The flurry of activity these past two weeks—from the heartbreaking death of a family friend to the joyful birth of our little nugget—delayed the posting of snaps from our anniversary trip to Cooperstown, New York. We took scores of pictures, but a mere handful will have to suffice for now.
Day 1: We attended the Glimmerglass Festival production of Paccini’s La bohème at the Alice Busch Opera Theater.
Day 2: We toured the Baseball Hall of Fame, wax museum, Doubleday Field, and various shops in the area.
Day 3: We visited the Fenimore Art Museum, which featured an exhibit by M. C. Escher, the Dutch artist known for his tessalated woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.
During the trip we stayed at the lovely Landmark Inn and ate at local restaurants. It was a lovely time away from the daily grind. (Pictures aren’t allowed during the opera, so there’s a stock photo included.)
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.
It’s been way too long since I’ve posted any Samuel pics and clips, so prepare to be deluged with cuteness! Our little Bubby passed the 10-month mark earlier this month, and he continues to be a source of great delight to all of us. Sometimes I have to fight back tears of joy while simply holding him because I love him so much. What a gift the Lord has given us!
I have such a great time with SamJam when we’re together, and I’m exceedingly blessed to be able to see him at least three or four times a week. I’m thinking Christmas is going to be a blast this year. I had better start preparing now for “adorableness overload.” 🙂
Getting ready for his 10-month photo shoot…
Hold the sign a little higher…
There we go…
If you’re happy and you know it…
Helping Grandma do her grocery shopping…
Until it’s nap time…
“They do feed me, but when I’m teething…“
I could just melt when he looks at me like this…
Plotting his escape…
Held by Aunt Joan…
Video clip time: Learning how to jump…
Learning how to sing and dance…
Making fun sounds on Mommy’s thigh…
Rubber duckies, followed by the breaststroke kick…
Saying, “Ma ma ma ma ma ma ma…”
Giggling at “My Turn, Your Turn”…
First time eating mashed potatoes…
Learning to say, “More” using sign language…
Celebrating the Phillies post season run…
Coming over to see Grandpa…
I performed a wedding last weekend at Camp Swatara, and the autumn leaves were breathtaking…
* Ramble Alert! * I tend to get pensive, ponderous, and poetic at the end of the year. So, there’s no need to read further, as you probably have better things to do with your time. I’m just processing my own musings as the calendar gets ready to flip again.
1. I shaved off my December goatee. As I was doing so, I had flashbacks to some hurtful insults I received during my school days. I once was described as having a “beaver chin” and “a weak, unmanly profile.” Because of a “face-plant” fall I had as a young child, I developed an overbite that was only partially corrected by my (terribly uncomfortable) retainer. My classmates in fifth through seventh grade were particularly cruel about how I looked. Only one kind girl out of hundreds my age thought it made me look cute. Even when I was at peak physical condition in college, a photographer doing a local hairstylist’s spread featuring a few of us chiseled swimmers kept telling me to grind my teeth or somehow produce a stronger jawline since mine was too wimpy. (Why, then, did you ask me to be in the picture in the first place?) The good news is that these insults no longer sting like they used to. But I do wonder sometimes why I remember them so vividly. Maybe it’s because they led to so many insecurities that would later cause me to overcompensate in other areas of life (e.g., athletics, academics, etc.). Whatever the psychology behind it, it’s a good reminder for us to speak kindly to one another, especially those who are in their early formative years. Let’s not allow our careless words to do unnecessary damage. Lord knows, I’ve had to repent of many unkind things I’ve said over the years.
2. It’s always been our family tradition for me to read the story of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-12 on Christmas morning before we open our gifts. It’s our way of trying to keep the focus on what the day is all about. Problem is, my family always takes bets as to how far I’ll get in the passage before getting too choked up to read any further. (The Incarnation never gets old, and it wrecks me every time I ponder it.) I knew in advance that there was no way I’d be able to get past the first verse with a newborn in the room this year. Samuel wasn’t even a month old on Christmas Day, so it just wasn’t going to work for me to read the text without brutzing. So, this year I carved up the passage and gave each of us a few verses to read. It went well, and everyone enjoyed doing it that way. I think we’ll do something similar in future years. No more betting against me! 🙂
P.S., I got to take SamJam on a walk in his stroller yesterday. He was curious about the world around him, and I was overwhelmed with delight in watching him! (Yes, we got him the hat. Totally appropriate, right?!)
