Monthly Archives: January 2014

God’s Favorite on Super Bowl Sunday

I rooted for the 49ers on Sunday.  Not real hard, mind you, but I kind of like this crafty Colin character and I didn’t know anything about Seattle except that they wouldn’t sell tickets to 49er fans…or something.  I don’t have time to get to the bottom of these rumors; it’s more enjoyable to be swayed by whispers and innuendos.

But afterward I was reading about the game and the teams, and I found out that Russell Wilson, QB for Seattle, is a Christian.  He tweets Bible verses and is pretty vocal about his faith.  Can’t argue with that.

Manning bookHowever, I’m still rooting for Denver.  I spent an hour or more of my life recently reading the entire Sports Illustrated cover story on Peyton Manning, Sportsman of the Year. What a classy guy, and of course, brimming with talent.  I found out that he writes all his fans back who send him a letter.  Just once, though, in case you were thinking to start a correspondence.

Plus, his brother has two Super Bowl rings, and two Super Bowl MVPs, which has got to make Thanksgiving tough.  So, I’m going with Denver.  I want Peyton to have a more digestible turkey dinner this year.

And then, last evening, though Sports Illustrated made no mention of it, I discovered something reading an excerpt from Peyton’s book, aptly titled, Manning: A Father, His Sons and a Football Legacy:

“Like my dad, I make it a point when I speak to groups to talk about priorities, and when it’s schoolkids, I rank those priorities as: faith, family, and education, then football. For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. And I tell all of them that as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: “If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?” Cooper was there and Eli [Peyton’s two brothers] but it didn’t hit them at the time the way it did me. It was a big church, and I felt very small, but my heart was pounding. The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.

“But I got up and did it. And I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been most important to me ever since. Some players get more vocal about it—the Reggie Whites, for example—and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism than I already am.

Well, how about that, huh?

But I really liked Peyton’s take on God’s favorite:

“Ah, but do I “pray for victory?” No, except as a generic thing. I pray to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability. But I don’t think God really cares about who wins football games, except as winning might influence the character of some person or group. Besides. If the Colts were playing the Cowboys and I prayed for the Colts and Troy Aikman prayed for the Cowboys, wouldn’t that make it a standoff?”

Smart guy.  And though heaven is neutral, I’ll be in his corner for the big game.  And yet I won’t be too disappointed if Russell Wilson wins it all…as long as Richard Sherman doesn’t get MVP.


Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The End of Christmas

IMG_20140114_130204_816The Christmas tree has been mocking me as I pass it daily in the living room, even starting to give off a strong evergreen smell in recent days, which seems weird.  Anyway, it’s my day off, and so we took some time over lunch to start the job of putting away ornaments and lights – we’ll finish another day – which is akin to taking a band-aid off slowly.

Josh missed it – no doubt a result of his evil plan to get back to college before he had to do his part.  Chip off the old block, I guess.  One year Diane did it all on her own.  That wasn’t good. Christmas tree untrimming should be a team sport.

And the task wasn’t so bad, I suppose.  I got some wood together this morning and the fireplace was going strong.  Diane actually read to us as we worked.  The girls are home-schooled and she reads to them most every lunch.  Yes, even juniors in high school like someone reading to them.  Maybe even 49 year olds like that.

Before the job started, I was returning a faulty gift at Walgreens and ran into a friend who said she appreciated our family Christmas traditions, which I guess I have mentioned in a sermon sometime…like the family slumber party around the Christmas tree one night each season.  Yeah, well, we didn’t check that one off or a number of others this year.  Blame it on the new college kid, or Diane’s relatively new job at the library, or the girls in basketball for the first time, or 1,001 other things.  Busy, I guess.  But we did cut down the tree together and enjoy a family trimming party.

Putting up the Christmas tree with eggnog and Bing Crosby crooning is tradition.  Taking it down is work…joy in reverse.

The kids all have their own ornaments that we (well, I guess Diane actually) has picked out for them through the years.   I was tasked with putting Josh’s away.  Humpty-dumpty was a gift around age 2 and he has been missing a leg for years, which seems somewhat fitting, but the appendage showed up under the tree today in a post-Christmas miracle.  Apparently you can put Humpty together again.

That was the good news.

IMG_20140114_141458_546On the bad news front, there was the obligatory breakage.  Astro the wonder dog fell to his death on our hard wood floors.  There was brief mourning – Diane had grown up with the pup on her family Christmas tree.  So she looked him up on eBay to consider a replacement.   Someone had just sold the same Astro ornament for $75.  Guess that’s not gonna happen.  Diane wondered if she wanted Astro back for the memories…or the cash?

This is the hardest time of the year, when the light is brief and the darkness, long.  Christmas is packed away.  Bleak midwinter stretches ahead.  Traditions are replaced by work.

But with hope I remember the days are getting longer.  Before too long, Punxsutawney Phil will be prophesying the end of winter.  And the joy of Christmas?  Well, by my count, it’s only 344 days away.

