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Archive for June, 2014


This may be a sign of things to come but two big things changed right before we left for vacation. First, my parents won’t be heading to NY to visit with us. Due to her illness I will have to make a quick trip to NH instead. Second, we decided to cancel our hotel reservations in Phoenix and just head up on Monday morning. Our flight was late enough that we’d probably get up about the same time and arrive in Phoenix before the traffic got really bad. I’m pretty good with saving $150 but was disappointed that we didn’t get to have dinner Sunday night at Longhorn. We enjoyed going there when we lived in Winter Haven. Until recently there wasn’t one in Tucson, and the new one is about 30 minutes away from our house. The ride there is mostly through city streets, not the highway. Did I mention that I hate traffic?

I ended up awakening earlier than expected Monday morning. This meant I got an early start on the last minute preparations. We were out the door at 6 am and made great time on the way to Phoenix, arriving earlier than expected. After we checked our bags we had breakfast before heading through security. I finished quickly and took a tour through the bookstore to see what was selling. Or at least being sold.

We got to the gate with at least an hour to go before boarding. In the past this has been a problem but this time the kids spread out and took some toys from their backpacks and played nicely and relatively quietly. CavWife and I were able to relax. She still has to wear a brace for the elbow that she broke in December in an effort to regain extension. This was a good opportunity to get an early boarding pass. In the past this meant we could all board early. This time it was only her. So she saved two rows while I waited for the family boarding time.

We had a relatively uneventful non-stop to Newark. The mother in front of us was obviously a germophobe, meticulously wiping down the seat and tray. Head trauma, not so much of a worry as she let her child move about their row without a seat belt despite the stretch of turbulence. Apparently she never heard the precautionary tale of Larry Norman.

Our kids, well…. three of them, watched one of the movies we downloaded onto the iPad. They were mostly good, but the Number 1 son grew restless near the end. This, obviously, caused some minor issues with his sisters. I, on the other hand, made some good progress in a Daniel Silva novel.

CavWife’s sister picked us up in their parents’ new minivan and we went back to her house for dinner and a good night’s sleep. As I pondered sleep, thinking it is only 8 according to my body clock, I remembered I woke up around 4 am. Time for sleep.

(more…)

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That was interesting.

No trades at this point, though one may be looming for Rajon Rondo after they drafted Marcus Smart. He’s not the guy I would go after. But, he is a strong defender and rebounder but not a great shot as a point guard. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

Gordon, the guy I thought they would take wasn’t there thanks to the Orlando Magic. They took him at 4. As I noted, Randle and Vonleah were essentially redundant for the Celtics.

The draft is unpredictable which is why we watch. The Magic’s unpredictable move probably forced a change of direction by the Celtics. Probably. I obviously could be wrong, but I do know that Ainge spent a good amount of time researching Gordon.

I thought they would replace Bradley with the 17th pick and Harris from Michigan State was right there. I was hoping for Nick Stauskas but figured he’d be gone by then. He was. Harris seemed like the logical choice.

Wrong. James Young, a small forward out of Kentucky, was the pick. He was on a stacked team, so he didn’t get as many touches as some other guys. He scores. He might replace Jeff Green aka Mr. Inconsistent.

I’m not sure where this leaves the Celtics. They needed a rim protector. Talked about a rim protector. That was a big part of why they were getting killed in the second half of the season. They really didn’t address their need for a true center. Now we’ll see if they are able to do that or if we’ll endure another season of watching teams kill us down low.

Tonight I’m fairly disappointed. Maybe that will change in a few days, or a few years.

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Some people think “All You Need is Love.” I’m not one of them. Looking at the rumors, any way, the price seems too high (3 #1 draft picks, Sullinger and Olynyk) so you are left with Rondo, Love and not-quite star Jeff Green. Enough to make the playoffs, but not enough to seriously contend for anything.

The other option being bandied about is to trade Rondo and do a complete rebuild. The team mentioned most often is the Sacramento Kings. Old rumor reignited.

There are rumors of getting a 2nd round pick. Rumors of trading up. Rumors, rumors, rumors.

One rumor that has been ended is trading for Omar Asik was traded to the Pelicans.

What do I see happening? Well, he is nicknamed “Trader” Danny. There may be a trade out of the blue. I  don’t know who he could trade for at this point. Right now the Celtics don’t have the cache to attract people. They may want to play with Rondo but who knows if he’ll be around next year.

So, if all things remain equal …

I’d like them to take Aaron Gordon at #6. I don’t want Embiib. I see a situation like Bill Walton or Greg Oden. He’s already had back issues and now has screws in his foot. Not trending well.