3. The 20th-century British novelist and poet Robert Graves once said, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” That’s why I find the process to be both exhilarating and exhausting. I’m seldom happy with what I’ve written. “It can always be better, sharper, clearer,” I tell myself. And maybe this perfectionistic tendency is rooted in what I (imperfectly) wrote above in #1. Either way, it’s a great hinderance to finishing an academic dissertation. We’re trained to anticipate objections and opposing views as we write, and the “lawyerly disposition” in me always wants to create an unassailable argument. That’s not humanly possible, so please pray that I get over myself and write something defensible, even if not incontrovertible. The best dissertation is a done dissertation. Thanks!
4. I recently finished my latest binge, How to Get Away with Murder. The story arc spanning six seasons was engaging and unpredictable. The progressively expanding flashbacks—while confusing at first—were intriguing and captivating as the episodes unfolded, serving as teasers to keep watching and assemble the pieces yourself. The screen writing was sharp overall, and the plot twists were uncliched. Moreover, the casting was brilliant, the acting was superb, and the emotional impact was notable. As was the case with Scandal, the scene cuts were a bit hyperactive at times, though they were much more manageable. Ironically, the hyper-talented Kerry Washington from Scandal made a few appearances in Murder, which was a welcome addition. Aja Naomi King made a strong case for being the new generation’s Kerry Washington. Her portrayal of Michaela Pratt, an ambitious and overly confident lawyer in the making, was one of several acting standouts in the production. It will be fun to watch Aja’s career unfold. Unfortunately, some of the moral values promoted in the series were disappointing, and part of the socio-political agenda was executed in selective and prejudicial ways. But that’s what Hollywood does these days in their “ends-justifies-the-means” approach to progress. Create a straw man and then give yourself high fives for ripping it apart with ease. We tend to write fiction to suit ourselves because it’s much easier than honest debate. The West Wing and other shows of that ilk often follow the same playbook. In an attempt to get back to cinematic sanity, where I don’t have to keep fast forwarding past the raunchy parts, I may return to Endeavor next (since I’m a Morse fan, and the series was filmed in charming Oxford), but there will be no more guilty pleasures until the dissertation is finished.
5. C. S. Lewis described pre-Aslan Narnia as “always winter but never Christmas.” That is, a fallen world without a Savior is devoid of hope. It’s just an icy darkness that shatters the soul and renders people zombie-like until they breathe their last. But because there is a Savior in this world—one whose magnificent mane was shaved in humiliation on our behalf, only to grow back in resurrection glory after the stone table cracked—eternal life can now be described as “always Christmas but never winter.” Believers bend but never break in a world where Aslan is on the move. Here is a poem about how this particular image helped me through a difficult time in my life. It’s not great art by any means, but it’s an honest portrayal of what I was feeling at the time. Here’s the context:
On Saturday, July 1, 2000, my father-in-law, Rev. Keith Moore, resigned as pastor of Baker Heights Baptist Church in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He was only six months away from retirement, but he could no longer shepherd the flock. The awful effects of radiation and chemotherapy had rendered him virtually lifeless, nearly brining him to the point of death in order to spare him from it. It was a painful time for the whole family. That same day, Pastor Keith got a haircut. It turned out to be his last one. The clippers came out and the hair came off. “Better to do it myself,” he said, “than to let the chemo do it.” I was present for that awful event, and when it happened, I sobbed. I was no stranger to the humming of the electric razor. In the 1980s I would often shave my head as a high school or collegiate swimmer to prepare for the big meet at the end of the season. But those silly haircuts had a purpose. They helped me swim faster. But this haircut was nothing but shame and humiliation. It had no purpose at all. Or did it?
Razed to Life
Before the chemo waged its war on blood and scalp alike, The ravenous razor snarled away, leaving a head full of spikes. In the other room I lost my nerve and filed a complaint with the Lord; Comforting words I had given to others suddenly felt like a sword.
