Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I have been reflecting a lot lately on what I have learned both over the last two years and in just the last couple of weeks. During one session of reflection I recalled something my dad said to me once about learning. He said: "Once we stop learning, we stop growing." This short but pithy phrase has stuck with me for years and has often challenged me not to be stagnant, not to just get by in life, but to pursue growth, challenge myself, and seek wisdom and understanding.
Blessed Lord, please teach me to live as you would have me live. Please grant me wisdom and courage. Please speak to me for I long to hear your voice. In all things may my life bring you praise, honor, and glory. Amen.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I have also included another photograph of an inscription on the Hope Bell, which stands in the front yard cemetary of the church. It was a gift to the United States by Great Britain after September 11, 2001. In light of the pictures in the church, the stump with all of its scars, and the sheer weight of the place in which we stood this inscription spoke volumes that could not be verbalized and for much of our visit neither Josh nor I talked all that much.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Outside the stadium there were more vendors selling New York Yankees memorabilia than Orioles memorabilia! On top of that, by observing the masses moving into the stadium you could easily wager that nearly two thirds of the fans were wearing Yankees jerseys, hats, or other clothing! We were even more disheartened to find that when anything happened to go the way of the Yankees during the game, the stadium would erupt with cheers and excitement! Every single inning played host to a chant repeated over and over: "Lets go Yankees!" "Lets go Yankees!" This experience flew in the face of everything baseball is all about! Where was the home town pride? Where were the faithful fans decked out in their orange and black coming to cheer their team on, and heckle the highest paid team in baseball!? They didn't even sing the traditional seventh inning stretch song Take me out the Ball Game. This was probably because of the line: root root root for the home team, if they don't win its a shame. There was acutally a section of the team store dedicated to New York Yankee player Alex Rodriguez! AHHHH!!!! What a stupid idea!
All this is to say, that I was deeply saddened by the lack of enthusiasm for the home team, and I wondered how hard it must have been for the Oriole players to try to mount a worthwhile competition when the crowd would erupt with positive noise every time the opposing team got a hit or turned a double play. I just hope that somehow, some way Orioles fans band together to fight this injustice, and that everyone takes pride in the team they support, never giving in to the gilded and shallow pinstripes whose talent is simply bought and paid for every year and never won through hard work and a team mentality!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The next leg of our Philadelphia journey took us to the area near South St. to two well known eateries across the street from one another. Ask any local and they will tell you, the only place to get real Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches is at either Geno's or Pat's. Legend has it that neither owner as set foot on the other's property. Aaron and I availed ourselves of the culinary masters and each sampled the cheese steaks. It was a delectable experience. Both were amazing! However, if we were forced to choose we had to lean ever so slightly toward Geno's. There was something about the meat that was just a little richer, just a little more tasty.
The final stop on our runaround tour of the "City of Brotherly Love" was the local major league baseball park. It is called Citizen's Bank Park and it is home to the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. This was an unforgettable experience. The game was delayed from the beginning by rain, thunder, and lightning; however, after waiting for two hours the game began and the sun broke through the clouds! On the mound for the Phillies was former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer. The highlight of the game had to be our seats which were in center field just above the grass and right next to a TV camera man! Although in close second to the seats was Jamie Moyer's bunt for a triple in the third inning which was made possible by two Pittsburgh Pirate errors. Aaron and I went to a Mets game at Shea Stadium in New York and during the game there were at least 10 fights in the crowd that had to be broken up by security. I thought that was pretty bad; however, the fans in Philly proved to me that they could one up Mets fans. I kid you not there was not a single inning where the entire left field section chanted at, yelled at, and cajoled the left fielder for the Pirates. I was blown away at how crazy they were! They didn't cut this poor guy any slack, and to make matters worse he dropped a pop fly in the 6th inning and they let him have it twice as bad for the rest of the game!
All in all this was an awesome outing to the home of Will Smith and Rocky Balboa! If you are ever in Philly I recommend taking in the sites, the sounds, the tastes, and avoiding any confrontations with the athletic fans!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
He started to get hot, blazing hot in fact. Crack, crack, crack came the sound as he swung the lumber and sent baseballs to their deaths a veritable ocean of human beings. He reached the mark of about 15 home runs and all of the sudden it dawned on me: this twenty something year old baseball player had tens of thousands of baseball fans on their feet and chanting his name at the top of their lungs. And if that wasn't enough to make this scene a crazy frenzy he kept hitting home runs. The record for most home runs hit in the first round of the derby was set in 2004 by Bobby Abreu of the New York Yankees at 24 home runs (no small feat!). However, the young Mr. Hamilton went on a freakish tear cruising right up to and passing the 24 mark. It was at this point that I found myself being carried by my adrenaline. Every crack of the bat made my eyes open wide and my mouth drop even lower. I watched as the rabid fans who packed the stadium to the brim were on their feet chanting "Ham-il-ton! Ham-il-ton! Ham-il-ton!" and every time he hit a home run the immeasurable surge of decibels filled the stadium and I am convinced probably most of New York City as well.
While this near super human display of physical strength and power was being unleashed on the teeming masses, the commentators began to fill in some rather insightful and emotive background on this young slugger. He had been a first round draft pick to the major league baseball a couple of years ago and when he came up to play he eventually made some poor choices one of which was using heroine, he eventually left the major leagues and found himself hopeless and out of touch with what was once his dream, playing baseball. It was in the lowest of the low that Josh Hamilton said he found God speaking to him. In an interview after the derby he explained his belief that his faith and the grace of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ carried him through the rehab process of getting rid of the drugs in his life. He rediscovered his love for baseball and at one point during the derby it was reported that he had a dream after coming back to baseball that he would one day participate in the all-star home run derby at Yankee Stadium. This was long before they had picked the site for the 2008 All-Star derby and game! As I sat and watched this amazingly talented baseball player crush balls into the center field bleachers as well as into the upper deck I found myself overwhelmed by his story. I was seriously brought to the brink of tears. I saw redemption. I saw God's faithfulness to never leave us nor forsake us, even when we are faithless and make mistakes (which we all do!). I saw a young man, who had been given another chance to realize his dream of playing baseball and do something that God gave him the gifts and talent to do. Some people might think that hitting a baseball over a fence, or playing a game is not ministry or that you can't play baseball and serve God at the same time, well, I would have to disagree with those people. I would have to say that I believe you can use your status as a baseball player to bring awareness to important issues, inspire giving to charitable causes, and you can play baseball for God's glory.
The entire experience of watching this indescribable scene was amazing! When Mr. Hamilton had reached something around the 28 home run mark, one of the commentators who had been retelling Mr. Hamilton's inspiring story said: "Look at this kid! All I can say is that it is a hard night to be an atheist!" I chuckled.
Mr. Hamilton chose to ask his city league batting coach from back home to come with him to the home run derby and be his pitcher (each slugger can choose who they want to have pitch to them during the derby). This coach was over 70 years old! All told, by the end of the derby the coach had thrown more pitches than years in his life, and more pitches than most starting pitchers throw in a major league game!!!
Well, the story of this home run derby ended with Josh Hamilton actually losing the final round to Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. Honestly, I love the fact that Justin Morneau won because I am a huge Twins fan, but inside I am so torn, because Josh Hamilton did something amazing and I believe God did something amazing through him. What an amazing story and for baseball fans/disciples of Jesus Christ?! What a tale to tell?! Thus the story of my being torn between a Twin and a Miracle will be one that I will look upon for inspiration and with fond recollection for the rest of my life!
Monday, July 21, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
It seems there is a tension that we as believers have to struggle with. We are faulted, flawed, mistake making individuals and communities, and at the same time we are called to exemplify Christ-likeness (Christian means "little Christ"). We are called to live a life of devotion, understanding that we depend on grace. I hope and pray that we can learn lessons from our sordid past that we can look at the mistakes our Christian forbears have made and strive to not make those mistakes, discerning our place in history, and praying for the grace to live as God would have us live in testament to God's love.
Hitchens also seems to thrust a false distinction upon religious faith. He says that religion and faith has strived to keep people in a state of naivete. He cites science as a specific example of a area of human inquiry and study where religion is losing its power to explain because it is no longer in a position of controlling power such as to force its position upon the naive masses. While I fully acknowledge the many mistakes the Church has made in dealing with scientific inquiry and discovery I do not believe science and faith are mutually exclusive categories any more. Why should I be forced to choose between science and faith? They need not necessarily be dichotomized.
I appreciate Hitchens' honest reflections and forthright critique of religious faith; however, I am not persuaded that Hitchens has read enough of Christian thinkers between the 3rd century and the 15th century. There are quite a few (men and women) who grappled with the questions of God's existence and honestly dealt with critique of the Church and the behavior of its leaders and adherents.
Hitchens makes it clear that he sees faith as naive. Faith is not naive, just as long as it doesn't settle for easy answers and remains "faith seeking understanding."