Gordon is a high-energy defender who might learn how to shoot and turn into a Scottie Pippen-type guy.. He has actually gotten much better with changing his shot. It is a bit of a gamble, but so is the hope that Randle actually plays defense. Defense is mostly about effort, not technique. They also don’t need yet another power forward- like Randle or Vonleh. Gordon’s original spot with Arizona was small forward, and he can play there. See, Pippen-like.

With their other first round pick I think they will go after a replacement for Anthony Bradley at the shooting guard or a back-up for Rondo. Actually, they will probably replace Rondo, so to speak, in the 2nd round. Bradley, I think, will want too much money considering he’s been hurt every stinkin’ year.

Now, let’s see what really happens.

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If you are going to write a book on the Apostles’ Creed these days, you need to come up with some novel aspect to the book because there are many books out there by the likes of Witsius, Packer, McGrath, Horton and others. I’m not talking about novel theology, for that would be problematic.

Ray Cannata and Joshua Reitano, in their book Rooted, has come up with a specific and significant addition that makes their book very much worth reading, and studying. They added a missional element to the book so we can think through how our catholic (universal) theology leads us to mission (this article is essentially an excerpt).

“You can believe that God is mighty to guide you as you go out and recklessly pursue his mission to love and serve your neighbors, even when the mission seems impossible. You can believe that God is mighty enough for you to put aside your obsession with being “safe” and move toward the pain of those in need.”

Ray and Joshua currently serve in very different places. Ray used to pastor a church in NJ (near NYC), and is known in the PCA as “the Pastor who ate New Orleans.” Joshua is the pastor of a church in Cincinnati. These are 3 very different contexts so their idea of mission is not limited by particular contexts.

“The Kingdom expands when you lay down your life, when you sacrifices your desires and your comfort for the good of others.”

The book is comprised of 13 chapters, or studies, that work through the Apostles’ Creed. Each chapter begins with a Scripture text and ends with the focus on mission and some questions for group discussion. It is intended to be used over the course of a quarterly study. The chapters are short enough to be read in 20-30 minutes time frames. Any book that brings up the Three Stooges and Ted Williams has to be interesting in my estimation. There are the obligatory references to The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia and U2 (my potentially published book has some of those) but they fit and aren’t the standard references you might expect. They also draw on a number of personal and historical events to illustrate their points. As a result the book is accessible (not over people’s heads) and interesting as well as meaningful.

“Belief in the resurrection of the dead enables you to live a big life. It allows you to take up your cross and move toward pain and suffering.”

I might use this with our men’s group or community group next year. It is sound, convicting and (as I said above) interesting. Like many churches we struggle with that idea of mission- being part of God’s great, big story in order to invite others into that story. There have been recent books that come to mind that offer a similar call to a radical life. This is far more gracious, warm and balanced. I found the others lacking a gospel foundation and motivation. They seek their motivation in great theological truth, not guilt. Pastorally, this is very important. I want holy affections, as Edwards called them, to arise as a response to biblical truth. This book seeks to do that very thing.

[I received a free copy from my friend who works with the publisher Doulos, not necessarily for the purposes of review.]

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One of the aspects I’ve been pondering from unPlanned by Abby Johnson is her perceptions of funding disparity between Planned Parenthood (PP) and the Coalition for Life (CoL). In some ways it was an example of “the grass is always greener” syndrome. While working for PP she was amazed at the turnout and funds raised for CoL. She was discouraged because they seemed to win the private funding competition. If you asked CoL workers they would be thankful for the money raised, but having some experience with crisis pregnancy centers know they would still feel a money crunch.

For much of her time with PP money wasn’t much of a problem. They got government subsidies and grants. They won the public funding, but got far fewer resources from private citizens. This is a source of revenue not open to groups like CoL. They are completely funded by private sources of income. PP also generated revenue from procedures. This, of course, became part of the pressure she experienced that resulted in her departure.

Here we have an irony. The government is providing our tax dollars to PP to support and fund abortions for women. While they try to shift focus to other services, they are in the baby killing business. Most of these babies are from minorities and in lower income neighborhoods. And increasing number of women are choosing to abort based on sex: typically female so this is a war on future mostly-minority women. So anti-progressive but true. So… our government is funding abortions and particularly the abortions of black and Hispanic children, and mostly females. Yet the civil rights leaders are at best silent but often advocate for the right to abortion.

On the other hand, a number of our citizens (like me) support organizations like the CoL which seek to end abortion on demand and provide other alternatives for women with crisis pregnancies. It would appear that far more citizens give far more of their own money to pro-life causes than pro-abortion causes. They are, in effect, working at cross purposes with their government. The government, on the other hand, apparently isn’t really listening to the conscience of its citizens on this issue.

