Monday, January 15, 2007

top ten


10. It is possible to play an entire game and not have to touch the ball.

9. There is no playbook.

8. Everyone gets a trophy just for playing.

7. No huddles.

6. Game ends in a 2 – 2 tie and everyone is o.k. with it.

5. It is the same as ice hockey without the ice.

4. Game ends in a 0 – 0 tie and everyone calls it a great game.

3. Because they only show highlights on ESPN every four years.

2. There is no reason to run that much unless someone is chasing you.

1. Two words: Soccer Mom.

death road

A few nights ago Bonnie and I were watching a program on the Discovery Channel concerning “The World’s Most Dangerous Road.” This road known around the world as “The Death Road” is located in Bolivia, South America, winding through the Andean Mountains connecting the cities of La Paz and Coroico. Leaving La Paz, the world’s highest capital city at just under 4,000m above sea level, the road climbs up another 1000m into the mountains. It then plunges down through rainforest to the green plains and farm land some 3,200m below. The road was built by Paraguayan prisoners of war back in the 1930s. Many of them perished in the effort. Now it is mainly Bolivians who die on the road in their thousands. Every year it is estimated 200 to 300 people die on a stretch of road less than 50 miles long. In one year alone, 25 vehicles plunged off the road and into the ravine. That is one every two weeks. The roadside is littered with plain wooden crosses in remembrance of the people who perish each year. Cars, buses and bikes have all plummeted off the road whether through bad weather, bad driving or natural hazards such as waterfalls that propels vehicles down the side of the mountain. The Bolivian government has been working on a safer highway that would save many lives, but after millions of dollars and 20 years the end is still not in sight. “The Death Road” has become a world renowned attraction for the country of Bolivia. Some companies set up biking adventure tours for thrill seekers to come and ride “The Death Road.”

This road in Bolivia reminds me of another road that is known throughout the world as the “Via Dolorosa” which is Latin for “Way of Grief.” The “Via Dolorosa” is a street in old Jerusalem traditionally held to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. People from all over the world make their way to this street to see the place that our Savior walked, to possibly put their feet on the same stones that Jesus touched a couple thousand years ago on his way to “Golgotha.” The bible tells us that “Golgotha” means place of the skull and history tells us that this hill outside of Jerusalem is where many were crucified including Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus came to this place willingly, but he was not seeking a thrill. Jesus walked the “Way of Grief” because of love, because of mercy, because of me. After a night of false accusations and drummed up charges, Jesus, beaten, mocked and forced to carry his own cross made his way down the “Via Dolorosa.” While we could compare this road to “The Death Road” in Bolivia, I would rather think of it as “The Life Road.” It is true that at the end of this road was death for Jesus, but there was life for me. Like “The Death Road” there is a wooden cross on this road, but this cross is the cross of Calvary. Jesus death, this sacrifice opened another road for me and you. This road leads to life everlasting.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


A couple nights ago I took my daughters to their first high school basketball game. My girls are almost three, I have a buddy who coaches the varsity team at one of the local high schools and Bonnie needed a break, so I figured it was time. I loaded them in the old station wagon and headed for the gym. When we got there I had a terrible time finding a parking place. As we approached the ticket gate it was obvious that I was getting myself into something. The lobby to the gym where they were selling tickets was packed. There was a lot of confusion as if they weren't really expecting this many people either. Luckily I was pushing through the mob when my buddy's wife happened to show up and somehow she gets me through the crowd and the metal detector and into the gym. As we round the corner and look into the gym, I notice two things, the first quarter is mostly over, and there isn't a seat in the house. It's standing room only. So I followed Tara and her daughter (who is also three) and the five of us sat in the seats that her father-in-law had saved for her and her daughter.

So at least we have a seat and I finally look around a little to see what's happening. You know when you are in the middle of a situation where you are a little out of sorts and you are trying to figure out what to do, you get tunnel vision. Well I knew the place was full, but now that I was in a seat I realized that this place is FULL. It was like all these individuals had packed themselves into this place and become one entity. The crowd. The place was pulsing with humanity. And there is nothing more alive than a crowd, especially a crowd of mostly high schoolers. It was loud. It was hot. I could feel the humidity of breath and sweat. It was close. It was frenetic. It was my girls first basketball game. The entire first half they sat and watched. I thought any minute one of them would lose it and we would have to leave. But they watched the scene with eyes open. I wasn't sure what they thought of it until the next day Ella asked Bonnie, "Do you remember when we watched the boys chase the man with the whistle?" I never thought of basketball in those terms, but it has been a long time since I was three.

