Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Just a Name, Right?

I was playing cribbage with Cam and his dad when I stumbled across some people that I didn't know.  We were using Penn State football cards - so because I hadn't grown up a Nittany Lion fan many of the people depicted on the cards were unfamiliar to me.  As we played I would read the cards and try and bolster my Penn State knowledge - even though I had already graduated and probably didn't need to anymore.

That was when I came across his card - Jerry Sandusky.  I read the card and found out that apparently our nickname of "Linebacker U" had come from his work as Penn State's defensive coordinator.  I was shocked - only knowing of Tom Bradley and his longevity at PSU - that there was someone else who had been more influential defensively. 

That was the first time I had ever heard anything about Jerry Sandusky.  I had graduated from Penn State not having any clue about him or his impact on the University.

I tell this story only to emphasize how truly unaware I was of anything he was involved in until his crimes were revealed to America.  I found out when everyone else did.  I was shocked - like everyone else.  I was sad - like everyone else.  I was angry - like everyone else.

And like everyone else I knew something needed to be done. 

So stuff was done.  Joe Paterno was fired in the wake of his failure to act appropriately.  Curley and Schultz (people I had never heard of) were fired.  Spanier was removed from office.  Jerry Sandusky was arrested.

At the time I felt like some of those actions were unfair - namely the firing of Joe Paterno.  He had apparently told the proper authorities, but he had failed to follow up and make sure that the situation was handled.  In my mind I thought, "How could anyone expect him to do more than what he did?  He isn't a cop, he isn't the president - he didn't even directly witness the crime.  What else could he do?"

After reading an article written by Tim Henderson, however, I realized I had made a mistake that I feel like many would have made in a similar situation.  I valued the devotion to and defense of family over the devotion to and defense of God's perfect love and justice.  The "blood" I defended was the blood-tie I had formed with Penn State, but the "blood" I should always seek to defend first is the blood of Christ that unites the known universe through his forgiveness of our wrongs and promise of everlasting relationship with Him - the truly just and gracious King.  Family loyalty isn't wrong.  Misplaced loyalty was my crime.

I think that Joe Paterno should have done more - but I am leary of passing judgement having not been in that position.  My hope is that I would have acted.  I think too often we look at terrible things that someone does and think, "I don't understand how someone could do something like that," or, "Why didn't he act?"  Jerry Sandusky didn't wake up one morning and decide sexually molesting multiple boys would be his plight or goal.  The sin crept in over years of exposure to boys and the allowance of even small and seemingly harmless inappropriate actions.  Sin never makes sense - but we often ignore this reality when the logical fallacy seems ineffectual.  While I "follow" why Sandusky did what he did, he did it based on a truth that he ignored or a lie that he believed.   MY UNDERSTANDING DOES NOT EVER MAKE WHAT HE DID OKAY.  The ability to follow why something was done should never be the reason it is condoned.

I think this "illogical and completely horrific end" point of view, however, is what has lead to many swift and perhaps ineffectual decisions.  Logical, effective decisions should have been made in the wake of the belief and tolerance of illogical decisions and lies.

I find it unreasonable, for example, to expect that the NCAA's sanctions spanning only four years would accomplish any of the goals they profess to work towards.  These boys have suffered longer and those men have given in to their sins longer, so expecting those sanctions to fix everything in less time than it took the issues to develop seems unfair - especially when the sanctions fail to directly address either the punishment of the men or the restoration of their victims. 

Emmert attacked what he thought was the problem - football idolization.  I think that IS a problem, but not only at Penn State.  Every school in the country that has a football program with any sort of reputation has an idolization issue.  But let us not belittle the victims by saying the issue was a football issue.  Football was a symptom.  Self-glorification and satisfaction are the issues.  Pride is the issue.  Thinking we are the objects of glory and satisfaction is the issue. 

And sanctions don't fix that. 

Jesus Christ is the one who fixes lives - and that is evident in mine.  Jesus Christ heals broken hearts - and that is evident in mine.  What these boys need is people in their lives who will offer the hope that most of them looked to Sandusky for.  They need a father - someone in their lives to let them know that they are loved - because they have been hurt; deeply and with long-term effects.

