Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Favorite Athletes

I have several lists of "Favorites" on the right hand column of my blog. One of the categories is "Favorite Athletes." I am a sports nut. I was never a great athlete (in fact, I was rather sub par), but I love sports . . . as a spectator!

My favorite sports are football and baseball. I also like golf, tennis, and basketball. If playing is involved, add volleyball to the list.

From my list of favorite athletes, it should be obvious who my favorite teams are: the Dallas Cowboys (pro football) and the St. Louis Cardinals (pro baseball). Add the Oklahoma Sooners to the list if we are talking college football. And, don't forget the San Antonio Spurs (pro basketball). Of course, to throw a bone to my Colorado friends, I must add the Denver Broncos as a distant second NFL favorite, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have supplanted the L. A. Dodgers as my second favorite baseball team.

Now back to my favorite athletes . . . .

I love athletes who are first and foremost gentlemen away from the game . . . good sportsmen, great husbands and fathers and members of the community. I root for those who have overcome great difficulties to become what they are today. Of course, it helps if they wear a star or a redbird on their uniform/jersey!

My favorites . . . .

#1- Roger Staubach . . . would any self-respecting Cowboy fan have any other at the top of his (or her) list? Simply the greatest . . . a legend! My only regret? I was only 10 years old when he retired from the NFL (I still remember his announcement . . . broadcast on the radio as I was in the car with my family returning from a trip to Oklahoma). The only game I remember vividly with him playing at quarterback is the 1978 Super Bowl . . . vs. Denver . . . Dallas creamed them, 27-10!!! And, against an old Cowboy at that . . . Craig Morton.

#2- Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean . . . Hall of Fame pitcher for the "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis Cardinals of the 1930's. I was born in 1970, so how did "Dizzy" make the list? Strat-o-matic Baseball gets the credit (my junior high through high school years were spent playing Strat-0-matic!). My team? The 1934 Cardinals. Dizzy was 30-7 that year and won two games in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers (his brother "Daffy" won two more to hand the Cardinals the Championship).

#3- Bill Bates . . . simply the toughest Dallas Cowboy to ever wear the uniform. And, that says a lot for a franchise that boasts the likes of Randy White, Bob Lilly, "Too Tall" Jones, Darren Woodson, Roy Williams, and Charles Haley. I am wondering when Jerry Jones is going to get around to retiring #40 and installing Bates in the Ring of Honor.

#4- Nolan Ryan . . . I was already a big fan the night I saw Ryan interviewed following his record 7th no-hitter (his closest competitor has only 4!). Instead of celebrating with champagne or a night out on the town, Ryan was interviewed while he was riding an exercise bicycle . . . his work was not done for the night. Hard work. Perseverance. Nolan Ryan knew the secret to success. (Another Ryan highlight: beating Robin Ventura senseless when the White Sox 1B charged the mound on him.)

#5- Jack Nicklaus . . . even with a Tiger on the prowl, the "Golden Bear" is still the definitive golfer of all time . . . and a class act off of the course.

#6- Pete Sampras . . . quiet, unassuming, "lights out" on the tennis court. Never the showman, always the professional.

#7- Joe "Ducky" "Muscles" Medwick . . . another "Gashouse Gang" alum. One the of the most forgotten greats of the game. He was the best all-around hitter in the National League during the 1930's. He is the last NL batter to win the Triple Crown (1937). His picture graces the top of this post.

#8- Satchel Paige . . . if it had not been for the blatant racism in baseball during the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, Satchel would have gone down as the single greatest pitcher in the history of the Major Leagues. His stuff was unbelievable. He comes as close to a pitcher being able to "call his pitches" and get anyone out at anytime.

#9- Albert Pujols . . . another Cardinal . . . perhaps, by the end of his career, the greatest hitter the Cardinals have ever had. And, that says a lot for a team that has boasted Stan Musial, Ducky Medwick, Johnny Mize, and the incomparable Rogers Hornsby.

Beyond my Top 9 . . . Tim Duncan, Tony Romo, Randy White, Tony Gwynn, Francis Oimet (thanks to the Shia LaBouf movie I recently saw), Chris Evert (had to have a female on the list), George Foreman, David Robinson . . . .