There are plenty of causes we might take up. The ones we really care about are the ones we give money to. The disparity shows me that more Americans are more committed to the pro-life movement than are committed to the pro-abortion (sorry, pro-choice) movement. Many of the undecided are those who think they would not choose to abort a child but think (inconsistently) that others should have the right to do so. This is a strange application of the privatization of values. We wouldn’t say this about theft, drunk driving, murder etc. We may not even say this about adultery, though an increasing number are. It is strange, and profoundly sad, application when you consider there is a life on the line. This is not about property or monogamy. It is about life.

Yes, I went off on a tangent. This subject is filled with sad ironies and inconsistencies.

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With the 2014 Red Sox still under .500, the Boston sports media has a new hobby. They keep talking about who should get traded from these Red Sox since, they think, this team’s season is over.

I can understand some of the push to trade players come July. I am in favor of that if they aren’t in the race. It would potentially give some of the younger players time to get used to life in the Big Leagues.

My problem is the guys they think we should trade. I hear about Lester, Lackey and Uehara. These guys make the least sense when you are talking about trades. Why? There is no one in the system who can replace them.

Jon Lester is a home-grown guy. Apart from his battle with cancer years ago he has been healthy as the workhorse he is. He is a known commodity who gives you 200+ innings every year and most of the time has a sub-.400 ERA. He has proven post-season dominance. Proven in the harsh environment of Boston with the media and demanding fans. Unlike Kirk Minihane, no one knows if Lester is leaving our not after this season. He likes it here. The Red Sox did seem to make a tactical error with a low offer. They do want to continue discussions. I can understand why they didn’t open the money bags for Ellsbury, but he’s not Ellsbury. Jacoby was often hurt and Jon hasn’t been hurt. They had a comparable player in the minors ready to take his place, and the hitting should eventually get there as it has at every other level along the way. But while there are some MLB worthy pitchers in the system, it is doubtful they will be as dominant as Lester in the next 5 years. They should pay him. They can’t control if he chases the money, and would get a compensatory pick. But trading him, unless you get a similar pitcher is crazy. And that pitcher has to fit in Boston. Scherzer is available this off season. But he finally pitched a complete game, and while in a good baseball city hasn’t had to pitch in Boston for a whole season. In other words, he is far more of a gamble than Lester’s health!

Lackey is also a top of rotation pitcher. He has no immediate replacement in the system. You don’t need replacements for Ortiz, Napoli, Pedroia, Bogaerts or Bradley. Nava has regained his swing and should produce again (is producing again). So what do you get, and is that worth trading a 1/2 starter? Not in my book.

I can’t find the article advocating a trade for Koji, at the peak of his value. Who closes for you? That’s all I ask? Miller and Tazawa have not proven capable of closing when they have had the opportunity. Does anyone remember how hard it was to get a closer after Papelbon left? Yes, he’s at high value right now. So … you have to replace him.

These are players who make up your core moving forward. They are not your problem, and can’t fix your problem. Trading them creates a new problem. In other words, such a trade normally makes a “big splash” (which the media likes) but tends to keep a team non-competitive. You just have new problems.

Most projections I’ve read for guys like Owens, Webster, Ranaudo etc. have been 3/4 in the rotation. Not aces. Hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Trades at this point for the Red Sox seem to be more about enabling the future to happen than re-stocking. You want to get rid of guys who open the door for people young pitchers or catchers. The guys you trade are people like Peavy or AJ. They won’t get you a treasure trove of prospects or MLB players, but to a desperate contender you will get more than what they are worth. They allow you to bring up (or keep up) Workman, Vazquez etc. You also have time to wait for Betts and Cecchini (or Middlebrooks).

Media guys don’t have the best interest of the team in mind. Often fans don’t either. Let’s leave it to the professionals to figure all that out.

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unPlanned is the story of how Abby Johnson went from being the director of a Planned Parenthood (PP) office to being an advocate for the pro-life movement. It is a story worth reading as she tries to fairly assess both sides of this controversial issue. She has seen the issue from both sides and hates the extremes of both sides.

In an earlier post I mentioned the disconnect. Her story begins with disconnect. Her life and doctrine were disconnected. She believed one thing and did another. This led her to have secrets. She makes an interesting observation about secrets.

“Once it had taken hold within me, my secret had the power to shape and influence my reasoning, my perspective, my conscience. Years later, I would discover that the box in my soul wasn’t sealed as well as I’d thought. It was releasing undetectable yet poisonous fumes that wafted through my soul in silence and contaminated my heart.”