Penn State is breaking tradition and putting the players names on the back of their jerseys for next year.  I heard the reasoning and was impressed.  Their goal was to honor the players who were committed to Penn State in light of the sanctions from the NCAA.  The more I thought about it, however, I thought to myself - wouldn't it be better if instead of honoring someone's commitment to a football program we honored someone's commitment to the value of human life? 

I say don't put the players' names on the jerseys.  Put the victims' names on the jerseys. 

Show the nation that Penn State has one tradition that supercedes all football and academics: a commitment and devotion to the value of life and its protection at all costs.  These were people with names - names that are adjectives describing the creation of a perfectly just and loving God.  If Penn State plays, they should play for them - to show them that they are valued more than football.  They are valued and loved so deeply that a Father in heaven would send a Son in their stead - life through relationship with Christ through His resurrection from the dead.  I pray that the players would play for something more - I pray the coachs would coach with that in mind - and I pray that the victims find peace in all of this.  That's what I'm doing right now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Whatever happened to Kony?  I watched a video about him that was made by one of the people affiliated with the Invisible Children...and I was moved.  But for some reason nothing happened about it.  I am sure it had something to do with the film's creator getting in trouble for (allegedly) being drunk in public and doing some things that are far from socially acceptable.

The funny thing is...getting drunk is something that is generally encouraged in our society.  I remember countless times in college when I felt awkward and even somewhat targeted when the topic of drinking in excess was brought up.  According to most, that was how you had fun.

But you can't be drunk in public.  Only in private.  Once you make it public you have a problem.

I feel like cursing is similar.  It is okay to curse in private around people you know but once you go in to public it is generally not as acceptable.  That is something that has certainly moved in the direction of becoming okay in public - as evidenced by music and television shows loosening their censorship.

I would argue - sadly - that porn is also in this category.  Make it public - you're a pervert.  Watch it in private - not so much of an issue.  Even this is moving in a scary direction - as evidenced by what they show in many movies that are being publicly released.

This observation raises a question: what about public knowledge makes something wrong?  If it is wrong, shouldn't it be wrong regardless?

As a society we have moved into a strange place.  We have decided that the only issue of doing "wrong" things is the effect they have on others.  If it doesn't hurt or offend someone else, then there is no problem doing what we like.  So because being drunk in public is potentially offensive to someone that does not agree with getting drunk, we have declared it "unacceptable".

But what if the things we have done in private were in fact hurting someone?  What if every single thing we did was known and recorded?  What if we could POTENTIALLY suffer some sort of punishment for the things we have done wrong?

I would argue that all we have done, are doing and will ever do is known.  I would also argue that we SHOULD have to suffer punishment for our wrongdoings.  The beauty of the gospel, however, is the reality that we have graciously been forgiven for our wrongs.  But what I think is often forgotten - myself included - is that even though this grace was free to us, it was not free.  Someone paid for what we did wrong.

So every time we sin we hammer the nails into Christ's hands.  We hammer the nails into His feet.  We force Him to push up as he gasps for breath.  As the blood collects in Christ's lungs, we spit in His face with our actions.  And He is held responsible for what we have done.

I'm not saying I am perfect.  Far from it.  But I have found it helpful to remind myself that in times of struggle - when I don't think anyone would ever know about something - that God does, and it is offensive to Him when I know what is wrong but hammer the nail anyway.  Yes He forgives me - but I celebrate that forgiveness by pursuing a life that display God's character and mercy in public and in private.  Even though I will continue to make mistakes, that's what you can find me doin' right now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hip Hop Hooray

I have a terrible memory.  Many times all I can remember about my childhood are images in my head rather than sequenced events or memories.  If I talk about them with someone usually I can piece some things together, but often times that's all it is. 

So for me to remember this is pretty amazing.  I remember standing over the trash can on my hall at Penn State - looking down at Busta Rhymes face.  His arms were crossed and the black and white image stared at back at me with malice. 

It made me nervous - thoughts creeping into my head as I stared back.  "Why is it such a big deal to own this?  It's good music - I listen to it all the time.  Is the music really affecting me?"

