Trivializing Life and Death

Fair warning - this will be a long post. I have a lot on my mind and I am going to dump it here, all in one spot, in the hope that there will be some thread running through the jumble, some fiber that gives cohesion to the lump. So, if you've no stomach for a long ramble, you may wish to move on.

Thursday was a day that many will remember for a while because two famous people died. Here in the USA, when famous people die, we all get into the act as if we were somehow personally affected by the life and times and demise of the deceased celebrity. This is balderdash of course, but that doesn't stop us from searching for a roller coaster that our emotions can ride, while we lament the passing of someone we have no actual emotional connection to.

Why do we do this? If there is no connection to the deceased, why do we pine and stare? Have we so conditioned ourselves to not feel much of anything (or not allowed ourselves time to feel something) that we will turn on the tube for a little vicarious grieving because it might be nice to just feel a little something right now? I don't know.

But the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were merely a link in a chain of events for me, only the tip of the iceberg and, as the metaphor implies, there's a whole lot more going on under the surface so, let's get to it, shall we? And I'll warn you again, this will be long. I really haven't even started yet. You may be excused, if you wish. Put your dishes in the sink.

I suppose the chain of events began over last weekend when South Carolina's governor, a guy named Sanford, went AWOL. As the days unfolded, we learned he was in Argentina with his mistress, but we only found this out after a couple of days of lies.

I began to think about the mess Sanford was (is) in and how it is a mess of his own making. He cheated and lied and abused the trust placed in him by a spouse, by sons, and by citizen voters. And I wondered how sick it would feel to be to be in his shoes, presenting a facade of faithfulness by lying.

The next link in the chain was the shooting death of a football coach in Iowa. Here, unlike our celebrities, is a man that hardly anyone outside of a few counties in Iowa knew of. We heard of his death only because of the brutal, criminal way in which it occurred. The one consolation was that we learned that Coach Thomas had trusted Christ for salvation. We thank God for that.

Hard on the heels of this event was a personal upheaval in my home. I had overlooked a credit card bill. And this is not the first time. And I was going to have to own up to my fault by talking to my bride about it because the bill was in her name. I went through hours of anxiety over this, wishing there was a way to not have to confess my wrong. My integrity was on the line.

What came next was a blog post at Desiring God. Pastor John Piper, a man of integrity, wrote about an experience when he was not so gracious in answering a question and then he proceeded to explain what his answer should have been. And, Oh! What a statement!

He was responding to a question about why he doesn't watch a lot of movies and doesn't own a TV. Here is part of what he said: "I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema."

And some more: "But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ."

I think this is what is at the heart of my experience this week. Some very real and serious things happened this week, but it was the trivia that was emphasised.

Thursday afternoon, we had a book study at work and the topic of integrity came up. Sound familiar? It did to me.

Then on the drive home from work I got the first word on Michael Jackson and at home the confirmation (from the TV!) that he died. Later I read these words from Justin Taylor's blog, quoting Andrew Sullivan: "There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life. But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell."

And: "I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out."

As I suggested earlier, I think Piper came close to nailing what has been going on in my heart this past week and the news events served to draw it to the surface so I could see it. The recurring theme? Real stuff versus trivia, I think.

Governor Sanford threw away the real and vital for an affair; Coach Thomas, brutally slain, knew Christ and impacted the lives of the boys he coached; I had to 'man up' and own my irresponsible act; Piper called me to not deaden my soul, but to nourish it; an entire nation went on hold because two people they didn't really know died; and Sullivan's comments on Jackson, who lived an unreal life because the real was denied him.

All of this piled together left me desiring real things and not temporary trivial things. I do not want my capacity for joy in Jesus to be deadened because if it is, then I am reduced to finding joy elsewhere, like on TV.

I hope this is not a lesson that fades soon.


Coach Thomas Knew Christ

A high school football coach in Iowa, Ed Thomas, who toiled in relative anonymity was shot to death today in a school weight room. A former player is being held as a suspect.