“Why, dear Lord, this man of God, who faithfully fed your sheep— “The same day losing his pulpit and hair, craving nothing but sleep?” “He’s frail and weak, Lord, wracked in pain; what does the future hold?” “Where is your power, God; where is your love, if I may be so bold?”
And then in my gloom a beacon of hope fastened upon my soul: “Aslan’s razor,” came the reply. “That’s all you need to know.” Aslan’s razor—what could that mean? Where have I heard that before? A gem by Lewis, for children, and me, where a Lion loses his roar.
Where they crop off his mane and stab at his heart and leave him for dead in the mud; Naked, ashamed, and lonely he dies with scoundrels mocking his blood. But why was he captured and horribly killed, and strapped to a table of stone? The witch said, “For justice,” but Aslan, “For love—for a treason not my own.”
Well, the world, like Narnia, has children around with questioning tears in their eyes, Yet the world, like Narnia, has a table that cracked, and a Lion who knows how to rise. So the death of death in the death of Christ laces every trial with hope, And the empty tomb declares to us all that the grave will not be our home.
While some use pain to bludgeon our souls and scratch away at our faith, God in his infinite wisdom and love uses faith to scratch at our pain. So even today a Lion is heard whenever the gospel is shared, Telling the story of Christ and his love, showing that God really cares.
“Come!” says the Lion to children of faith. “Ride on my back, and we’ll soar.” “Come!” says the Lord to children of grace. “Enter my heavenly door.” “I have a surprise especially for you: I’ve built you a grand destination.” “A land of delight with no more tears—and evil’s humiliation.”
“Look at my mane! Touch it again! Only one scar remains; “I keep it around to let people know that death has lost its claims.” “And look at his hair, flowing again; the razor bows to its glory.” “Yes, I let you feel pain, but only on earth, to maximize your eternal story.”
6. Here’s a good word from Jon Acuff to end the year. Let it be a micro-motivation for us all: “If you picked up any bitterness this year, don’t miss your chance to put it down this week. Don’t carry last year’s rocks into next year’s garden. Don’t paint next year’s canvas with last year’s colors. Don’t write next year’s story with last year’s words. You might need to choose it 100 times, but leaving bitterness behind is always worth it.” Amen.
7. Two albums today for me to finish out the year in mellow reflection: John Michael Talbot’sSimple Hearts and Enya’sShepherd Moons. “God Alone is Enough” in the former is a great place to park the soul (as Teresa of Avila captured the best and wisest approach to life), and “Marble Halls” in the latter is a fun place to unleash the imagination (as there’s so much more to this life than riches and material wealth). Love is everything. So, perchance to dream. Also appropriate today is Enya’s “My My! Time Flies!” though we’re way past 2010. 🙂
Stay safe tonight, and Lord willing, we’ll see you in 2022.
Edit: Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are outstanding as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Becoming the Ricardos. Watched it last night on Amazon Prime after our company departed and the house got quiet for the first time in a long time.
I’m not sure how Santa got this thing down the chimney, but I’m glad he did. I’ve never had a power recliner before, but this is a high-end Bassett that’s super sturdy and comfy.
This wonderful piece of furniture was for yours truly. “Hers truly” got a silver Bach Stradivarius trumpet. This top-tier instrument is stunning and is supposed to be played only with gloves or a hand cloth.
Both are kingdom tools. One is for reading and writing. The other is for praising and worshiping.
As nice as these things are, the best Christmas present this year (besides Jesus) was the new addition to the family. Samuel didn’t make a peep during the entire Christmas Eve service—even with our brass team belting it out during the opening carols. And, yes, he slept through the sermon! 🙂
Today I got to babysit him for a couple hours while Bethany went to a doctor’s appointment. What a blessing that he lives less than 15 minutes away. I’m utterly smitten with this little munchkin and have to share a few snaps from the past few days.
1. Yesterday I walked out of the hardware store and started getting into my SUV. Or so I thought. (Hey, it looked just like mine!) I realized something was wrong when I saw a big dog staring back at me, growling. Fortunately, the creature was rather tame, but, oh what a fright he gave me! The real embarrassment was that the driver was still in the vehicle when I tried to fob my way into it! With her window rolled down, she smiled and said, “No worries, I do that all the time.” Glad to know I’m not the only one. Chalk it up to academic fatigue, I guess. (Yeah, that’s better than calling myself an airhead.)