I took the CD out of the case.  This was it...

I snapped it.  I snapped it multiple times and let the shards fall through my fingers.  I watched them fall in the cracks and crevices of the trash.  I stomped on the case - pieces flying down the hall.  I picked up the biggest pieces and threw them in the can.

And I ran back to my room.

For a few days afterwards I would see pieces of the case on the floor as I walked to the bathroom.  They were a reminder of that night - a reminder of the weight that had been lifted.  But I also felt a little sad.  Although it felt good to get rid of "my vice", I wasn't sure how to move on without it.  I didn't have any music that good.

Because Christian hip-hop wasn't that good.  Lyrically - sure.  But so are hymns - and those haven't been the music of our generation since the late 50's.  I wanted to listen to good quality hip-hop that was God honoring, and frankly it just wasn't accessible.  The beats were about two or three years behind norm, and the lyrics felt misplaced.  It felt like Christians were trying to make the mainstream audience think Christ-focused hip-hop was cool - but with antiquated beats and a message that "will be rejected" there just wasn't much hope.  So at that point I could have made a legitimate argument that if I was going to listen to hip-hop it would have to be mainstream - because the alternative wasn't worth it. 

But these days I don't have that excuse anymore.  God has done amazing work in the hip-hop community - especially in art that is being put out by Christians artists.  And the beauty of His work is that the lyrics have stayed focused on His glory while the production has caught and in some cases surpassed those in the mainstream. 

And so my hope is that this post can celebrate where God has brought hip-hop but also provide any one of my readers with an opportunity to hear the hip-hop themselves.  FOR FREE!  Instead of having people pay for the album many of these artists have started simply asking for donations of any amount.  This gives you the opportunity to donate if you have the means but does not require it to hear the music.  The spread of the gospel is the goal.  Amazing.

I want to tell you about ten albums that I cannot stop listening to, and I hope that you will find the time to download them yourself.  After all, you could get them for free.

The Transitional Albums

These albums are phenomenal top to bottom and would be great recommendations to those who are having trouble "letting go" of their mainstream music.  They would have made my break-up a lot smoother.

1. Circa MMXI: The Collective - High Society
2. Church Clothes - Lecrae
3. Hell's Paradise II: The Mask Parade - Wit and Dre Murray

The Coffee Shop Hip-Hop Albums

I feel like I use this descriptive too often, but these albums are the ones that I feel like appeal more to the laid back hipster type.  The artists at Humble Beast have done an amazing job, and these three albums are just some of my favorites.  Download more at the website on the right.

4. Satellite Kite - Beautiful Eulogy
5. Thr3e - Theory Hazit
6. Art Ambidextrous - Propaganda

The Radio Ready Albums

I feel like these would be solid albums to get radio play, but they also have a pretty overt Christ focus.  Christian radio stations - get wise.

7. Formerly Known - Andy Mineo
8. Get Well Soon - Chris Lee Cobbins

The Southern Style Buckwild Albums

The albums both have - in my opinion - a raw southern feel to them. Both of the artists tend to sing and rap interchangeably.  Canon brings a Twista/Busta Rhymes fast flow while Reconcile brings a raspy, soulful flow.  So loud, so southern, and so God honoring.

9. Abandoned Hope - Reconcile
10. Blind World - Canon

Ten places to get started - ten ways to hear God honored through hip-hop.  No more excuses - download these albums.  I mean really, what else are you doin' right now?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Man Up 2012

I remember my first time seeing Lecrae perform. He was doing a show during an Acquire the Fire conference in Baltimore.  I went with a very dear friend of mine (Mark Willard - aka M-Weezy) and afterwards we were able to meet Lecrae and someone who - at the time - I was pretty unfamiliar with.  A man by the name of Kevin Burgess.  We waited in line for about 30 minutes and as we approached the two of them I began thinking to myself, "What do I say?"

And then I thought about my students at Robious - specifically my Men in Ties.  I thought about how so many of them lacked the fatherly influence which we as men so desperately need.  I thought about how cool these two rappers were  - not because of their self elevation but rather because of their Christ elevation.  I thought, "Man I wish I could bring my boys to see these guys perform..."

So that is what I said to Lecrae.  His reply was simple - "Bring em on man!"

I made it up in my mind to do that.  I began looking for an opportunity to have my Men in Ties see some of the most influential men in my life glorify God with their gifts.

Two years passed.  Nothing had presented itself, and I pretty much gave up hope that anything ever would.  

But the Creator of time operates on His own schedule.  I was on twitter one night and saw a tweet about an upcoming "Man Up" conference.  My heart leaped inside my chest.  Taking my Men in Ties to a Man Up conference couldn't make more sense.

So I enlisted some help (two studs - Cornell and Cameron) and presented it to the boys.  We had nine takers, and so we decided to Man Up.

After a nine and a half hour trip and hotel fiasco, we finally made it to the conference.  We were greeted by 1800 other men all there ready to learn how to man up.  That night, the tone was set.

There would be no dancing around issues.  There would be no posturing or pretending.  This would be a place where we would go from being boys II men.  No mamas necessary.

We were challenged from the onset and celebrated the end of the first night with a concert by Trip Lee in honor of the release of his latest album, The Good Life.  I almost peed my pants when he performed the song "One Sixteen", because that same dude from two years ago (Kevin Burgess - better known as KB) and a man by the name of Andy Mineo straight worked it on the track.  Which means it was really good and I was pretty geeked up.

The next day began with a talk about avoiding Sexual Temptation and continued with seminars covering four of the most pivotal topics we as men struggle with - Authority, Responsibility, Envy and Courage.  The final talk was on Repentance, and I was reminded once again of my constant need to rely on and confess all of my wrong-doings to a perfect and forgiving God.  

And then God showed up on the scene - no joke.  I never questioned His presence the whole weekend, but when Lecrae came out and performed his song "Just Like You" I found myself sobbing because of the sobering reality that so many of the men in that room (and elsewhere) lacked an Earthly father but have a very real and very loving Heavenly Father that wants us when He doesn't need us enough to sustain His own Son's life as he suffocated on the cross of our shame.  

Real talk.

So as we went to get dinner I found myself anticipating the opportunity to celebrate the truths we had learned and the weekend we had experienced at the concert scheduled for later that evening.

That concert was one of the best experiences of my life.  Being able to go dumb with Cornell, Cam and all of the boys as we jumped in the mosh pit and celebrated an awesome weekend was amazing.  Esai with his hand in the air, Frank and CJ "Going Hard" and the swagg team (Eari, Darrell and DeRon) starting a "Riot" are memories I never want to forget.

We got up early the next morning ready to get back home and make the things we learned a reality in our lives.  Well, at least the leaders did.  The boys didn't seem so awake...

Looks like a prison photo...

And that was confirmed later....

We left VA as boys - we returned as men.  Core, Cam and I were sitting in our hotel room after Saturday night's concert ended and we all agreed we might have gained more from the conference than the boys did.  My hope is that everyone was impacted, and that everyone at least saw real men who have made real commitments to the only perfect Man this world has ever seen.  I was reminded once again that Jesus was who He said He was and did do what He said He did.  So I have unashamedly committed my life to glorifying Him in everything that I do - because that is what a real man does.  Because seriously, what else am I doin' right now?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town...a Little Late

I don't know that this is a secret anymore amongst those who know me, but seeing as I cannot find an appropriate transition from what has become a three and a half month hiatus from this blog this will have to do.  

I want to be Santa Claus.  

I absolutely love Christmas time and - as I have previously referenced - I also love growing a beard.  So obviously this is something I should aspire to right?

Judge me if you must, but it has been something that I have decided to pursue as much as I appropriately can at my current age.  In fact, I have made some strides and have gained some legitimate experience in the process.  

I realized early on that the first step in this process would be to procure a beard of some sort.  Now we all know that a Santa with a real beard is much more convincing than a fake bearded man in a red suit - so I have spent the past couple of years growing my beard out for varying amounts of time in hopes of gauging both potential fullness and length.  I am happy to say that the good Lord has blessed me with the ability to grow what I consider a competitive beard (one which serves the dual purpose of making me look like Joaquin Phoenix when he went crazy).  I have also experimented with various ways of coloring and have found acrylic paint to be the most effective method that does not involve permanence.  

