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Archive for September, 2011


I wanted to go to Baltimore for 2 reasons.  I have a friend with cancer.  I hadn’t seen him in a few years.  Our time in seminary overlapped, and we both served in Winter Haven at the same time.  We often commiserated.  I’ve been wanting to visit him.

Ellsbury hit a home run on the next pitch

I also wanted to catch a baseball game at Camden Yards.  A Red Sox game.  At the time I thought the Sox were a lock for the post-season (before the injuries piled up and so did their confidence).  I wasn’t sure if any regulars would be playing.  Well, the ones who could still walk would.  I enjoyed my time with my friend, including the game.  Here’s the story:

I thought it was a non-stop flight, but we made a quick stop in Albuquerque.  The recession is worse that I thought- gone are the you stewardesses.  I don’t think one of the stewards or stewardesses seemed to be younger than me, and I’m no spring chicken.  It was great to see all the green as I landed in Baltimore.  I was treated to crab cakes.  We enjoyed a trip to Annapolis to visit the Naval Academy.  But the Red Sox game had reached great importance. I both anticipated and dreaded it.

Just another pitching change

We arrived just before the national anthem.  While Camden Yards is designed like the older parks, it really has an open feel to it.  The gates open into streets with concessions and souveniors.  It is not a huge enclosed stadium.  We decided to eat at Boog’s BBQ.  Boog Powell was a star for the Orioles when I was a kid.  The servings were huge, for a ball park, so I didn’t mind the high price.  While we were in the very efficient line (amazing for concessions!!) the national anthem began.  I guess the local custom is to stop the music and soloist so the crowd sings “Oooooh!”.  Very interesting.

We made our way through some light rain to the 3rd base line, the other side of the park, and our seats. The seats were covered by the upper grandstand, but the rain stopped.  In terms of the field, we could see everything very well.  The board that tracked the pitch counts was obscured until I ducked down far enough to see it.

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This was not the collapse some of the economists have been predicting.  But it felt as devastating.  The team that had the best record in May-August utterly fell apart.  They went from leading the division to not making the playoffs in the course of a month.

There are plenty of people pointing fingers. I’ve read some ridiculous statements.  I’m going to try and put all this together so it makes sense- not sensationalistic headlines.

Issues of payroll are utterly irrelevant.  I don’t care how much a guy is being paid, if he’s hurt he can’t help the team.  So the size of the Red Sox payroll is ultimately irrelevant in this discussion.  You also can’t look at the roster on paper.  You have to see the roster that can actually suit up.

I refuse to point the finger at Theo or Francona.  At the trade deadline the Sox were in an enviable position.  People were largely singing their praises.  Only hindsight is 20/20, so don’t blame them for not having the gift of prophecy.

The seeds of the collapse were sown in Spring Training with Felix Doubront showing up out of shape.  The team had high hopes for him, and he was positioned to be the spot starter like Lester and Buchholz had been before him.  His job was to be ready.  He wasn’t, and suffered a number of injuries.  The depth they had at pitching took its first hit.  And a big hit since they would be forced to rely on the inconsistent Miller and overmatched Weiland.  This would cost them critical games.

It's lonely when you lose

Ryan Kalish’s injury was also pretty big.  Reddick was the guy who ended up filling in for the injured Drew.  He’s streaky, the book says, and he proved it.  He was on fire when he came up.  But down the stretch he struggled horribly.  A healthy Kalish, the heir apparent to right field before the season, would have made a big difference.  But it was not to be (and THAT, my friends, is part of what A-Gon was trying to say).

Diva-K’s injury seemed like a boon at first.  He was horrible!  But if his arm wasn’t messed up, he would’ve been better.  Instead we got a loveable but too old Wakefield and his quest for 200 wins.  It became a source of instability in the rotation.  Combine that with John (S)lackey’s ever deteriorating performance and the 4th and 5th spots on the rotation gave the Sox next to nothing.  Not even innings since no one when deep into games.

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It is hard to summarize the impact of an event.  I know I will not say all that could be said.  That’s because I don’t know all that could be said.  So, if you expect the authoritative statement of how 9/11 affected our nation and our world you will be sorely disappointed.