2. I’m still plowing through my dissertation, and it’s wonderfully exhausting. I love the subject matter (more on that later), but academic research and writing are tedious and time-consuming. Still, I’ve learned so much, and I can’t wait to share the results. All in good time. Last I checked, my bibliography is 32 pages long, and that’s only half the entries. Yes, I’m insane, but I totally dig doing targeted research.
3. Speaking of insanity, when I lay out the syllabi for all the courses I’m teaching this semester, there’s no room left for anything else on the table. Not even a coffee cup. Still, I’m having a blast gearing up for the new term. The only frustration has been moving from Canvas to Pathwright. It’s not a terribly difficult learning platform, but there’s a learning curve, and my muscle memory needs to be retrained. Courses begin on Monday.
4. All these ventures leave little time for getting in the pool lately, but I do still get out for long, brisk walks. I can almost smell the fall season approaching. That’s nearly as good as the smell of coffee. 🙂
5. My mother-in-law’s garden has exploded this year. We’ve gotten so much produce from just a 64-SF bed that we started putting some of it in front of the house with a FREE sign on it. Tomatoes, lettuce, squash, zucchini, green peppers, cucumbers—what a harvest!
6. Samuel is due in about three months—another image bearer of God! What a profound mystery. I love the little munchkin already.
Well, time to get back at it. I do miss writing general posts and all the other features I used to do (e.g., Throwback Thursday, Friday Fun, etc.), but this is just a season. I’ll get back at it when I can. Thanks, everyone, for your support and encouragement.
Have a great weekend. Be blessed!
EDIT: Our church is singing “Goodness of God” tomorrow for the first time. I’m taking some tissues with with me.
I’m enjoying life for a few days here at the Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin. It’s a work-related trip, but it involves a whole lot of beautiful scenes and personal relaxation. The outdoor sculpture at the entrance is both inviting and captivating. It depicts a handful of energetic children dancing in a circle, and there’s an empty spot for visitors to join in. What could be more joyful than kids at play?
They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. Job 21:11
That’s actually the meaning of the word “carol”—to dance in a circle. (We should try that at Christmastime.) The sculpture is brilliant because good art provokes participation and/or reflection, not just admiration.
It’s only right for people to dance in celebration at appropriate times in life; the entire universe is spinning in circles by design of the Creator. Whether we look through the microscope or peer through the telescope, we find that everything from planets to protons are twirling around with reckless abandon and delight. Animals join the party, too.
And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Malachi 4:2b
The fact that I don’t dance well is irrelevant. I’m happy to help make others look good while I tour-jete like an amputated hippo or electric-slide like a lumbering baboon.
Anyway, the lake is stunning, the grounds are immaculate, and the atmosphere is peaceful. I would love to see this place in the fall. The seasonal colors are no doubt magical and intoxicating.
I really appreciate the respite right now because my proffing, preaching, pastoring, and dissertating load this fall will be unrealistic and unsustainable. Apart from the grace of God, it will be impossible to pull off. The schedule has never been this thick.
So, I’m dancing while I can—at least on the inside.
Here’s a teeny life update with a few extras—for no other reason than that I need a brief diversion from proffing, pastoring, lawyering, dissertating, and websiting. Life is good; it’s just a little thick right now.
1. The brilliant petals on the tulips in our front yard have finally dropped. They lasted slightly longer than last year, but they’re naturally transient, so I had to bid them farewell. Fortunately, our azalea bushes are now popping. These flowering shrubs are admirably carrying the color torch passed on to them by the tulips. I dig ’em, even though they’re not my absolute favorite. I hope to get a Japanese maple some day, along with a replacement dogwood tree. I also love trees with white bark (see below). The grass in our neighborhood right now is a thick, lush, deep green. Heavenly.
2. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new Ford Edge. I finally learned how to use the display and all its apps. The moonroof is super cool, too. I’ve never had one of those. I can also open the hatch with my foot (as long as I have the key fob on me), which has come in handy several times already. It also closes at the touch of a button. Very convenient. My youth like to pile into it whenever we go for a McDonald’s run during Sunday school. But my cars haven’t always been on the newer side. When I was in high school, I drove a hideous 1973 Mercury Comet. Its color was indecipherable, but it was somewhere on the spectrum between Gulden’s mustard and burnt pumpkin pie. It had 4 doors and a brown vinyl top—a real chick magnet for a teenage boy. But, hey, it had a 302 engine. The only other car I had with that kind of pickup was a Mercury Grand Marquis with an 8-cylinder engine.
3. Our Keurig recently bit the dust, so I had to go get a new one. The upsides of the new unit are that (a) it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and (b) I like this one even better; it has more cup sizes and a bigger water reservoir. It also looks more stylish. No, I’m not addicted to coffee. I just drink it for the protection of those around me in the morning.
4. Our bathroom renovation project is slowly coming to an end. The list of missteps and mishaps is too long to mention, but soon it will be fully operational. Fortunately, we have two others to use in the interim—which has lasted eight months now instead of one. And these are the professionals doing it! That’s not a bust on them; it would have taken me a decade to do it myself given what they were up against. The latest mishap was their knocking over the medicine cabinet and shattering one of its three glass doors. The good news is that everything they’ve actually done or installed so far looks amazing.
5. I preached the other week on Psalm 23, so I riffed on the cluelessness of sheep for a bit, underscoring why they (we) so desperately need a good shepherd. This brief video clip makes the point much better than I ever could.
6. This week’s song of the week at TNL, which I post every Monday, is Lauren Daigle and the Hillsong team singing “How Great Thou Art.” Lovely.
7. Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is required singing on Easter Sunday morning. Here’s a contemporary version with an added bridge. Not bad.
8. Here’s the best thing you’re likely to see all day. A group of special folks recite Psalm 139 for us. As someone who was unplanned, unwanted, and unloved from the day of my conception until the day of my adoption 22 months later, I have always been moved and encouraged by the words of King David in this beautiful psalm. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Before we ever had a place in this world, we had a place in God’s heart.” Amen.
9. It’s been a long time since I published a “Just between You and Meme” post. I’ve been collecting good stuff, but I haven’t had time to pull it together. So here are just a few clippings that recently made me chuckle. (I’ll save the really good stuff for later.)
10. I’ve been working out at the local YMCA lately (cardio, weights, and swimming). I figured that since we all have to wear masks while on site, the rescue dummy should have to wear one, too. So, yesterday I gave him mine to use while I was in the pool. He didn’t resist. (BTW, that’s my new Batman towel at the bottom of the one picture. My mother-in-law got it for me for my birthday. When I use it, I feel invincible. Haha!)
11. I spent two decades loathing the mainstream media, but I think The Babylon Bee has a better approach. Just mock them mercilessly. Loathing takes too much energy, and it’s all negative energy. Sheesh, why bother? Yes, the Bee crosses the line sometimes, but the national mainstream media try to play us every single day. They’re just contemptible.
12. Supremely encouraged by so many blessings in the last five years. Of course, it helps when your spouse’s kingdom gifts are not only recognized but compensated. The best part is being able to give more. Home renovations are an added benefit. I can’t help thinking of Jenn Johnson’s song, “Goodness of God.”
13. A former ICL student stopped by yesterday and expressed his appreciation for our ministry to him and also to enroll in seminary. He said thank you with Wilbur Buds. I wanted to say you’re welcome by eating them, but I’m trying to behave right now. Goals and all that. But how “sweet” of him to express his gratitude in that way. As my students have heard me say many times, “Chocolate is proof of God’s existence. Peanut butter is proof of his power. And the two together are proof of his goodness.”
May the Fourth be with you.
(And also with you. Hehe!)
Have a great week!
UPDATE: Mother’s Day is the time we usually plant impatiens in the front flower bed. Last year we did red and white, but the white ones didn’t do very well. We may try petunias this year. Any other suggestions?
Ralph Walderson Emerson once said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” If that’s true, then my front yard is howling with delight right now. I’m so thrilled with how our red and yellow tulips have flourished this year. I had to take some snaps earlier today since they don’t last very long. Fortunately, new and different blooms will come after the tulips have had their day.