One of the first trial runs - needed to create a sample size.
I then found myself in a situation this past year where I had the opportunity to play Santa Claus at a couple local department stores (nothing too fancy I assure you - but experience nonetheless).  I feel I did a pretty bang-up job considering my lack of experience beforehand - and I came to a stunning and fantastic realization.

Santa makes bank homie.

Me holding the cutest little girl in the world.
I did receive some criticism however.  A couple of people commented that Santa "was a little skinny".  Don't worry world - that will come in time.  And by "in time" I mean like next year.  Seriously it won't be a long wait until I am fat.  But until that time you can find me working on my weight and scouting the competition.  I mean really, what else am I doin' right now?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Songs I Have to Hear Every Year

Confession:  I started this blog back in January of this year and have been looking forward to writing about my favorite Christmas music since then.  

At the time I was under the impression that I absolutely loved most Christmas music and looked forward to sharing some of it with my faithful readers (all five of them).

But I realized something this year.  I don't love much Christmas music at all.  In fact, I have narrowed it down to a few albums and songs that I find myself listening to repeatedly.  So when I was thinking about what my favorite Christmas songs are, it was a much easier job than I thought it would be.  I just thought about the songs I HAVE to hear each year, and the list ended up being about 25 songs.  Appropriate - I know.

So here they are - from least to greatest.  Enjoy them - discover them - play them again and again.  But most of all have a Merry Christmas.  Because that is what I am about to be doin' right now.

24. Joseph's Lullaby - Mercy Me
23. I Saw Three Ships - Robert Shaw
22. Drummer Boy - Mercy Me
19. Ludacrismas - Ludacris
18. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe - Randy Travis
16. The Night Before Christmas - Amy Grant
15. Christmas in Killarney - Bing Crosby
13. Here Comes Santa Claus - The Mills Brothers
9. Jingle Bells - Bing Crosby
8. Silent Night - Mercy Me
7. This Christmas - Chris Brown
6. Pretty Paper - Randy Travis
5. If You Don't Wanna See Santa Claus Cry - Alan Jackson
4. In the Bleak Midwinter - Robert Shaw
3. White Christmas - Bing Crosby
2. I Celebrate the Day - Relient K
1. I Heard the Bells - Mercy Me

Christmas at the Pub

I love beer.  My friends and I get together every other Monday at a pub called Rare Olde Times to talk about our lives and the directions they are heading in, and that is always accompanied by a Smithwicks or two.  I love fall and winter because Sam Adams releases their seasonal brews, and nothing beats drinking an Old Fezziwig while watching a Muppet Christmas Carol.  I love bitter beer and I love coffee beer.  I love pretty much anything but light beer.

Because light beer pretty much sucks.

I also love choral Christmas music.  Few things are more satisfying than popping in a CD of four-part carols and trying to hear and sing along with the bass part.  Gimme that.

The reason I mention both of these loves is that in my mind they intersect in a very wonderful place.  I find many of the carols that I listen to have a very lively rhythm to them - and that is to be expected as so many of them are proclaiming good news or chronicling stories of Christmas feasts enjoyed in the past.  I find myself swinging my arm while I am driving - because in my mind that is not only enjoyable but required.

And I realized last year that my incessant arm swinging is with good reason - these are pubs tunes.  Every time I hear them I imagine myself sitting in a pub somewhere in Surrey, England singing along and swinging my mug in the air.  So when I say these are some of favorite carols, it is solely based on their "beer-swingability". 

Now grab a mug, click the link and swing away as each song beckons you do so in a way only the Robert Shaw arrangements can do.  What else are you doin' right now?
Pub Tunes

The World Can't Have Me

I listen to Christian hip-hop all the time.  Even during the Christmas season - much to the annoyance of my wife.  I am still amazed that everyday it seems like I am hearing a song for the first time - even if I have heard it a hundred.  Lines will pop out at me that for some reason I would rap (because yes, I rap along to every song I know the words to) but not actually think about.  It makes me happy.  

That deep down just got twenty two nuggets in your twenty piece happy.  Don't play like that isn't amazing.

So because I have a blog I feel like I wanted to share a song that did that today.  Even Surrey was noddin' her head when we were listening to it.

The song is called "In His Image" and the chorus goes something like this:

Oh, the world can't have me
Say I'm actin' different - I'm just lookin' like my Daddy
I'm made in His image, made in His image, made in His image
Made in His image - I'm livin' like that

It was written by Andy Mineo and PRo - two of the rappers I listen to.  The line that really hit me today was one that PRo said:

"Used to hustle to be on top 'til I finally realized Someone died for that spot"

Pretty simple.  But I find myself wondering - have I actually stopped hustlin' for that spot?  I mean really stopped and said to Christ - it's Yours.  It was to begin with - it is even more so considering the measures You took - and I am done trying to occupy a spot that I am not even close to reaching anyway.  

I'm such a pathetic dude.  I mean scum of the Earth pathetic.  But Christ is good.  Good by true definition - no need for the word better.  And through my pathetic and feeble attempts to occupy that number one spot, Christ has consistently and gracefully and justly reminded me it was never mine to occupy.

I'm made in His image - not cloned.  

So yes I shine His light as much as I can and yes I hustle hard - but that hustlin' I do is to show Christ to a world that can only be changed by one thing - Christ.

So please watch this.  Watch it twice if you aren't used to listening to hip-hop because the words are what makes this song amazing.  I promise you won't regret it.  I mean really - what else are you doin' right now?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Son Came Out at Night

I write poetry - and it sounds like rap.  I started doing this while I was at Penn State, and for a couple of years now I have been doing it off and on in different ways and with different people - but I have finally come to that conclusion.  

I write poetry and it sounds like rap.

But it's not rap - not in the sense that most people (especially people who do not consistently listen to rap) would characterize it.  It does have a rhythm and a rhyme scheme, but it is not normally a 16 bar, hook, 16 bar, hook, bridge, shout out to the homies type of thing.

It's more like slam poetry.  And I am COMPLETELY okay with that.

So I thought I would blog one of my poems that I recently wrote and performed at our church for a couple of reasons.  First, it is about Christmas and Christmas is like three days away.  Second, I feel like this blog is where I spell out "ME" and so it makes sense that I would post something that is what I have now come to believe is very much that.  

The Son Came Out at Night

For my eyes have seen your salvation
Which you have prepared in the sight of all nations
Light for revelation

That's Luke 2: 30-32 homie go check the citation

In the sight of all the nations He came to rule us
The sickly patients
And heal the broken situation in which we existed

But don't get it twisted
Even before this entrance He still held us up
You could say He was double fistin'

But this - this is
Where He made us like no ohms
Because He eliminated the resistance
Caused by our sin sickness

In the form of an infant

I don't believe in coincidence
So when I think of how He showed up it's no surprise the setting was intimate
And yet the world seemed disinterested
In the form of an inn with no emptiness

No vacancy

But amazingly - so unexpectedly
His arrival was almost missed in an otherwise hectic scene
Expected a King - but this interpretation seems loose
Because the Savior Israel wanted to come on a horse came in the form of somethin' more like a papoose


If they only knew
That the sun (Son) that came out that night would shine a light so bright and so true
That death couldn't hold Him captive
He obliterated that vice

So we waste time idolizing people who only live once because Jesus Christ is livin' twice

So as we stand amongst the darkness
And stare at the stars in the sky
Let the Son of the Most High
Be the one upon which we fix our eyes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where I Have Been

Trying to take care of this amazing little girl.  Pretty much no time to do anything else.
Surrey Gray Link
 I mean really, what else would I want to be doin' right now?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Got My Unashamed Tatt and My Cross on My Back

In the morning I set two alarms on my phone - both the same ringtone.  Brianna has commented a few times about how abrasive it is but for me it is necessary.  It's the beginning of a song from Lecrae's album Rehab called "New Shalom".  