Some Positives

We Saw Heroic Actions- as we learned more about what transpired on 9/11 we learned of great acts of heroism.  We learned about some of the passengers on United 93 who fought the terrorists so they could not fulfill their plan.  They knew it would mean their own deaths, but the plane would not be used to kill others.

There were the many first responders who entered the twin towers knowing they probably, some definitely, would not make it out alive.  But they gave their lives to save the lives of others.  They are heroes.  As are the many people who surrendered days of their lives to search for survivors.

There are many heroes who decided, based on that day, to serve their country in far away places.  They loved their country and its citizens and offered their lives to keep them safe.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15

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When John Piper’s book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God was originally release, I wasn’t too impressed with the subject.  “Meh” I thought.  When I found it at a deep discount, I thought “ah, I’ll give it a try.”  A few months later, as it hung out on my bookcase, I thought “now might be a good time to read it.”  And now I realize what a doofus I am.  Unlike the former CEO of Yahoo!, I won’t be sued for using that term since I am referring to myself.

“God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.” Jonathan Edwards

Piper wrote this short book to refute two extremes of thought among Christians and to assert the “better way” to think about thinking.  “It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means to knowing God.”  One extreme are thought separated from the reality of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  This is to think independently of God.  The other extreme is to avoid intellectual exercise because such thinking is unnecessary and wrong.  Piper advocates deep, critical thinking about all things done in recognition and dependence upon God that we might treasure Him.

7Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2

This is one of the primary texts Piper uses to make his case.  We see that Paul commands Timothy to think.  Without thinking there will be no understanding.  But that understanding is given by God.  We don’t just ask of it and fail to think.  We must think and God must grant understanding.  Thinking is often God’s means, His ordinary means.  So, it isn’t not thinking or praying but prayerfully thinking that Scripture advocates.

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I wrote this on 9/13/01 for our church newsletter.  I tried to offer some perspective.  I hope to follow this up with a “now” take.

Spring 2001 from the Staten Island Ferry

What is probably the single most horrible act of terrorism in history has ushered America into reality.  The so-called reality shows that are so popular now can never top live footage of two passenger jets colliding, purposefully, into the World Trade Center.  Until this moment we have been under the illusion of being invulnerable.

The horrific bombing in Oklahoma was done by one of our own.  Other acts of foreign terrorism on our shores have been minimal and shut out of our national consciousness.  Never again.  The world is filled with such acts, though not on this scale.  And we will never be the same.

The responses in our hearts are mixed.  We weep for the victims, their families and even ourselves.  We’ve been stripped of that illusion and it is painful.  There is also anger, even outrage.  I’m reminded of the song “If I had a Rocket Launcher” by Bruce Cockburn.  It was written after witnessing similar horrible acts in South America in the mid-80’s.  If he had one “some son of a b—  would die”.  That is how I feel at times.  Do you?

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Since I’m preaching on the second half of Genesis 25 this Sunday, the topic of inheritance is important.  Esau was the firstborn and had a privileged status in that culture.  He had a double share.

What does that mean?  I was reading an otherwise good commentary by Bruce Waltke and stumbled on a problem.

It is explained as if the inheritance is divided by the number of sons.  Then the eldest gets 2 portions, so the rest split the rest.

And here comes the problem.

“If there were only two sons, the firstborn inherits everything.”

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2010 was an injury plagued season, a lost season, for the Boston Red Sox.  They lost Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youk for most or all of the season.  There were other injuries as well.  The Red Sox just couldn’t bounce back enough.  There were too many injuries to too many players.  The only good outfielder they had was JD Drew.  If he’s your healthiest and best outfielder you’ve got some serious problems.

This has been a different season.  The injuries hadn’t sunk the Red Sox.  The lost Dice-K, but that was a case of winning by losing.  That’s how horrible he was pitching.  But the loss of Rich Hill to the bullpen was pretty big.  They have struggled since then to get a good situational lefty.  His loss may prove bigger should they get to the playoffs which until this weekend wasn’t in doubt.

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