As terrible as this story is, we are heartened by the news that Coach Thomas was born again, according to this post at Justin Taylor's 'Between Two Worlds'.


New Layout. Maybe.

All my regular readers may have noticed an addition to the column on the right - a political cartoon. Undoubtedly, you also notice that it does not fit correctly. I've tried removing it and putting it back, but no luck.

The place where I got it, Investor's Business Daily, had a Blogger (my host) button, as well as buttons for other blog hosts. I think it should fit, but it does not.

So, I'm going to scout around for a new layout, or template for the blog. Perhaps a different style will fit better.

I really want to keep the cartoon. So much is going on in the world and here at home and I want it to be commented on and I don't really have the time to do it all justice.

Obama is a disaster, but it needs to be shown for what it is, not just some amateur blogger whacking the dude. So Ramirez' cartoon will help us.

So stay tuned - there may be a new look soon.


Better Than Gold, Fathers

Good for the souls of Fathers, and Mothers, on this day, or any other.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:7-11, ESV


Fantastic Friday Facts (or Fun, Depending)

While at Hammons Field tonight (AA Baseball, Springfield Cards vs. NW Arkansas Naturals), I saw Albert Pujols (on TV) get a single to left in Kansas City to drive in two runs and pass Ken Boyer on the Cardinals all-time total bases list. I was looking at a TV because my bride was in line to buy a bottle of water.

Because the people who run stadiums these days assume that everyone in attendance is ADD and isn't at the ballpark for just the ballgame (Imagine!), and there MUST BE FEVERISH ACTIVITY EACH AND EVERY WAKING MOMENT, I read on the scoreboard that the man with the most Academy Award wins was Walter Elias Disney. Elias. I had no idea.

There was a time when trivia questions on the video board at a baseball game were actually related to baseball.

There was a time when (and not so long ago) there were no video boards at major league baseball stadiums, much less minor league stadiums.

Other non-baseball trivia from the video board (sheesh) - approximately 25 percent of the people in the world live on $200 a year, or less. We paid $3.00 for a bottle of water tonight, or roughly one and a half percent of somebody's income this year. Is it wrong? Or just different?

My friend Tim, whom I introduced here, has a funny basketball story I asked him to write, which he did at his blog. I link it there acknowledging his favorite team, the LA Lakers, who just won their 15th NBA title. Enjoy.


Something I Forgot To Say

I had meant to get this on yesterday but you can probably tell by the way I began that I didn't. You can also guess that I'm doing it this minute. All that remains is for you to know what I was going to say and I could quit right now.

Alas. You all are bright, but until you start writing in 'Comments' about things I haven't posted yet, I suppose I'll continue to tell you stuff as if you don't know it yet.

And, what I was going to write isn't really worth this three paragraph song and dance we've just gone through, but here it is. Coming into today's game with Detroit, St. Louis' Albert Pujols was four Total Bases shy of fifth place on the Cardinals' Career list for Total Bases. He had 3007 coming into today and trailed Ken Boyer who had 3011.

I just looked at the box score and the game is still in progress, but Albert has a homer which gives him the four total bases to tie Boyer, so the next hit he gets will break the tie. Enos Slaughter is in fourth place with 3138. In first place is, of course, Stan Musial with 6134.

It'll be a while before Pujols, or anyone else gets there.


Blue Bloods

Two lengthy sports seasons wrapped up over the last few days and some mention of it is probably due from one who follows sports as I do.

So, there it was.

Now, to the really cool part, the uniform colors.

Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins, wearing black and gold, won the seventh and deciding game in the Stanley Cup series, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Motown.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers, in their famous purple and gold captured the NBA championship by defeating Orlando's Magic in Florida.

Now, what do these two teams have in common? They both used to wear blue - and not just any blue, mind you, but what some might call baby blue or what I like to call Carolina blue. In fact they both had a combination of Carolina blue and a darker blue as a trim color. This, in my view, is one of the best combinations of colors going. Other teams using it would be the University of North Carolina (of course), the Royals (occasionally), Toronto Blue Jays (occasionally) and Tennessee Titans, off the top of my head.

The Lakers, who began in Minneapolis, began with the blue scheme, probably to coincide with their nickname which was suggestive of all the lakes in Minnesota. "Ten Thousand Lakes" the license plate used to say. They moved to LA about 1960 and switched to the gold and purple look in the middle of the decade.

The Penguins formed as part of NHL expansion in 1967 and also had the blue uniforms. They switched to black and gold in the early 70's which matched the other two pro teams in the Steel City, baseball's Pirates and football's Steelers. They do break out a blue sweater for 'throw back' days and it looks cool.



I want to say thanks to all the folks who made the 25th anniversary of my marriage to my lovely bride such a happy day.

Honorable recognition goes to a couple of folks. First, to my son-in-law's parents. Dale and Liane, who are potters in Hardy, Arkansas, made a beautiful pitcher which I surprised my wife with. It is engraved with our wedding date and is a lovely pale green color. There is a story behind giving my wife a pitcher. I won't go into all the details, but it would be enough to say that a pitcher is graceful and pours itself out for the good of others - like my bride!

Also receiving recognition is the Hall family, and more specifically, the multi-talented head of this tribe who, aside from his ability to have you in stitches within 15 seconds of greeting him, is apparently gifted at making little videos for mass consumption on You Tube. Thanks, Tim, for putting us on You Tube! By the way, he occasionally blogs here. Pressure's on, Tim. I have a vast audience of probably nearly 10 people.

To my daughter and aforementioned son-in-law, thanks for the cupcakes which spelled 'Happy 25th Anniversary'. I think we still have a 'p' and an 'h' and maybe one or two others left.

And to Pixar, thanks for making 'UP', which concluded our evening! It was a lot of fun!

Finally, to my lovely bride. You are, quite simply, the best. I wrote these words in the letter I gave you with the pitcher - It is a difficult thing to find words that give the right amount of beauty and weight to 25 years of marriage – and it’s all the more difficult for the grace, growth and depth we’ve been shown together - and without sounding arrogant, it's true. Twenty-five years is hard to quantify, but I will say this: It could not have happened without the Lord and I'm grateful that you and I both know that. And, it would not have been possible with anyone but you!


A Little Detective Work

Where I work I sit in proximity to designers and one of them, in particular, I've a good rapport with and he and I talk about comics and design and theology and culture and kids and whatnot.

Well, today he was looking at some comic art as I walked by and it grabbed my eye and we 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' over some very nice looking images.

Oh, you'd like to see one? I'm glad you asked.
Here's my favorite -

What we have here, of course, is Batman on the cover of Detective Comics #27 from 1939.

But what is not so obvious (to some, perhaps) is that this IS NOT the way Detective Comics #27 appeared back then. The artist here is a man named Gabriel Hardman and my friend at work could give you all kinds of technical reasons why Hardman's work is praiseworthy.

Me - I can only tell you I like the way it looks and it reminds me of work I saw as a kid.

More of Hardman's work can be seen at this link.

Bob Kane, the creator of Batman (with important help from Bill Finger), drew the cover for the ORIGINAL publication and it was, as usual, in color.

So how did the original 1939 comic book look? You ask such great questions!

Here you go -

Immediately, you are struck by the color - it is so vibrant! And honestly, black and red and yellow is one of my favorite combinations to look at, for what that's worth.

There are some other details, though, that you should note.
Batman is more 'modern' looking on the Hardman version - notice the difference in the angle and length of the bat ears, for example. The older Batman wore a glove that was more ordinary rather than the stylish ones we've come to know in later years.
The biggest difference of all, however, and what, probably, makes the Hardman cover so fun is the villains. On the original, Kane drew some ordinary, garden-variety thugs. This was the first-ever appearance of Batman (or 'The Bat-Man', as the opening panel has it) in a comic book, so the lineup of familiar foes for Batman had not been developed.
Hardman, though, replaces those anonymous hoods with familiar characters - Riddler, Penguin, and, thrashing in the Caped Crusader's arms (don't you love it!), the Joker.
What fun!