"I wake up - before I throw a beater on - fall to my knees, thank the Lord for that new shalom"

Maybe I'm a mediocre Christian because I don't always fall to my knees, but that song is amazing to wake up to because of the way it reminds me to think on and about God.  I get a shower and I pray about my day.  I think about how I can do God's work that day at school and how I can honor and care for my very pregnant wife.  

I love how well it was put - "before I throw a beater on".  He didn't say t-shirt or polo.  He said beater - a part of his outfit that no one would ever see.  So he is saying that even before he puts on the basics that no one would even know about he takes time to thank God for the peace that He has blessed him with.

I love waking up that way.  I love listening to gospel hip-hop on my way to school.  I find myself being blown away day after day by some of the biblical truths interwoven into this music.  I reference what I hear all the time - to Christians and non-Christians.  I listen to it in my trailer during my planning period and before and after school.  

It makes me want to read scripture.  It makes my heart leap when I read something in scripture that I heard in a song and just never realized was biblical.  

And yet I still don't read my Bible consistently.  I do pray for my wife, but my attempts to be a good husband fall short in so many cases.  I often fail to share the gospel at key opportunities because I am scared or nervous about how a student or teacher will react.  I am so worried about whether or not I will be able to be a good father, and I have such a weak character when it comes to enduring difficult situations.

But this summer, after going to the Dominican and seeing God's beauty and majesty in a different part of the world, I was reminded of all that He has done in my life despite the epic failures I have been a part of and responsible for.  I don't have a hope without the grace of the Lord, and as I was listening to the music of the 116 Clique it became clearer than ever that God has a completely wonderful plan for my life - one that is meant to honor Him and all He has done.   

So I made a decision to get a tattoo.  I had at that point been considering getting one for a while, but the final push came from reading Romans 1:16.  I had read it before, but for some reason it struck me in a deeper way.  

 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

I feel so much shame for so many of the things I have done in my life but the reality is that God in His infinite grace forgave all my misdoings - past, present and future.  And so when I think on who He is and what He has done despite who I am I find myself completely overcome by His love.  

I should be ashamed of the things I have done to dishonor God, but this verse reminds me that there is something I can be unashamed of - who God is and what He has done.  

So I got the 116 Clique's logo tattooed on my left bicep for a couple of reasons.  I got it because my body is a temple - and the temple is where the Jews went to praise God and be close to Him - to honor Him.  I believe my tattoo is a way that my "temple" is made more honoring to God and will be that until they throw me in a box and bury me.  I got it because of the verse it represents (Romans 1:16), and I got it because of the opportunities it will present for me to talk about the God who hung the moon and the stars up.  

I have already had the opportunity to tell people about what I believe and why I believe it.  I can't wait to continue doing that.  I mean really, what else am I doin' right now?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why I Hate The Pittsburgh Steelers

If you know me even a little and we have talked even a moment about sports, then I think it is a safe bet that you have heard me reference how much I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers.  But for those of you that have not had the pleasure of uttering Pittsburgh in my presence...this post should hopefully enlighten you to some of the reasons I loathe and despise everything that has to do with black and gold.

(Note: Each Pittsburgh Steelers reference will contain a link to something I think is better than the Pittsburgh Steelers - because that is how much I hate them.  Enjoy.)

I loved book fairs in elementary school.  I always bought posters at the book fair - because I hated reading - and I remember the year that I bought a Marshall Faulk poster.  It was 1994 - his rookie year.  I had until that point been a Redskins fan - by default I would say - but I decided with the purchase of this poster that I would be a Colts fan. 

Steps for Becoming a Fan of a Team:

1. Have a reason.  (check: Marshall Faulk)
2. Figure out who else is on the team.  Start with the quarterback if he wasn't the initial reason.

Enter Jim Harbaugh. 

1994 was nothing to brag about for Harbaugh.  He only started 9 of the 16 games, and threw 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in that time.

And then the 1995 season came along. 

If you look at the Colts record that year (9-7), it would be a fair assumption that if they did in fact make the playoffs they were a Wild Card team and probably had no chance at even winning the first game.

In actuality, they were the 5th seed.  The 4th, 5th AND 6th seeds were 9-7 that year. 