Off to celebrate my son’s birthday. And pretend I can sing. (There’s something magical about a karaoke microphone, right?)
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.
Yesterday we unveiled the new website for Christ Community Church, which can be found here. The site is about 85 percent complete. Pages still in production include the age-based ministries in the Connect section, as well as the Sermon Archive page, but I thought it best to roll out what we have now since people sometimes look for churches during Holy Week.
This is a most marvelous time of year for believers, isn’t it? I could hardly get out my opening prayer this past Sunday—Palm Sunday. To ponder the death of Jesus is to ponder the loving heart of God. Indeed, it was Jesus himself who connected the two: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). This divine giving encompassed the cross, which reduces us all before it raises us all. In fact, it’s that sense of unworthiness that drives us to grace, which we so desperately need from God.
During Holy Week, believers around the world give deep thought to the Passion (i.e., the sufferings) of Christ. Our purpose in doing so is not to be morbid, gruesome, or macabre but to increase our gratitude and enhance our devotion to God. It’s one of the ways we renew our minds (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). In short, it’s part of our discipleship. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The cross of Christ was never from Paul’s mind.
Believers are especially challenged when we realize that Jesus was tortured by religious people as well as irreligious people. Pious Jews and secular Gentiles both had a hand in his death. Believers and unbelievers alike totally missed the fact that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19) during Jesus’ execution. Therefore, it is the Christian believer as much as anyone who needs to contemplate the cross and, in the process, relinquish any sense of self-righteousness (cf. Phil 3:3-11).
So, in addition to playing lawyer over the past two months for the legal filings of the church, I’ve been building a website (using Divi by Elegant Themes on a WordPress managed site). The learning curve was steep at first, but then I finally got the hang of it and started having a blast. That’s why I’ve been off the grid lately, which I don’t like doing. I always love to read what my thoughtful friends are writing, especially this time of year, but the pile has been high.
Next up are Facebook and Instagram pages. Right after Holy Week.
1. One of the benefits of living in Pennsylvania is getting to experience the delightful change of seasons throughout the year. The shifts here are significant enough to be noticeable but not extreme enough to be intolerable. Fall is my favorite—the look, the smell, the colors, the feel—but all of them have their benefits. This week it looks like we’ll emerge from the long, frigid winter, but with PA you never really know. Still, it’ll be nice to take a break from snow duty for a while, although I love snow. Of course, the approach of spring means lawn mowing is right around the corner, right?
2. I saw a great sign at the pool today: “Whatever you’re planning to do today, do it with the confidence of a 4-year-old in a Batman cape.” Yes! That was all the inspiration I needed to swim 2500 meters (100 laps). It probably wasn’t pretty, but I made it. So what if my shoulders feel like melted butter? “I am Batman.” Ha! Speaking of which, I didn’t plan it this way, but I have five different pairs of Speedo jammers—one for each day of the week. So, now I start out with black on Monday and get lighter as the week unfolds. Maybe I should end with dark blue instead of red if I’m going to be Batman.
3. Relatedly, research indicates that six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. By comparison, adults laugh 15-100 times a day. Be six again.
4. I’m having fun decorating the newly renovated living room, even as renovations begin on the bathroom. Just got a framed print called “Winter Mist,” which works perfectly in the room, along with a set of tiered candle holders and bookends with an oil-rubbed bronze look. Just a few more items to get and/or set out, and the project will be complete.
5. I recently saw a fun screen shot of somebody’s Network Preferences dialog box. Apparently, there’s a feud between two households sending messages to each other by how they name their wi-fi connections. Check out the last two listings. As a bonus, notice how the computer also commits a grammatical boo-boo. It should read, “None of your preferred networks is available.” (Not being snarky; we all make mistakes. I’m just surprised that this got past the editors and showed up on a computer.)
6. I got a kick out of this recent “Brevity” cartoon by Dan Thompson. I see Genghis Khan, Chaka Khan, and (I think) Star Trek Kahn. Nicely done, Dan. I guess we can call it your ComiKhan. (Sorry.)
7. A horse is a horse, of course, but there’s something majestic about this one. I’d love to learn how to ride better—though not while the horse is in this position.