Maybe we should leave the tree up this year.  It does smell nice.


Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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As Wise as Ever After 84 Years

IMG_20140103_185334_566We had quite a celebration this past Friday night.  Mom turned 84.

Annie was out of town, but the rest of us made big plans to take the birthday girl to Culvers where she enjoys Root beer and cheeseburgers.  I knew the frigid temperature and biting wind could be a factor in our scheme, but I guess I didn’t realize how much.  In the end, we actually made three attempts to get her from the warmth of the Christian Homestead into my waiting car, but she howled in protest each time we ventured outdoors.  We compromised by bringing A & W to her.

Josh, a CNA who has actually worked a few shifts at the Homestead, noted like a sage that you often don’t know what a person with Alzheimer’s actually wants and needs – but when you do know, well, of course, you try to meet those desires.  And we knew.  She wanted to stay inside…where it’s warm.

She’s always been a smart lady.

And that never really stops, even though nowadays she can’t have a conversation with me about the latest book she’s read (she used to devour novels) or pontificate about what’s going on in the Nation’s Capital (she was once the definition of a political junkie).

Anyway, as I think about her 84 years on planet earth, and my years with her, one lesson in particular stands out:

It was late 1982 or 1983 – I was a new Christian, home from recently resigning at West Point and growing in my newfound faith at the Antioch Evangelical Free Church.  The following year I would head to the U of I to pursue a business degree, but for now I was working days at a factory in Addison, Illinois and spending much of the evenings at a Bible study or hanging out with other single adults from our church.

One night I came home at about 10 p.m., relatively late in light of the fact that I would be getting up around 4:30 or 5 the next morning for work.  Dad had gone to sleep, but she was up, surely waiting for me, and when I walked in, she asked me how my day had been.

“Fine,” I said curtly, “but I can’t talk now – I haven’t read my Bible yet, and I’m committed to the daily quiet time.” And I was off to my room…to do the most important thing.

I thought no more of it, that is, until the next day, when I came home from work and found a note on the desk in my bedroom. Though I don’t have the letter she wrote today, the thought behind it is as fresh as the day she wrote it.

“Rog, I appreciate your desire to read the Bible.  It seems like that is something a good Christian should do.  But in the future, you might want to also consider something the Bible itself teaches, words of one of my favorite passages of Scripture…”

You know what she wrote out, right?

That afternoon on the desk in my bedroom in our duplex at 650 North Avenue, I found the immortal words from Paul the Apostle to the church at Corinth.  She wrote out the whole of 1 Corinthians 13.  I’ll just give you the first part:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 4 (NIV)

And after reading her note that day, I like to think that maybe, just maybe…I’ve never been the same.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Mom.  Thanks for everything.  Let’s keep warm, huh?

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


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“Flabby Hearts and Love Handles”

I’m on it.  I had oatmeal for breakfast today and yesterday, and before that, I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  The scale motivated me – scary – that’s the word.  If I had kept better records in the last 6 weeks, I might have been in contention for a world record in speed of gaining weight.  If that’s not in Guinness, it ought to be, so…as I said, I’m on it: I want to do the world record in the opposite direction.

Oh, Thanksgiving and Christmas were fine, just fine.  Turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes, then eggnog (not the low fat variety, mind you, after all, we only drink it once a year) and sugar cookies and Diane’s delicious fudge and more tasty meals.  Salt sugar fat.  There’s a book out by that title and it’s probably right up my alley.

A fast-increasing number on the scale – surely an important matter, but this morning I was reminded of an even greater concern.  I was reading Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers, and the prayer today was entitled, “A Prayer about Flabby Hearts and Love Handles,” motivated by a long wait at his gym in early January for his favorite elliptical machine:

“Once again, scores of us seem ready to leave the sugar/ butter/ carbohydrate binge of the past six weeks for the purge of exercise and sweat…Yet I’ve never been more aware that spiritual formation based on the “binge and purge” cycle simply doesn’t work. Our spiritual hearts need to be strengthened by the grace of the gospel daily, all year long. We cannot afford periods of ‘cruise control,’ when we leave the banquet of your love for a buffet of comfort foods, fast foods, and junk foods. Just like the physical hearts you’ve given us, our spiritual heart muscles will atrophy if we don’t take care of them…By the convicting work of your Holy Spirit, let us be far more concerned about flabby, graceless hearts than bigger love handles.”

Amen.  So, walking the treadmill is important, and pushing back from the table is crucial; but as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9, ESV)  Therefore, in the New Year, may we be a people who daily dive into the Ocean of God’s Word not so we may say we read it, but because we want to meditate on His love.  And in the New Year, let’s be people who depend daily on Him through prayer, knowing that any other kind of life is a life foolishly dependent on self; and apart from Him, we can do nothing.  And finally, in the New Year, let’s commit to the blessing of corporate worship where we celebrate and meditate on the Cross with other pilgrims who are passing through this world.

These are the things that will lead us to joy and keep us truly alive in 2014.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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