church family. In the midst of building a new church website, processing all the paperwork for a new corporation, assisting in a friend’s baptism and commissioning service, learning a new educational learning platform, and getting a helpful education on important legal matters, we held the full range of traditional Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services and activities. I was blessed, challenged, and encouraged by getting to lead and participate in these incredible worship experiences. They always give me so much to “treasure” and “ponder” in my heart, as Mary did while watching her Son in action.
2. Somewhere in the middle of all that activity, I turned another year older, and my family and friends spoiled me. It was a week of visits, gifts, and feastings on top of an otherwise excellent year of health. I’ve been walking, swimming, eating right, and losing lots of pounds. If I can get back on track first thing tomorrow, and resume my disciplines without any more splurges, I may be able to see my abs by July. I know—that’s such a guy goal, right? But I haven’t been able to do that in decades, so I’m going for it. I usually collapse right about now in the journey, so we’ll see how it goes. Thanks in advance for cheering me on!
3. My daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday to get a bunch of knickknacks for the lighted bookshelves in our newly renovated living room. That project went a lot better and took a lot longer than we had originally thought, but nothing compares to the marathon bathroom renovation project that’s now in full swing. Our goal was to have it done by Christmas when the extended family gathered last December for the holidays, but only now is it finally getting close to being finished. The upside is that I wound up getting some cool recessed lighting in my home office as a side benefit. If all goes well, the bathroom will be done in three weeks, and then we can turn our attention to the basement library/podcast studio.
4. My 2013 Ford Edge SEL was on the verge of turning 100k miles, so I replaced it last Friday before it lost its trade-in value. It had a mineral gray exterior and a black interior with heated leather seats. It was a good car, and I enjoyed driving it for three and a half years. Last week I got a 2018 Ford Edge Titanium at a great price and less than 20k miles. (Hey, I like Edges!) It has a shiny white exterior, a cool moonroof, and a two-tone interior with heated leather seats. It’s loaded with features and handles well. I’m looking forward to connecting my devices, learning the display, and discovering all the features I’ve read about but haven’t gotten to try yet.
5. For years I’ve described myself as “an incurable Philadelphia Phillies fan,” but I may have just found the cure. I’m thoroughly disgusted by what the MLB pulled in re-locating the All-Star Game because of Georgia’s new voting law. What lunacy. I’m delighted that the Phils swept the Braves this weekend, but my interest in professional sports has taken a deep nosedive over the past decade. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m tired of politics in sports and will no longer support the industry. There are plenty of other things I can do with my time. For example, my son just got me a training session at the local gun range for my birthday, so we have that to look forward to—in between binging on episodes of the Sherlock series (Cumberbatch/Freeman). Then it’s on to the local Rod & Gun Club to improve my skills.
6. So as not to end on a down note, I’m finally re-energized to go “all-in” on the research and writing of my second dissertation. Those things are just painful to write, but I love my subject matter, and my upcoming schedule should allow for some serious progress. If I’m not on here a lot in the coming months, that’s the reason. But I’ll still read as many of your comments and posts as I possibly can.
Be blessed, one and all, in the risen Christ. You are at the heart of God’s heart.
I mentioned yesterday that I got way too many gifts for Christmas—all of them special and much appreciated—with two from my kids that truly captured my heart. Here are snaps of those two gifts.
The wooden Phillies mug on the right is made in the shape of—and out of the same material as—an MLB bat. It’s so tall I needed a chopstick to stir the creamer! Drew has a way of getting us the most unique gifts—the kinds of things we would never buy for ourselves but bring a smile to our hearts when he gives them.
My daughter and son-in-law choked me up with a canvas made on their cricut that says, “Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices, Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born,” a line from my mom’s favorite Christmas carol, “O Holy Night,” the same one we were singing to her when she passed away. Next year, Lord willing, I’ll write more about that carol and its history. It was an awful lot of work for Bethany and Micah to put this together.
It was a memorable day. (We even had a bit of snow for a few hours!) The greatest gift of course, was the child in the manger. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Andrew also made each of our likenesses into a 3D-printed comic figure. (I am Batman, haha!) We’re still waiting for the USPS to deliver them, but we have printouts of what they will look like. How in the world did I get such creative kids?