Thursday, January 28, 2016
Monday, January 25, 2016
Super Bowl XXIII Souvenirs, Miami, FL
I’m showing my age, but I can go on record as stating that I will have watched all 50 of the NFL Super Bowls! This year’s Super Bowl will be dubbed the “Golden Super Bowl” in recognition of the fifty year anniversary of the event. This will be the first Super Bowl not to use the Roman Numerals to designate the bowl number, as I suspect not too many Romans are left so they just got the “L” out of there.
We watched the Kansas City Chiefs get beaten by the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967. The older NFL Packers were widely favored over the upstart AFL champs. The game was blacked out in the KC area, so we watched the images fade in and out via a homemade antenna I installed in our attic. The cost of a 30 second commercial on that first Sunday was $42,000. But then the Chiefs found redemption in Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings three years later in 1970. This game is also known for the NFL Films miking Chiefs Head Coach Hank Stram for the first time in bowl history. I can still hear Hank yelling at quarterback Len Dawson, “C’mon Lenny! Pump it in there, baby! Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!” And a 30 second commercial had almost doubled to $78,000.
Then as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to attend Super Bowl XXIII at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida on January 22, 1989. Myself and a few other work associates were guests of Sports Illustrated for the weekend with hall of fame defensive host “Mean Joe” Green of the Pittsburg Steelers and offensive host Larry Csonka of the Miami Dolphins. Joe Montana, the ultimate football super hero, guaranteed his hall of fame legacy when he huddled his San Francisco 49ers on their 8 yard line with 3:10 left on the clock and down by a score of 13 to 16. He broke the tension by pointing to Canadian comedian John Candy in the stands and then didn’t take “a plane, train or automobile”, but marched 92 yards for the winning touchdown with just 34 seconds left in the game. Jerry Rice was named MVP. Joe Cool won all four of his Super Bowl starts including consecutive wins in ’89 and ‘90. As the youngest member of our group, I caught a lot of grief by winning our Super Bowl pool. So I gathered my windfall the next morning and commandeered a limo to drive all of us back in style to the airport where a business jet flew us home. A 30 second commercial for that game was up to $675,000.
And now I’m living in North Carolina where the Carolina Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos who are the perennial enemies of the KC Chiefs in Super Bowl 50! I’ve gained a lot of yards over the past fifty years and missed a few PAT’s. We’ve experienced a lot of Super Bowl parties and memorable moments in sports with family and friends. Lately, however, I’m quite content to sit in the warm comfort of home to watch the game on a flat screen television and have a calm, relaxing beer with a simple snack. I’ve finally come to realize that no amount of screaming at the inert electronics will make one iota of difference in the outcome of the game—or the outcome of my life. In fact, I now rather enjoy the commercials more than the game these days. And the price of those 30 second commercials has now risen to a cool $5,000,000 so they'd better be as good as the game for that amount!
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Window Reflections, Chicago, IL
Shattered Window, Greensboro, NC
A TEACHABLE MOMENT
As I was leisurely driving home this morning a shattered, broken window caught my eye. It’s hard to say exactly how that happened. It may have been deliberate vandalism or there may have simply been some sort of an accident here recently. But the image resurrected an incident that had been stored away in my memory ever since my childhood back in central Kansas. Upon reflection, the memory was one of those infamous “teachable moments” that my father had fortunately seized upon to weave responsibility into the fabric of my life.
We were in the backyard of our home with the expanse of an alley separating our yard from our neighbors along with some privacy shrubs and a fence. As I vaguely recall, my dad was warming me up for a scheduled little league baseball game that evening. So he was pitching me some rather smoking fast balls to work on my developing strike out percentage. Needless to say, the neighbor’s property across the alley was in no real jeopardy.
Then the unthinkable happened. As my dad smoked another pitch destined to wiz past me, I actually made a good hand-eye coordinated swing and abruptly returned the baseball over his head and over the fence! The ball was probably the best hit of my life up to that juncture of my dubious baseball career and it promptly crashed through the neighbor’s back window on the first hop. I do believe my initial inclination upon hearing the shattering sound of breaking glass was to just get the heck out of there, while my dad just stood there in shocked amazement. Then he turned to me and calmly stated that we needed to walk over to the neighbors and confess. That seemed a bit too impetuous at the time, but he put his arm around my shoulder and we strode over and admitted our involvement. Then my dad offered to measure the windowpane and replace it for the neighbor. Our neighbor turned out to be quite understanding and the window was replaced in just a couple of hours.
That was a good lesson for a young boy who was faced with possibly his first “hit and run” felony charge and one of those priceless teachable moments growing up. You can never go wrong doing the right thing. That especially applies when something shatters your life and you need to step up to admit your role in a bad situation and work to fix it.
And God will work alongside us to bring good out of any bad situation. For example, our neighbor gave my baseball back to me.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Holy Man, Church of St. Photina, Israel
Jacob's Well, Church of St. Photina, Israel
Jacob's Well Water, Church of St. Photina, Israel
As our tour bus slowly made its way into the town of Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank of Israel, we noticed many people on foot that were smiling and waving to us. Nablus is located near the biblical site of Shechem where Genesis states that Jacob bought land and “pitched his tent”. It is at the entrance to a mountain pass between Mount Gerizim and Ebal. This was the first time we had witnessed such a welcome and we wondered why we were being singled out in this place. Then as one resident gave us the one finger salute it occurred to us that we were the only bus in the area. In fact, our tour hosts had never been able to venture into this area before.