Her secret was that before her first (ill-advised) marriage she had her first abortion. She now understands more of the implications. She had to face not only the killing of her child, but depriving her parents of grandchildren. We don’t live on an island. And those secrets leak out. They shape our decisions and our perspective on the world.

Her secret made her an easy recruit for PP in college. She rightfully wanted to help women but her own baggage had to be justified. She heard the talking points about wanting to make abortion rare, and feeling guilty wanted to defend herself and others from the perceived condemnation of the pro-life movement. She is honest about the power of self-deception. She started to tell herself little lies, and then bigger lies, to justify her increasing role within PP.

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28

She speaks of her spiritual struggle during those years. God seemed so far away from her. She didn’t understand why. But she did experience rejection from one church when they discovered where she worked. She and her husband were denied membership and encouraged to move on. Later, after her “conversion” she was essentially told to leave the “pro-choice” denomination with its liturgy that slowly reshaped her heart. Strange how pastors can allow such issues to keep them from ministering to people. I may have denied her membership, but invited her to stay and “see what happens.” That might not have been welcome words. But God can change hearts.

13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28

She shares her perspective on the pro-life movement as an outsider. She entered PP thinking they were mostly extremists. Dhe did  meet some extremists. at the fence which while literal also functioned as a metaphor throughout the book. But she also met compassionate, caring people at the fence too. There were more of them, and they worked to get rid of the crazies. Slowly her misconceptions about the pro-life movement were being challenged. She struggled with the paranoia of PP’s leadership and yet found it a safe place to hide due to her own guilt all at the same time. She also came to see, slowly, that the talking points were just that- talking points that really didn’t reflect the decisions being made by those in power.

She does not get into the “politics” of the issue. There is no mention of a politician. But as I ruminated on the book and the time frame of the events I noticed something. Senator Obama’s talking points on abortion during the Presidential election (which duped so many evangelicals) sounded remarkably like Planned Parenthood’s talking points, including making abortion rare. Yet, it was during his administration that PP lost their grant money for birth-control. This meant that more children would be conceived in less than desirable circumstances so women sought divorce, and PP needed to perform more abortions to pay their bills. That was the money-maker and they pushed directors to perform more, and were contemplating doing late-term abortions.

Abby was caught in the middle of this change by what was happening inwardly. The rules had changed on her and she was asked to go beyond her comfort zone. It seemed increasingly less about helping women and more about ideology and making money. And then came the fateful day.

The title is a double entendre: she was “removed” from PP, and this was not her plan. But it was someone’s plan: God’s. Many of the pro-life leaders in her community had been praying for her for years. Those prayers began to be answered as she was forced to participate in an ultra-sound guided abortion. She saw what actually happened inside the womb during an abortion. She could not prop up her shaky convictions with the well-intended lies anymore. Now she knew she had to get out.

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Proverbs 28

The continues her story as she finds help from her former “enemies” and betrayal at the hands of “friends.” It moves into the injunction PP sought against her (without grounds) and her “coming out” to the media.

This book is a quick read. It moves along fairly well, though there were times I did want her to move faster. It comes across, to me, as an honest, humble read. It is, at times, an emotionally difficult read. There will most likely be tears. It tries (and mostly succeeds) to be a fair read. She doesn’t demonize PP though she is honest about the actions of some people in PP. She does see a difference between the average volunteer and those higher up in the organization. She was wronged by them as they turned on her for leaving. She made no public statements until after they made a press release. It is important to know that there is often a big difference in motive between PP and many who volunteer or work there. Her unspoken lesson is that we need to win them to “our side” in a way similar to how she was won over: prayer while you wait for God to act.

Copernican revolutions are never easy. In this case she had the support of her husband and family who never wanted her working there in the first place. She found newer, truer friends among many of those who had been praying for her for years. They loved her even when she was on the other side of the fence. She lost many “situational friendships” when she left PP. They didn’t love her despite their differences of opinion on this ethical matter: She was seen as betrayer and persona non grata.

On the flip side, she found forgiveness as she admitted her own sin. She experienced freedom from condemnation for her own abortions, and the many she had participated in. She wants people to hear the offer of grace, not the words of condemnation. Those of us who are pro-life need to be reminded all too often.

It is a book I wish more people would read because it is honest about PP. The good, and the bad. It gets past the talking points and propaganda we hear. It is like something of a cult in many ways. They have a doctrine that is disconnected from practice, an outward face that hides the inward reality. They are afraid of those “outside” and paint them in the worst possible light. They turn like rabid dogs on those who leave. Yeah, perhaps we need to talk about the cult of Planned Parenthood and its child sacrifice.

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