Of course, no list of athletes would be complete without mention of a coach. My favorite coaches list begins and ends with one name . . . no either need apply. His name? Tom Landry. Who else's name belongs there?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Simple & Reverant Worship

As Israel came to worship, God demanded simplicity. In Exodus 20.24, he told his people, “You need make for me only an altar of earth.” It was not to be made of dressed stone. It was not to be atop a platform standing high in the sky. A simple earthen altar is all that God wanted.

Israel’s neighbors had erected elaborate and ornate temples in which to worship their gods. Pagan religion was a spectacle, a show, an event! Yet, Yahweh, the Lord of heaven and earth, demanded simple and reverent worship from his people.

I am reminded of the churches without walls that are so common in Third World countries. They are simple structures; basically, a few columns and a thatched roof—enough to keep worshipers shaded from the sun and protected from the rains. These structures are not much to look at, but they provide a place where Christians can gather and worship God. Each Sunday, thousands from all over India come to these place to pray, sing, study and commune.

Our world is filled with ancient cathedrals and modern arenas—ornate and imposing buildings constructed ostensibly to facilitate worship directed to God, but are they not really more for our sensibilities and comforts? I cannot comprehend the millions upon millions of dollars spent to build these structures and to keep them operating.

And, worship has become an event for so many, a show, great spectacle. Praise bands, graphic arts displays, Hollywood-style productions—and, yet, the Israelites were told, “You need make for me only an altar of earth.”

It is in the simplicity of our worship that the heart shines forth and the passion of our faith is most clearly seen. As we gather each week, let us join our voices in pure song, let us join our hearts and minds in prayer, let us open our ears to the honest and straightforward Word of God, and let us share at the table our remembrances of our Lord.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Acts 8.4 . . . A Calling for Today

I opened a new blog today, entitled Acts 8.4. The following article explains what it is about. I would love for your input, involvement and prayerful support.

It seems that the common strategies for church growth consist of a polished and charismatic preacher, a large and ultra-modern facility, and dozens of active programs, among other flashy qualities. The mega-church model is certainly effective, and it is a good thing that these groups are making large impacts for the sake of Christ. BUT, there is another way to share the Gospel . . . more subtle, and even under the radar, but no less important and necessary.

Vocational ministry has been around a long time, even since the beginning days of the church. In fact, vocational ministry certainly predates the professional variety. I doubt Peter ever took much of a paycheck for his preaching . . . perhaps he benefited from the provision of a meal here and there, and perhaps the use of a "bed" to lay his head. And, Paul, often labored with his hands to make possible his evangelistic work. Certainly, the prospects of a consistent salary, housing allowances, IRAs, health insurance, and the like, were centuries away from becoming reality, and, it may seem now, the norm, and expected. BUT, in the beginning days of Christianity, the Gospel was shared, for the most part, by neighbor to neighbor, from one layman to another.

Christianity has made impressive gains in the past 20 centuries. Millions upon millions of people profess faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. And, professional ministry has surely played a big role in this spread. BUT, how much of the growth is the product of ordinary men and women sharing their faith with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers? Surely, a considerable amount.

The example of Acts 8.4 is often overlooked . . . a quick bridge verse connecting the stoning of Stephen with the remarkable ministry of Philip. The verse reads, "So those who were scattered went on their way proclaiming the message of good news" (HCSB). This description comes following a statement that the apostles had remained behind in Jerusalem. The church continued to grow, despite the persecution. The church continued to grow, because of the testimony of the laity . . . average, ordinary men and women convicted in their faith and devoted to sharing what they had discovered in Jesus. Yes, the professionals hit the paths to the mission fields, as well, and educated preachers would make their mark for the sake of Christ. BUT, the church grew, largely, because of the efforts of countless nameless believers.

I live in the western United States, near the shared border of New Mexico and Arizona. Churches here are, for the most part, small, aging and struggling. The mega-church model exists hundreds and thousands of miles from us; it is a model that does not mesh with reality here. The growth strategies of a highly skilled and polished preacher, an imposing facility, and around-the-clock programming are often qualities that are unrealistic here. So, how is the church to grow? Through simplicity, basically, and because of the labors of ordinary men and women. In other words, the ones sitting in the pews must get up and work, and lead, and follow in the steps of Acts 8.4.