8. Less majestic and far more pompous is the house cat. Mrs. Mosby, my daughter’s cat, is getting bigger and slightly more friendly, but she still cops an attitude on a fairly regular basis. This comic could have been drawn by her.
9. Speaking of animals, “Perhaps the butterfly is a proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet still become something beautiful” (B. Taplin).
When you spend 2 hours a day in the pool (high school) or 4.5 hours in the pool (college) for swim team practice, your hair tends to get kind of crunchy. Hairstylists could always tell that I was a swimmer because my hair would “snap” when they cut it. The picture below indicates a certain stiffness setting in even as my hair is drying. No such problems exist these days, except for a slight lightening of the color when I spend time in the chlorine and/or sun. This morning it was back to the Lebanon Y for another workout—this time 1,850 meters (74 laps) at something of a “cruise” pace. It went much better than the past couple days. But unlike the newspaper article, no records to report this time.
1. I turned on PBS last night thinking I’d be watching another episode of “Miss Scarlet & the Duke.” Instead, they aired a program called “Dolly Parton & Friends: 50 Years at the Opry.” I’m not a huge country music fan, but one can admire the career that Parton has had in a cut-throat business. She’s also had some good tunes over the years. “I Will Always Love You” is one of her best (although no one can sing it quite like Whitney). I also liked her duet with Kenny Rogers, “Islands in the Stream.” Her best line of the night, referring to her many surgeries, was, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Ha! What struck me is how much of the show was taken up by PBS asking for money, even though they get millions of dollars from the government. And people have the audacity to say, “All the church wants is your money.” I’ve never seen any of my colleagues in ministry haranguing people so frequently or intensely to fork it over as PBS did last night.
2. I got to fill in for a colleague last week at the Ephrata ICL. (I totally love being with that bunch—spiritually vibrant lovers of Jesus who want to go deeper in their understanding of Scripture and theology.) We reflected the whole time on the doctrine of the Trinity. I structured our material as follows:
Old Testament Seeds
New Testament Flowers
Early Church Petals
Church Wedding Bouquets
Missional Flowers Delivered
The Ultimate Rose Parade
The Holy Trinity is not a math puzzle to be solved (1 + 1 + 1 = 1); it’s a clue to the relational heart of the universe. That clue is precious to believers because the prime reality of existence is not matter. It’s not energy. It’s not quarks. It’s a divine relationship. Specifically, it’s an eternal reciprocating relationship of personal diversity and unbreakable unity. As the well-known hymn puts it, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” Key to my presentation was the ancient rabbinic belief in “The Two Powers in Heaven” (cf. Alan Segal), easily demonstrated from the Hebrew Bible. That’s why the early Christians, who were true monotheists, found it both natural and noncontradictory to declare without reservation, “Jesus [not Caesar] is Lord and God and High Priest.” They regarded Christ as truly “Emmanuel,” the embodied “I AM” of the Old Testament.
3. I turn three years older at the end of this month. (That sentence may require some explanation, no?) Because of the confusion surrounding my delivery, legal abandonment, and conveyance to an orphanage on day one of my postpartum life, I actually came with three birth certificates, all of which had a different date. One had March 30, one had March 31, and one had April 1. So, I have three birthdays! My adoptive parents were given the authority to choose one of the three for the official record. They quickly eliminated April 1 to spare me the teasing that may have come with that one, and they eventually settled on the middle date, March 31. They figured that if they were wrong, they were only off by a day, not two days. But who knows—I may have been an April fool’s joke from the beginning! The procedure is quite different today, but back then—in some hospitals where there was a pending adoption or conveyance to a foster home (or orphanage)—the newborn was never given to the mother to hold. And that was the case in my case. I was never held by my birth mother. Seeds of rejection were thus planted early in my life, and it would take decades for me to overcome them. Being adopted twice helped—once by my earthly father and once by my heavenly Father.
5. Now that the virus numbers are dropping, I can get back in the pool. It will be good to move around again, though I’m sure I’ll be a bit grumpy from waking up the muscles I haven’t used for months. Praying I still remember how to swim.
6. They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. History is just the opposite. Jesus comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.
7. Finally, here’s a fun comic that may or may not hit too close to home: