Friday, November 24, 2006

Levi Story #2

Immediately after posting a story about Levi last night I walked into our bedroom to go to bed, but instead I found what could be the most amazing thing Levi has ever done.

What I saw was the T.V. on and Christina sleeping soundly. Levi had gone into our room to snuggle with Christina until I came to bed, at which time he would go to his own bed. When I walked in the room he popped his head up and he looked like an Aztec warrior ready for battle. His face was COVERED in make-up. I don't mean a little streak here or there, I mean C-O-V-E-R-E-D!!!! There was a huge semi-circle of lipstick going from the middle of his forehead, around his right eye, down his cheek, and around to his chin. His eyebrows were jetblack from the mascara (which scared me because he knew to put it on his eyes), and various other colors completed the look. His hands were totally red from an entire bottle of fingernail polish he apparently poured out.

You have to understand that the funniest thing was not that he did all this, but that Christina was out cold for the entire event. Not only did she sleep through his rummaging through her makeup bag, but he had climbed back into bed with her with this all over his face. My first thought when seeing him, "No way she knows he did that."

I kept a straight face for a while. I used my fatherly voice to make sure he knew I was serious that he had done something bad. But by the time I got him into the bathtub I couldn't hold back any more. I'm sure he knew I was really fighting it because he kept looking at me with a half-smile as thought to say, "You know you're impressed." Finally I couldn't control it anymore and I erupted into laughter. That killed any chance for teaching a lesson, but I just wasn't strong enough to hold it in. Christina had to come clean him up, mostly because she knows how to get makeup off, but also because I couldn't stop laughing.

Christina will probably post some pictures of it on her blog. It's worth checking out.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Quick story...

Levi will often tell us stories from his teenage years and/or adulthood. Yes, he's 3, but he frequently says things like, "When I was a teenager I..." or "Yesterday, when I was a grown up, I..." He was recently trying to tell Christina about the job he had when he was a grown up. She was prodding, trying to find out exactly what he was saying. She asked, "Where did you work?" He said, "At the church like Daddy."

"Well what did you do at work?"

"I just walked around and locked all the doors. That's all Daddy does."

Nice to know I'm appreciated.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's a slippery slope

Last night we played the first game of this year's church basketball season. Our team had not practiced together once and most of us had not even picked up a basketball since last year's final game. So needless to say, we were a bit rusty. In the first half we were down by as much as 20 and getting outplayed in every aspect of the game.

Then in the second half we found our shot, started to spread the ball a little better, and did a much better job on defense, bringing us all the way back to within one point. Sadly that was as close as we'd get; we lost by like 5 or 6. But considering the way we played at the beginning of the game, we decided to count it as a victory.

Each year I can gauge my levels of physical fitness and basketball abilities based on the first game of the season. The first year we played I left the game feeling great, having hardly broken a sweat, and feeling confident in how I handled the ball and scored. Last year I had to take a few more breathers in the first game, and I turned the ball over a lot more than I wanted. This year, let's just say the 30 minutes on the elliptical two weeks before the game wasn't exactly the complete physcial conditioning program required for a guy who spends most of the day behind a desk to get "basketball ready." I felt like I weighed 800 pounds trying to run the floor. My eyes would see a lane open up but my brain couldn't figure out how to get my feet to go that direction. On one occasion myself and another teammate watched as a ball came off the rim, bounced right in between us, only to end up in the hands of the other team who easily put it back in. Neither of us made a move for it. We tried to pass it off with the old "Oh, I thought you were getting it," excuse. But truth be told our arms and legs were protesting every command that was sent down from the brain, chanting, "We won't move! We won't move! We won't move!" Yes, it was a good wakeup call that I need to exercise more.

The sad thing is when I think of playing a basketball game, I see myself as having the same physical abilities I did when I was a 20 year old college student. I remember playing well in college. I was never the best on the floor, but I held my own and at least never felt like puking after the first two and a half minutes of the game! It's frustrating to walk away from a game asking, "When did I become the old guy who now can only dream of playing the way he did years ago?" Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that I'm only 27. I still have a lot of years to figure out the answer to that question.

The fun part is that Christina is playing with us. She's been anxious about getting out there and playing to see how she matched up with the "big boys." And she did awesome! She found open spots on the floor, she stood her ground in our 2-3 zone defense, she got some rebounds, and she ran the floor like a champ. It's fun getting to play together rather than just have Christina watching in the stands (although I always enjoy hearing her cheer for me).

Anyway, if you're ever at Byrd middle school on a Thursday night, you might be able to find the mighty Three Chopt basketball team battling the Baptists or Methodists or Presbyterians. We'll be the slow team shooting all the bricks. You can't miss us.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Big East Cinderella Story?

If you could care less about football, stop reading now.

I'm an avid college football fan, but I honestly couldn't tell you which teams are in the Big East conference. I know of three for sure - West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers. Why do I know those three for sure? Here's why:

At the end of last year's college football season, West Virginia came on strong and defeated Georgia at the Nokia Sugar Bowl - IN GEORGIA!! So, naturally many were suggesting West Virginia stood a great chance at repeating such a season and possibly winning the national championship. However, many also rejected this idea because they play in the Big East conference. Despite my love for the Michigan Wolverines, I had WV pegged as the next champ.

Enter Louisville. Normally a basketball school, Louiville has also come on strong on the gridiron as of late. Last season they JUST lost their bowl game to the Might Virginia Tech Hokies, but made a statement nonetheless. This season they kept winning and kept climbing the national rankings. Yet everyone looked at them with a certain skepticism because, again, they play in the Big East conference. So last Thursday night Louiville found themselves undefeated and ranked 5th in the country with West Virginia, also undefeated and ranked 3rd in the country, coming to town. The game started off okay, but by the end Louisville had established their dominance and sent WV home with their first loss of the season. "What a story!" everyone said. It gave Louisville that much-needed credibility to continue up the national ranks. This past week they found themselves ranked 3rd in the nation, just behind Ohio State and the incredible, unmatched, powerhouse that is the Michigan Wolverines. Could a school from the Big East really play for the national championship? Michigan and Ohio State have to play each other, so if any other team goes undefeated, it stands to reason that they would play the winner of that game, assuming neither Michigan nor Ohio State loses between now and then. So yes, if Louisville were to win out, they would play for the national championship!!

Enter Rutgers: Where do you even begin? Okay, I know. Before last night's game, someone from ESPN took a camera into Times Square in NYC and asked people on the street what the Rutgers mascot is. People answered everything from Beavers, Bulldogs, Eagles, etc. until finally one woman hesitantly said, "The Scarlet Knights?" Yes, that's it. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights. To say their football program has been non-existent is an understatement, and a huge one at that. They are known for only one important fact in college football: they played the very first college football game back in 1869 against Princeton. They won 6-4, but have rarely repeated that victory since. Losing season after losing season has made them an embarrasment on the football field.

Until this year.

Last night, Rutgers found themselves undefeated - 8-0 - and ranked 15th in the nation. Why 15th? Because no one can seriously consider putting RUTGERS in the top 10...can they? Last night stood to be the biggest game in the history of Rutgers football; that's not hyperbole, that's a fact. There has been no bigger opportunity for their program to make a statement to the nation than their game last night. Who did they play? 3rd-ranked Louisville. Also undefeated. Also in the Big East. The beginning of the game seemed to deflate the balloon that had been carrying Rutgers and their fans. Louisville quickly jumped out to an early lead and seemed to dominate the Scarlet Knights. But, as their coach, Greg Schiano, has challenged them all year, they kept chopping that wood. They kept working, kept playing, never gave up and, at the end of the 4th quarter, were right in the middle of one of the best college football games of the season, maybe of the decade. Having fought and clawed back from a 25-7 deficit, Rutgers tied the game with a 46-yard field goal. Their defense got a huge stop on the next Louisville drive, forcing a punt. The punt was a beauty, sending the Scarlet Knights all the way back to their own 8 yard line. With only a couple minutes left on the clock, Rutgers continued driving the ball straight into the middle of their line, pushing Louisville back yard by yard. Louisville got a big stop on a 2nd down, forcing a 3rd and 6 situation. Rutgers looked a bit nervous and anxious as they came to the line and, honestly, I felt that way too. It seemed they were letting the moment overwhelm them rather than allowing themselves to just play football. But then the Rutgers QB hit senior fullback Brian Leonard in the flat. He sprinted up the sideline, crossed mid-field, and put Rutgers in position to win. After that play it was as if everyone knew it was going to happen, There was no alternative, no surprise ending, it was destined to happen. Rutgers would win.

After a few more big carries by running back Ray Rice, Rutgers was able to set up a 28-yard field goal attempt by Jeremy "The Judge" Ito, the kicker that had previously tied the game with a 46-yard chip shot. This one would be straight away, from the dead center of the field. It's like kicking a long extra-point. So the teams line up, the snap is a bit high but the holder does a good job getting it down, the kick is up and it's...

Wide left.

Yes, wide left. He missed it.

Silence filled the stadium. On ESPN's coverage, I promise I heard someone yell "THERE'S A FLAG!!!" It was like a Superman movie when everything seems hopeless, everyone's going to die. Heads are hanging in disbelief when suddenly someone spots something. "Look, up there, in the sky!" Eyes shoot upward and hope returns. The same thing happened here. Heads were burried in hands, fans had to look away or simply close their eyes. They couldn't believe what had just happened. Then, someone with the courage to watch, sees it. He sees the laundry on the field, the Yellow Flag of Glory. When he shouts, "THERE'S A FLAG!" eyes are again fixed on the field, watching the man in the white hat. He chats with the other refs, makes his way to a visible spot, and places his hands on his hips. The crowd goes NUTS!!!! Offsides. Offsides on Louisville. They get another kick! Ito lines this one up and kicks it straight down Broadway. The stands are shaking. The Rutgers "faithful" have no idea what to do. How do you celebrate a win, much less a win of this magnitude? So they jump and hug and high-five and yell. They're not yelling words, they're just yelling. Rutgers kicks off and with no time on the clock they, appropriately, sack Louisville QB Chad Brohm, and the field is engulfed with a mass of people.

Rutgers now has to travel to West Virginia next week. If they can beat the Mountaineers, who knows what kind of story that will write for this year's college football season?

So for now I'm content to only know of three teams in the Big East - West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers. They seem to be the only teams that matter.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

This morning I went to the Columbian Center on Pump Rd. to cast my mid-term election vote. I'll be honest, I don't know as much about the candidates as I wish I did. Unfortunately our current mode of campaigning is more about trashing the other guy than promoting yourself. In the race between George Allen and Jim Webb, all I know about either of them is this: George Allen once used the "N" word in college, and Jim Webb's fiction books often demean women. Other than that, I have no idea about the politics of either candidate.

But honestly that's not the issue that caused me the greatest stress at the polls today. Here in Virginia we're voting on the Marriage Act. The question is should we, as a state, prohibit any union, civil or otherwise, between homosexual couples? Should we declare marriage as being ONLY between a man and a woman. You might be asking yourself why I wrestled with this so much, given that I'm a minister.

I believe marriage between a man and a woman is the ONLY way God prescribed it. I think any union between two men or two women is not pleasing to God based on how He created us. I believe living as a practicing homosexual is a sin, although having those feelings or tendencies is not.

Having said that, I cannot get something Jesus said out of my mind. And it's this verse that caused me to hold up lines at the polls this morning as I wrestled with pressing either "YES" or "NO."

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
My question is, to what extent does this apply to supporting or opposing gay marriage? My outlook on the world is greatly influenced by this verse, especially when it comes to helping people in need. For instance, when I see someone stranded on the side of the road I ask myself, "If I were stranded, what would I want someone to do for me?" Or, "If I were homeless and starving, what would I want someone to do for me?" I think this is at the core of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Not only does the Samaritan stop to help, but he goes out of his way to care for the assaulted man. He cares for him, perhaps, the way he hoped he would be cared for if the situation were reversed. So, if I were gay, how would I want to be treated? I realize that by seeing this as a sin, many of us are inclined to think that verse simply doesn't apply here. But then again, when Jesus placed the Samaritan ahead of the priest and the Levite on the moral scale, many probably took offense to that as well. So does Jesus' rule for treating people the way we want others to treat us only apply to those who believe what we believe and live the way we think they should they live? I'm not so sure it does. If the situation were flipped and a predominately homosexual government was trying to ban heterosexual marriage, how would I feel about that?
I realize this question might make some of you reading this a bit uncomfortable. In all honesty, I'm a bit uncomfortable with it too simply because it forces me to view the world from the other side, the side I've always opposed. It's like trying to picture myself sitting at Fenway Park booing Derek Jeter while wearing Boston Red Sox gear. I shutter at the thought.
I'm not trying to sway the vote one way or the other; as I said, I (finally) voted to support the amendment that bans gay marriage. But in doing so did I carry out "The Golden Rule" or break it? Just something for you to chew on.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm on steroids

Two Saturday's ago I went with our high schoolers to clean up a man's yard and house. It was during our 30-Hour Famine event. I helped clear out some brush that had grown up and around his back fence. One of our dad's who was helping us is always our "Poison Plant Watch Dog." He can spot the stuff from a mile away. So he was showing us where the poison ivy and poison oak plants were so we'd be sure to handle those areas with added care. I had been exposed to poison ivy before but never had a reaction, so I wasn't all that nervous. Well, evidently things have changed, and now I'm VERY allergic to the death weed.

I am currently doing everything within my power not to scratch my ankle, belly, and elbows. That's where it seems to have concentrated itself the most. It feels SOOOOOOOOO good to scratch it, so that doesn't help me in my fight. Yesterday I broke down and went to the doctor. He gave me some steroid pills to take and said things should clear up in about 5 days. That's a long time to test my willpower.

If anyone else ever has issues with poison ivy, the doctor recommeded an OTC cream called Zalfan, or maybe Zolfan, I don't remember. But he said everyone raves about it. I plan to go purchase myself a tube today.