BUT, here's a thought and a modern calling . . . how much good could be done by couples trained in various fields--teaching, medicine, business, etc.--relocating from large and effective churches to small and struggling ones? What I am suggesting is that couples and individuals, mature in their faith, and from communities where the church is strong, relocate to areas in the West (and other parts of the country) where the church is weak. For example, a couple graduating with education degrees from Abilene Christian University might choose to find jobs in a town like Aztec, New Mexico or Holbrook, Arizona or Blanding, Utah for the expressed purpose of becoming active in the local church and being a boost to that congregation . . . taking this course, instead of finding employment in Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio, cities where the church is strong, and where one's addition to a congregation would be largely inconsequential (in terms of that church's effectiveness in ministry and outreach).

I call this a modern calling inspired by the example of Acts 8.4, and I find it an important and necessary strategy for church growth in areas where the church (and the Gospel testimony) does not have the footprint it does in other places.

I devote this blog to what I am terming the Acts 8.4 calling. this will be a sounding-board and bulletin board with the expressed purpose of encouraging and facilitating vocational missions (and, particularly, of the variety described in this article). The articles I post here will include profiles of communities where the church is alive but in need of help; in other words, an introduction to places where "transplanted" Christians could be a big help. These profiles will include a description of the communities at large, a survey of employment opportunities, contact information (where known), and other vital information. I invite your feedback and contributions.

Help me make this Acts 8.4 calling a meaningful and productive ministry.

More of Franklin's Words

There are three faithful friends: an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.

We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately. (On signing the Declaration of Independence)

In humility imitate Jesus and Socrates.

After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.

Pity and forbearance should characterize all acts of justice.

Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safetey deserce neither liberty or safety.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of. (Poor Richard)

If you would be loved, love and be lovable.

Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage. (Poor Richard)

God heals and the doctor takes the fee. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

Let thy child's first lesson be obedience, and the second will be what thou wilt.

Plough deep while sluggards sleep.

He that can have patience can have what he will.

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.

Pride that dines on vanity, sups on contempt.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Sooner Pantry

We are moving from room to room in the cottage that we are calling home and sprucing up this big house little by little. The first room to receive a make-over was the pantry. The fresh color scheme will be heart warming to the fans of the best college football program in the country. The colors were my wife's choice, and she isn't even a sports fan! The scheme will be extended into the kitchen. We might have to celebrate by having some Longhorns over for a BBQ!!!

And, yes, that's red paint on the window! My roller got away from me . . . ugh!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Words of Wisdom from the First American

These are a collection of musings uttered by Benjamin Franklin, the first great American.

At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

A single man has not nearly the value he would have in a state of union. He is an incomplete animal. He resembles the odd half of a pair of scissors.

A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district--all studied and appreciated as they merit--are the principal support of virtue, morality and civil liberty.

Carelessness does more harm than a want of knowledge.

Little boats should keep near shore.

Teach your child to hold his tongue, he'll learn fast enough to speak. (Poor Richard's Maxims)

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and His religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.

Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.

A good conscience is a continual Christmas.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.

Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. (Poor Richard's Almanac)

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.

The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, (Like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stript of its lettering and gilding), Lies here, food for worms; But the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author. (Epitaph on Himself, written in 1728)

None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing.

A cheerful face is nearly as good for an invalid as healthy weather.

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you were dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Random Verse

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love
Time is not.
--Henry Van Dyke

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash;
'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
--Shakespeare, Othello

For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
for want of a shoe the horse was lost;
and for want of a horse the rider was lost;
being overtaken and slain by the enemy,
all for want of care about a horseshoe nail.
--Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

Have you had a kindness shown?
Pass it on;
'Twas not given for thee alone,
Pass it on;
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another's tears,
'Til in Heaven the deed appears--
Pass it on.
--Henry Burton

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart;
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
A humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget--lest we forget.
--Rudyard Kipling, Recessional Hymn

Texas Panhandle Plains