We made our way to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Photina. Many of the pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land are “close approximations” since there weren’t many people at the time when the Son of God walked this land who recognized His true nature. But the well that folks consider was constructed by the patriarch Jacob and where Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman that church legend knows as Photina is still located below this church where it has remained for centuries. It’s one of the most authentic sites in the Holy Land, given that it’s been a functioning well that was originally forty meters deep. Multiple churches have been built over it and destroyed by invading armies and nature along with scores of pilgrims that have tossed stones into the well reducing its depth in half.
We were greeted at the entrance of the church by a bearded holy man dressed in black who led us down a flight of stairs into a crypt below the church. And then we were suddenly standing around the limestone well where the Gospel of John notes that Photina reminded Jesus that Jacob’s “sons and his flocks drank”. Jesus had paused here and asked Photina for a drink as she filled her water jar. Then he offered her spiritual “living water” that flows from within so that she would never thirst again.
Much to my surprise, we were allowed to lower a water bucket into the well which was attached to a simple winch. A green laser light was directed down to the bottom of the well revealing the glistening water below. As the bucket was drawn back up to the top of the well, a tin cup was dipped into the bucket and we were actually offered to share a drink. My recent travel experiences into Mexico and Honduras cautioned me to never drink untreated water. But then I reasoned that this was special as I abandoned all concerns. I lifted the cup to my mouth and experienced a most pleasant, cool, refreshing drink with no after effects. This drink of life sustaining water could only be compared to a unique form of communion in the very footsteps of the Holy One who also shared a similar drink at this well over two thousand years ago. And then left us with the “living water” that continues to sustain us to this day.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Jordan River Headwater Waterfall, Golan Heights, Israel
Dry Falls, Nantahala National Forest, NC
We’ve all witnessed, either on television or in person, both the power and subtle peacefulness of swift roaring rivers at high noon and deep still lakes at dawn. Even so, an old Portuguese proverb warns us to beware of silent dogs and still water! Frozen water can be highly deceptive as well if you ask those who have literally skated on thin ice or oceanic ship captains who have navigated around menacing icebergs of the planet’s frozen poles. If you’ve ever vainly sought out the source of a water stain on the ceiling of your living room at home, you know that water can meander along roof beams and ceiling supports for some time before finally dripping onto your ceiling. Ground water can circumvent all sorts of obstacles such as underground foundations and slowly penetrate the slightest of unprotected cracks and fissures. We must be vigilant and protect our homes from the constant threat of destructive, penetrating moisture.
And water is surprisingly heavy and destructive. A cubic yard of water weighs nearly 1,700 pounds—as much as a Smart micro car. It takes more than three million cubic yards of concrete to hold back the water behind Hoover dam. The pressure of this contained water reaches 45,000 pounds per square foot at its base. Containing the enormous power of this water enables us to generate electricity. We’ve witnessed earthen dams along the Mississippi collapsing when the mighty river floods over its banks. And we’ve stood in awe at the Grand Canyon to see how the Colorado River has carved out the gigantic rock formations over eons of time. Stones are carved into bowls merely by the constant dripping of water over time. We’re drawn to the powerful sounds of moving waves and waterfalls.
Human beings can only live for 3 minutes without air. In a harsh snowing environment, we can only survive for 3 hours. We need water beginning after 3 days or we will perish. It won’t be fun, but we can survive for 3 weeks without food. Water makes up 65% of our bodies and is obviously very essential to all life. Ecclesiastes reminds us that all streams flow into the sea but it never fills because of the continuous cycle of rains over the land. This lifeless inert earthly water only satisfies temporarily and can be destructive.
A church is built on the strong foundation of Christ from whom living water flows. Jesus offered this living water to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well so that it would dwell in her leading to eternal life. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers is like a fountain of living waters that flow out to a thirsty world. Unlike running waters that can harm a physical foundation, these living waters of God’s love strengthen the foundations of all who come into contact with them. They’re dispersed to those seeking meaning and purpose which then flow out into the community and then into all the remote corners of the world. These living waters give us hope and quench our thirst for solace and comfort and new life in a broken world.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Monday, January 4, 2016
Judean Desert Hills, Qumran, Israel
Blooming Desert, Jordan River Valley, Israel
Transforming the desert places
I recently finished a book on the wisdom of Pope Francis where he asks the very basic question, “Why the Cross?” And he answers that “Jesus on the cross feels the whole weight of evil and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection.” It was God’s unconditional love for us that prompted him to wrap himself in human flesh and “present” himself on that first Christmas day. We have to look no further than the cross to understand that love for his creation
Pope Francis also observes, “Let us remember this: God judges us by loving us. If I embrace his love, then I am saved; if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns; he only loves and saves.” That love for his creation also prompted the gift of free will to all humanity. People are not condemned to eternal darkness, rather they volunteer. He didn’t come down at Christmastime to save us from our enemies, but rather ourselves.
The Easter message Pope Francis delivered in 2013 asked “What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.” He went on to say later that year that “A revolution, in order to transform history, must profoundly change human hearts. Revolutions that have taken place throughout the centuries have changed political and economic systems, but none accomplished the true revolution, the one that radically transforms life, with his Resurrection that gave birth to a new world.”