Any other home remedies for battling this stuff?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Mad, Mad, Mad

I went to take the road test for my CDL (commercial drivers license) today so I can drive our new church bus. I drove about 45 minutes to a DMV on the southside of Richmond. When I arrived I was greeted by a pleasant woman I'll call Sally. She was very nice and kind with a sweet demeanor. She showed me where to take the bus to begin the test. As I was pulling the bus around the building I was feeling quite optimistic about my test. Before you're allowed to drive the bus on the road, you must first pass the pre-trip inspection in which you walk around and through the bus pointing out certain parts and explaining what you would be checking them for. If you pass that part you continue to the road test.

As I made my way around the bus my optimism continued. I was remembering everything I hoped to remember. I was even pointing out things that weren't covered in the manual - things like making sure my license plate had current tags, etc. As we made our way inside the bus optimism was oozing from my ears. I explained how I would check to make sure all the seats were in good condition with no tears in the fabric or loose bolts. I pointed out all the emergency exits; I checked my mirrors, honked my horn, explained each of the guages and instruments. I tested my brakes, checked my mirrors again, fastened my seat belt and said I was ready to go.

Sally politely smiled and said, "I'm sorry Mr. Jones, but you've failed the pre-trip inspection. This ends your testing time."

For a moment I thought maybe she was joking, but then I realized the DMV doesn't hire people with a sense of humor. She said, "You didn't adequately explain what problems you were looking for with each part you pointed out. Come on in and I'll give you some pointers for next time."

As she exited the bus my optimism exited my body. Frustrated, I followed her inside, back to the land of blank stares, low-talking service agents, and the sad, chilling silence that is the DMV. She pulled a piece of paper out with a diagram of a bus on it and a description beside the bus of everything that must be pointed out. As she was walking me through each item I went from frustrated to MAD!

Apparently I failed the test because for most of the parts I pointed to on the bus I said I was checking to make sure they were secure. She said I used that word too much and I needed to be more specific.

"For instance," she said, "when you're checking the drive shaft, you need to make sure it's not cracked. And when you're checking your mirrors you need to look for cracks. When you're checking your suspension and springs, you need to make sure that those aren't cracked. When you check your belts and hoses, you need to say specifically that you're looking for cracks. And when you check your tires, you need to point out that you're looking for cracks."

What I learned is that had I used the word "crack" a lot, I would have passed. I really shouldn't be as concerned with whether something is securely fastened to the bus as I should be concerned with cracks.

If you're planning on taking your CDL test anytime soon, learn to say the word "crack" a lot. You'll do fine.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

John Kerry and Other Annoying Issues

I'm sure by now many of you have heard about John Kerry's flub, goof, whatever you'd like to call it, in which he urged college students to study hard, do their homework, and take their education seriously lest they "get stuck in Iraq." His obvious point was to take a jab at Bush, sticking with the way over used tactic of insulting his intelligence. But, his misworded verbal punch has caused quite an uproar. Yesterday at a press conference at the White House reporters listened to someone from the Bush camp speaking out about Kerry's remarks. He kept insisting that it was so obviously, blatantly directed toward the troops and he didn't know how anyone could misinterpret what he said. He also urged Kerry over and over again to "just apologize." He played it so that it sounded like the Bush camp was sympathetic toward Kerry (which, if anyone would know about miswording speeches, it's W!). Just now on Fox News (who are having a field day with this, by the way) showed a picture circulating the internet of soldiers in Iraq holding a sign that reads:

"Halp us Jon Carry. We r stuk hear n irak."

I laughed; I thought it was a funny sign. But what bugs me about all this is the lack of honesty and integrity our national leaders have. This is no secret; it's not that this is a new revelation, but for some reason it's really bothering me today.

Something you should know about me - I don't like to play games. I don't like having to pretend I feel one way when really I feel another. I don't like having to stroke someone's ego to stay on their good side or walk on eggshells to keep from offending someone. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to say whatever I want, whenever I want. I also believe in tact. But playing games really, really bothers me.

I think that's at the core of why I cannot stand the political world. If ever there was a subculture built primarily on playing games, it's politics. I hate it, can't stand it, and dread this time of year. Both sides use phrases like "unbiased," and "no spin" in an attempt to convince us that they have no hidden agendas, no false motives, and are only looking out for OUR best interests.

It's insulting to our intelligence. Nothing is about issues anymore, it's about who can out-con his or her opponent. Who can con the American people into voting for him? Who can con the American people into believing the worst possible scenarios about her opponent? This is what politics has been reduced to. It's one big game.

Despite my distaste for John Kerry, I will say this: "Senator Kerry, I know you were referring to the president when you made that remark, and so does everyone else in America. Next time, read your joke correctly." And to everyone else in politics I'll say, "How about being honest for a change?"

There, that should change things.