We make it through the first half and things seem to relax a little. The people around us got up and the deck got shuffled and we somehow got enough room that the girls could stand up and even eat a few Cheerios. The second half began with my buddy's team losing by five or six. I knew that his team was pretty good this year from an article I had read in the paper a few weeks back. What I didn't know is that this game was against one of the other top schools in the district from across town. This is why the place was packed. It had been a long time since I had been to a high school basketball game and it made it even more fun knowing that my friend was the coach right in the middle of the whole thing. The second half went back and forth and the crowd didn't back down at all. Really the crowd seemed to get worse. About mid-way through the fourth quarter I noticed the home team cheerleaders were out in the middle of the floor during a time-out directing a cheer to the opposing cheerleaders. I couldn't make out the words, but from the crowd's reaction they were taunting the opposing school. During the next time-out one of the visitor's cheerleaders began doing back hand springs down the length of the gym which was followed by three of the home team's cheerleaders doing the same on the other side of the gym to the delight of both schools spirited fans. I played basketball in high school so maybe I was just oblivious to what the cheerleaders did, but I don't remember this type of exchange, ever. Plus there was never a crowd at any of our games since we were pretty rotten. All this just adds to intensity of the crowd. The game went down to the wire with my buddy's team making a comeback in the last two minutes and winning the game.

The game ends. The home team wins. The fans are happy. We say our good-byes and thank-yous and exit the building. On the way back to the car one of the home team cheerleaders is explaining the game to her dad who had come to pick her up. I overheard her telling him the highlights of the game. She told him about how she and the other cheerleaders had done a certain cheer and how they had put the opposing team's cheerleaders in their place and the crowd went wild. I mean she was excited about the game. She literally bounded and jumped and cheered her way all the way to her car. That was the game she saw. You know everyone there saw the same game, but they each saw a different game. I saw my friend's team come from behind and win a significant game in the district. His wife saw her husband's team play well for their coach. The parents saw their sons win or lose as the case may be. And Ella saw a bunch of boys chasing the man with the whistle. It was the same game, but many different perspectives. To the cheerleader "the game" was between cheer leading squads. That was the most important thing that happened in there. Ask any player and they are probably clueless as to what happened between the cheering squads. I don't think it is wrong for us all to see it differently. Each of us has a little different reality.

I think the point of this story is this. We should be alright with other's reality. As a matter of fact, maybe we should take the time to notice and find out what those other realities are. Maybe we could make a bigger impact in the world if we could see what others see. The homeless. The poor. The brokenhearted. The outcasts. We all live in the same world. We all breathe the same air. But we don't all share the same reality.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

prove it

I was talking to a friend recently and we were discussing our devotion to God and the way we sometimes take advantage of God. It's incredible, here is God and He loves us unconditionally. The God who spoke into existence everything and He loves me. No strings attached, no rules, no expectations, He just loves me. The apostle Paul says it this way:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Sometimes we get hung up trying to convince God that He should love us, but the fact is no matter what we do, good or bad, God will still love us. So here's what I do, I take advantage of God. I do the things that oppose God or don't do the things that would please God knowing that His love for me will not change.

I'll try to put this in human terms. Let's say you are dating someone and they like you a lot and you like them. And let's say that the relationship continues to grow and eventually you and this person fall in love. You are so in love. Perhaps you even get married. And maybe you get to the point where that person loves you so much that even if you made some mistakes it wouldn't really matter, they would still continue to love you. So eventually you begin to realize that no matter what you did this person still loves you. Little by little you test that love. It is small things at first, but eventually you find yourself cheating on them. Here you are married and having an adulterous affair. It is awful. You would be taking advantage of the one who loves you so much. I am amazed to find out that there have been couples who have stayed together after such a situation. I even know of a family who stayed together after one of them had a child with someone else outside of their marriage. Isn't that what we do to God? We agree to start a relationship with Him and we continually realize how much he loves us. But eventually we get to the point where we know that He loves us unconditionally and we slowly take advantage of God. Maybe we never have an outright rebellion, but subtly we take advantage of God.

So what does this mean for my devotion to God? I want to do right. I want to reciprocate God's love. I want to stop taking advantage of God. In my marriage I choose everyday whether I will do the things to make my wife happy. I don't do those things to earn her love, I know she loves me. It is not to prove to her my love, she knows I love her. Really whether I demonstrate my love to my wife or not is mostly about whether I want to humble myself before her, and do the things that make her happy. Do I want to put her needs and wants before my own? When our relationship is clicking it is because we both work hard at serving each other. We are not trying to earn each other's love, really we are simply living out the love we have for each other. I don't devote myself to God because I am trying to earn God's love, or because I need to prove it, but I simply need to live out the love I have for Him.