In addition the Colts' losses were, with the exception of one, all by six points or less.  They were riding the legs of Marshall Faulk and the determination and fourth quarter performances of the eventual Comeback Player of the Year winner Jim Harbaugh.  It was the most exciting season of football I have ever watched.

They had to win the last game of the season to make the playoffs.  They did - by three.  Then, they had to face a team they had already lost to that season.  And proceeded to win by 15.  Being the fifth seed meant they would next have to face the team with the best record in football that year - the Kansas City Chiefs.

So you know this was a long time ago.

The Colts won that game on a late field goal and so were headed to the AFC Championship Game to face none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was the fourth quarter.  The Colts were down 20-16, and they were driving down the field to win the game.  It came down to the last play of the game - a Hail Mary into the endzone.  Harbaugh threw the ball in the air - like he had done so many times before that season - and I saw Aaron Bailey catch it.

The Worst Moment in My Sports Life
And then I saw him drop it.

And then I couldn't see much more through the tears in my eyes.  I sobbed because we had lost a game I knew we should have won.  I was angry because it was CLEARLY pass interference and he had STILL almost made the catch, but couldn't hold on.  I cried because they didn't call it, and I cried because I was a 9 year old kid who had loved a team and it's quarterback more than I had loved almost everything else up until that point in my life.

So my hatred of Pittsburgh began.  The Colts lost to the Steelers by 28 points in the playoffs the next year, and eventually drafted some punk out of Tennessee to replace Harbaugh.  Guy by the name of Peyton Manning.

And so my love for the Colts dwindled as the true reason I had loved them left, and my hatred for the Steelers was born as they stole our season on a bad call and proceeded to blindfold Neil McDonnell for the Super Bowl - wasting that stolen opportunity.  The Colts would have won it all - there is no doubt in my mind.  Harbaugh finished second in the MVP voting that year, and I have never enjoyed watching someone play the game of football as much as I enjoyed him.

Fast forward to Penn State.  I had gone on to follow the Eagles for a bit - because I enjoyed watching Donovan McNabb for some clearly unknown reason - and Penn State seemed to be a wonderful place to continue that.  The Eagles had no rivalry with the Steelers  so I didn't see any problem coexisting with those fans and cheering for my team.  Until I became friends with some Steelers fans.  And lived with one.  

Because I realized how incredibly obnoxious those stupid towels are.  And how incredibly frustrating it is to hear someone reference 4 Super Bowl wins that happened AT LEAST 20 YEARS before they were born.  I don't care what happened in the 1970's.  It has no bearing on your team now.  And our teams don't have a rivalry - so please stop asking me the ridiculous question, "Wait, how many Super Bowl wins does YOUR team have?"

BECAUSE IT DOESN'T MATTER!  When I make the comment that my team will be good this year, the response that I am looking for is, "Yeah?  We probably will be good too.  Maybe we will play in the Super Bowl."  Then you can ask me the question about Super Bowl wins.  Because if you beat us in that game, it matters.  Otherwise it has NO BEARING ON ANYTHING because there is no bad blood between our teams in any other location but the middle of an otherwise deserted area of Pennsylvania - State College.

So why do I hate Pittsburgh?  Because for four years I was convinced that I SHOULD hate Pittsburgh.  Well now I do - and I don't feel bad about it.  Nothing would please me more than to watch that stadium burn to the ground.  I would rather PAY to watch a WNBA game than BE PAID to watch the Steelers play.  I would rather stick my hand in a working piston and listen to each one of my fingers break than wrap my hand around one of those insidious towels.  Because this hatred has grown to such an extreme, I have found only three reasons why the city of Pittsburgh is worth keeping.  And trust me, one bad experience would certainly shift my feelings in the wrong direction.  They are as follows:

The third of those reasons is clearly conditional, as I believe he is currently regrowing said beard.  So there are really only two reasons that make me have even a speck of respect for anything the city of Pittsburgh does.  My brother in law Cameron said it best:  The state of Pennsylvania should do what Virginia did and cut off the crappy part of it - leaving Pennsylvania and West Pennsylvania.

I could not agree more.  I hate Pittsburgh, and I will until they bury me six feet under the ground.  What else am I doin' right now?